I’ll get the bad news out of the way, I am leaving May 1st. There is a very small chance that Israel would have granted me an extension of stay, and their system is such that I can’t even apply for the extension until 1 week prior to my 3 month fulfillment. This is similar to an issue Palestinians from the Gaza Strip face, many must often reschedule hospital and doctor visits several times as they can’t apply for access to the West Bank until days before their appointments, if they’re rejected then they face rescheduling and reapplying. Here also, is a story published by an Israeli organization B’tselem about a women in Gaza who hasn’t seen her family in the West Bank since 2000. It’s a tear jerker. Click on “Gaza resident separated from her family in the West Bank”.
As my time comes to an end I want to give you a glimpse into the life of the wonderful Abdullah family, who have been such a pivotal part of my experience here. I am renting a floor of their home, here is me from my very own balcony! You know I’m out here all the time!
The Abdullahs are Christians and live in a mostly Christian village, Zibabdah. They are lead by Nezam (who is always referred to as Abu George, Abu means “father of”, this is a common way of addressing fathers here) and Vera, who are wonderful parents. They own a travel agency in Jenin - Vera is the manager and Abu George the Assistant Manager! - just throwing that out there! The woman is in charge:) I will concede that this is not the norm, far from it, but there are women moving upwards and achieving equality. And Fair Trade is a huge part of this! Economic empowerment is a crucial step, Canaan has partnerships with 16 women cooperatives, and 2 women were elected to the Palestine Fair Trade Association in 2011.
Near the beginning of the 2nd intifada the Abdullahs moved to Canada, but they were here during the 1st intifada and experienced an attack by Israeli settlers, escorted and protected by the Israeli military. When they heard the crowd coming they hid inside, Vera (pregnant with George) and Manal on one floor, Abu George and Fedaa stuck on another. Young boys threw rocks at the settlers from roof tops, the settlers were shooting back everywhere, causing all the glass to break around the family’s porch, windows, etc., and chunks of stone to fall from the ceiling. One hit Fedaa on her head causing her to bleed. Thinking rocks had come from their house, settlers tried to break down the door. Abu George, filled with rage at Fedaa’s injury and ready to protect her was waiting at the door with a large piece of wood. Thankfully, the army finally ushered the settlers away. Manal and Fedaa, who were only 6 and 4 at the time, can still remember the details vividly.
Manal and Fedaa also work at Canaan Fair Trade. They’re both incredible at their jobs, Manal transforming the media arm of the company as the promotion and media coordinator, and Fedaa constantly crunching numbers and creating spreadsheets as an accountant. They’ve been so helpful to me and have become great friends. George, the only son and brother of the family, and a senior in high school excited to start college at Birzeit University in the fall, is quite the political activist. He’s very passionate and informed and can hold his own in any debate. The youngest sibling, Dyala, is a sophomore in high school and so sweet. She often invites me to activities in the village and smiles so wide whenever she sees me. It really pains me to know that so many don’t know the kindness and generosity of the Palestinians, and view them only as violent, this could not be further from the truth or more unfair. We must not let an incredibly small minority cloud our understanding of what it truly means to be a Palestinian.
We must strive to do the same with Israelis. In February, 9 Palestinian children were killed in a bus accident, following the accident many Israelis rejoiced on facebook: "Relax, these are Palestinian children,", "It seems these are Palestinians ... God willing.", "I hope every day there is a bus like this.", "Can we send another truck?". An Israeli news source reported on this wickedness. Palestinians and pro-Palestinians around the world could use this to their advantage but this, too, would be wrong, as these atrocious comments represent a minority who do not and must not represent the greater Israel. There are many Israelis fighting their government against the occupation, there are Israelis protesting in the streets and being arrested. There are many Israeli organizations fighting for the rights of the Palestinians, hundreds of Israelis, some even weekly, travel to the West Bank to peacefully protest with Palestinians, I met several in Beit Ummar. Let’s not let out of control Zionists represent all of Israel, AND let’s not let Hamas and it’s minority of supporters represent all of Palestine.
Below are a few pictures Manal took of our Easter lunch!
Left to right: Me, Fedaa, Abu George, Vera, George, Dyala, Bruno (a french volunteer in Bethlehem).
Again: Run Across Palestine is still taking donations!