Saturday, July 31, 2010

Final Entry

At the end of our trip, the crew reassembled and traveled to Jordan. It was a wonderful and relaxing way to wind down after the two month seminar and internship. The first night we stayed at the coolest resort Marriott I had ever seen before and were able to watch the sunset over the Dead Sea. Then we traveled to Petra and saw the once-lost ancient Bedouin city. The highlight for me was seeing the "Treasury" where part of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was filmed. I mean, to think that we were walking in the very same path that Harrison Ford once traversed. It was profound. And then, our last day was spent in Wadi Rum. An expansive and beautiful part of Jordan that once was home to Laurence of Arabia and his magical band of misfits. After Wadi Rum, we spent one final night together and said our goodbyes as people parted ways. It was a fantastic experience

Thursday, July 22, 2010

American Consulate

Yesterday, Jenna and I went to the American Consulate in Jerusalem to give a briefing of our report on home demolitions to State Department Officials. The briefing went very well, the State Department was receptive, and our report is being passed on to the Middle East desk in D.C. It was an incredible experience, but unfortunately, no cameras were allowed inside. Therefore, I was unable to take any pictures of the crown jewel of my professional career. So instead, I decided to post a picture of my family's adorable collies. The sable one is "Toby", and the white one is "Scotti". You're welcome.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


As our time here comes to a close, one cannot help but reflect on the past couple of months. We have learned a lot, too much to list. Among theses things though, Derek has learned to be quite the proficient child care expert.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Saying Goodbye

I have been trying to figure out how to say thank
you to my host family for such an amazing summer. I have really felt like a part of the family, I even got the chance to see what it was like to have younger brothers and not just a younger sister. They have always invited to go places and see the sites, made sure I was doing ok and just took good care of me in general. I never had a problem going upstairs to just sit and talk or watch a movie with them. The children in the family were a lot of fun. All of us were in the same age range and it was like having a huge family for once. My host dad kept telling me I was his favorite because I spent time with the family and would rather stay home with them then go out and party all the time. He said he would miss me very much and would be sad on Friday when he had to drive me to the bus. I know I will be sad too because I have connected with these people. Having a host family is almost always one of the best parts of studying abroad because of home cooked meals, language practice and a family environment.

The other day my host mom got to meet my mom and sister through skype. It was so awesome to see them meeting each other for the first time through a web cam in different parts of the world. I had of course told both of them great things about the other. Both of my host parents have invited me to come back and to bring my family to Nazareth to visit them. I keep thinking how cool that would be to have them meet? I feel very lucky to have my amazing family back home in the states and now host family in Israel, Spain and Egypt. Now I will have someone to call my family always near wherever I am for my future job.

I have gotten really close with one of my host sisters in particular. We have really similar personalities and she appreciates who I am. We have great talks about politics, boys and everything in between. Sadly, I haven´t been able to see her as much these last few weeks, but I hope to see her again before I leave. I´ve already asked to be invited to
her wedding in the future (another reason to come back and visit!) and invited her to come visit me when she comes to the states next year.

The time has really flown by this summer and I feel like I need more time here. I´ve lived abroad for a year in Spain and 6 months in Egypt; these 2 months in Israel have been like a weekend vacation to me. I feel very fortunate to have had this experience both academically and personally. I have made so many memories with the people I have met and learned so much about the people, the place and the conflict. I know that the things I have learned will be a huge benefit to my studies, but they will also benefit me as a person. My worldview has changed and my appetite for travel and languages and new cultures has only grown this summer. Now… where to next?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Weekend Trip

Over the weekend, we took our last trip together as a group while we are in Palestine/Israel. We went up north to see an old crusader citadel in Akko. It was extremely well preserved and a really cool insight into crusader times. Then, it was on to a campsite on the Mediterranean where we got to swim, watch a beautiful sunset, enjoy a great BBQ, and of course, light stuff on fire. It was very relaxing and enjoyable. The next day we toured the Golan Heights and saw a vineyard. I don't particularly like wine, but it was cool to learn about the wine-making process, sample some of the various kinds, and eat some great food along with it. While the experience was rather expensive, it was a wonderful reunion of the group and a relaxing way to spend our last before we reconvene in Tel Aviv to wrap things up.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Ramallah and the market in Jerusalem

Last weekend, I went back to Ramallah for the second time. I stayed with the same people, who are family of one of the other students, Nijim. I had so much fun the first time and Nijim´s cousin Kefah and her two kids were so nice and welcoming. We of course, we greeted with the offer of food, Kefah even offered to cook a whole dinner for us, but we had already eaten. Instead we sat in the living room and talked, drank tea and coffee and had some cake. It was very relaxing and good Arabic practice for me. Kefah and I would teach each other words, sort of a mini language exchange. I played games with the two kids also; we taught them how to play monkey in the middle with balloons.
Friday we relaxed and slept in and had an amazing breakfast. Then I played some more games with the two kids and braided the little girls´ hair. It was kind of like being a summer camp counselor again. In the afternoon we walked around a bit and went to a restaurant to hang out and everybody else got some nargila. We didn’t do much that night, but it was a nice relaxing time in Ramallah.
On Saturday, we left in the afternoon for Jerusalem to hang out and wait for the buses to start running after Shabbat ended. Hali and I decided to walk around the market in the Old City and do some shopping. We both got some cool t-shirts; I got a teeny tiny one for my little nephew. There was a ton of stuff in the market from food to kitchenware to jewelry. I always people watch when I got to a place like this and the market is an excellent place for that. We ended up having to take two different sheruts to get home to Nazareth, but we made it home in time to finish the game between Uruguay and Germany.

Monday, July 12, 2010


For our last free weekend during the program, I opted to visit Ramallah again and while I was there, we visited Yasser Arafat's tomb. This was a stop that we were supposed to make during the seminar, but missed the opportunity when our itinerary changed as a result of the freedom flotilla incident. A friend of mine who I work with came with me and fortunately, he reads Arabic and was able to interpret the inscriptions for me. His translations really made the experience more enjoyable, since the soldiers standing stoically were not very helpful. Although they were good sports about us posing for pictures with us.

After Arafat's tomb, we walked around the city a bit, visited the Ramallah girls, and watched the "toilet bowl" World Cup match. The match was fun, the company was great, seeing the girls again was fun and sleeping outside of the refugee camp was priceless. All in all, a great way to spend my last free weekend!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Jump Mountain and Tiberius

Saturday was a jam packed day for us. One of the roommates had to work, but myself and Hali, the third roommate were off that day. Our host dad said he would take us to the Old City to go shopping in the market for souvenirs and gifts. So we got up early to go and picked up one of his cousins, Abu Firaz. Abu Firaz´s son was the one that got married a couple weeks ago. We could have gone to the market any day by ourselves, but Burhan knew a lot of the shop owners and said he would get us good deals on everything we wanted to buy so of course we were happy to hear that. It was great because I got almost everything on my list and we did some site-seeing too, stopping by some old houses and churches. We even went to an old pottery factory which was cool.
On the way home, Burhan asked us if we wanted to go to Jump Mountain and we said sure. So we made the short trip there and walked to the top which was only a 5 minute climb. What´s cool about this place is that all three faiths share this spot because it is mentioned in all three holy books for Christians, Muslims and Jews. It is a beautiful spot with views over looking all of Nazareth and the surrounding areas. You can even see Mount Tabor and some old caves. It was pretty windy, but the skies were clear and it was very enjoyable. We of course took some time to take some goofy photos before we left.
After dinner that night, Abu Firaz´s middle son, Ameer, asked us if we wanted to go to Tiberius and go swimming in the Sea of Galilee. We gladly accepted because it was a very hot day and swimming sounded really good. I requested the Jeep Wrangler as our transportation and he said ok. So my three roommates and I hopped in the Jeep with Ameer and drove to Tiberius. The ride there was so fun, cruising along in his 1981Jeep Wrangler with the wind blowing in our faces and the music turned up. The scenery made the drive just about perfect. Once we got there, Ameer turned off on a little side road and we were all wondering where exactly we were going. At the end of the little road, he started to go off road and over the rocks, stopping in a little clearing near the sea, which they call a lake. The water was perfect! The views were too and we had a blast swimming and playing marco polo and flying a Spiderman kite and just hanging out. After our swim we sat on the rocks with drinks and snacks and watched the sunset. It was awesome. Then we got back in the car and got ready to go, but the gate had been closed so Ameer went to drive around it and we got stuck. Eventually we got the Jeep unstuck and made our way home. Then we spent the rest of the evening hanging out on the roof of Ameer´s building with some drinks which was the perfect way to end an adventure filled day.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


I love home stays. I get a warm fuzzy feeling when someone has genuinely opened their home to others. Plus they take you places.
As many may know the kuffiyeh, the white scarf with black checkers, has become synonymous with Palestinian solidarity. Unfortunately, somewhere during the past 5 years or so it has also become trendy. Which not only means there are a lot of folks wearing it without any idea of what it represents, but that there is a high demand for them. Since there has been a high demand, China has been manufacturing A LOT of them for cheap. It's what China does. Between that, and the fact that occupation makes exporting difficult, there is one kuffiyeh factory left in the West Bank. Yes, just one.
Enter the amazing home stay I have been blessed with. I asked the dad if he could take Derek, Jenna and myself there some time. The factory is just outside of the center of Hebron, and when we arrived it was closed, but luckily a Hirbawi (the family that owns the place) was there and the dad asked politely if he could open the shop for us. So Hirbawi did.
The factory has 15 machines, but because of the decline in demand only 2 machines are running.

I was so very excited to be in there, but it was sad to see all the neglected machines.

Since we were going to Hebron, the family wanted to make an evening out of it, so two other families met up with us and we had a wonderful barbecue in this place that overlooked a valley and by night fall we could see the lights on the coast. It was beautiful.

Oh, and Derek made friends with a snake.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Aida Camp

Here are some pictures from Aida camp, another Bethlehem refugee camp. Apparently, Pope Benedict XVIXXVI (I'm not good with Roman Numerals, or Catholic facts for that matter) visited Aida camp and received a very warm welcome. The graffiti in the camp is as unique as anywhere on the Bethlehem wall. The Key above the gate leading to Aida has a "not for sale" sign on it, and stands as a promise that the Palestinians will return to their homes. The "Right of Return" is a very powerful sentiment among the Palestinian refugees, and most of the families still have the keys to their former property that they lost in '48, '67 and beyond. The key above Aida symbolizes these keys and the "Right to Return" is not for sale, nor to be bargained away in a peace process. Obviously, this is a very contentious issue, and a problematic one since the homes and properties of the refugees are being used by Israelis, who are equally adamant about their ownership rights. Apolitically, the key is in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the biggest in the world.

Morning Mosque Madness

There is a beautiful mosque located in Azzah camp that is pictured in this blog. Its crescent-topped minaret triumphantly pierces the crystalline sky. And the damn thing is the bane of my existence. You see, this picture is taken from my window, and the morning prayer (somewhere between 3:30-4:30 a.m. depending on the sunrise) slices through my apartment, reverberates off of my consciousness, and eviscerates my peaceful slumber. Needless to say, it is the most intrusive alarm clock that I have ever known. When the Prophet was negotiating with God the number of times each day a Muslim should pray, he should have played harder ball with the start time.


Last week, one of my co-workers invited myself and the other two interns to go to a lecture at Haifa University. The topic had something to do with Palestinian history. Needless to say, we didn´t actually attend the lecture because it was all in Hebrew and the three of us don´t speak Hebrew and our co-worker didn´t feel like translating or sitting through a lecture in Hebrew. The crowd there was older anyways and not students like we thought it would be. We got to walk about the university grounds with Samah, who graduated from there. The views were amazing! The Mediterranean was gorgeous and all I wanted to do was run down to the beach. My roommate and I were talking about how tempted we were to pick up and study at Haifa University just for the views. The campus itself was really nice and not very expensive. Oh to be an undergrad again and be able to study abroad for a whole semester or the school year! We decided to go have dinner at a restaurant near Ben Gurion Street that my co-worker knew. Before we sat down for dinner we took pictures of the Bahai garden which was beautiful! I want to go back so I can take a tour of the garden. The restaurant was a really cool place with very lounge-like outdoor seating. Two of my host sisters that go to school in Haifa came to dinner with us which was great because I hadn´t seen them much the previous weekend. Haifa is so pretty and I can´t wait to go back to stay with my host sisters to see the whole city.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

A Limerick on the Conflict + Haiku

I figured that someone needed to keep up the fun-filled rhyming postings.

The conflict here is incredibly contentious
To say you understand would be dreadfully pretentious
What the Palestinians need, is probably a deed
But the Israelis have rights and a practical need
To pick one or the other is so shamefully self-righteous

I can also do haiku...

The perpetual conflict
Clueless gringos postulate
Outside there's silence

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

My aviator glasses…
Will have people flocking in masses.
The way they fit just right
Not too big and not too tight.
I feel so cool when I’m walking down the street
The sensation I get helps me ignore the heat
Aviator glasses, how did I not find you before?
My time without you is now seen as a bore
Thank you Eilat for rewarding me with this prize
I feel my ego on the rise ;)
So world look out when you see me go by
The vibe from these glasses might bring you to cry.
Thank you aviators for being so great
There is nothing similar that can equate!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Nazareth and Haifa

This weekend, 2/3 of the Bethlehem gang visited friends in Nazareth and Haifa. After getting turned away for a checkpoint because we were "foreign tourists" and having to retrace our steps through Bethlehem, we were on our way north! Our first stop was in Haifa for some fun in the sun. We hung out on a beach for quite some time before heading on into town for some World Cup watching, beer having and back slapping (all in moderation of course). The next day, we awoke and went to the Baha'i gardens (1st and 3rd picture) where we enjoyed the beautiful scape of land with its immaculately manicured foliage. The garden had 18 tiers of symmetrical and exquisite natural beauty accentuated by impressive white marble and fountains. The place is serene. The gardens are a temple devoted to someone important in the Baha'i faith, who died back in the day. Before I went to the temple I knew nothing about the Baha'i faith. Now, I still know nothing about the Baha'i faith except that apparently, it's sacrilegious to joyously jump in front of their gate. Oops. Oh yeah, and we went to a wedding in Nazareth (2nd picture).

some reflections from Sarah Stalker

Barriers. Barriers separating a people from a right to prayer in a holy place they have considered their home until now. A place they have lived and known, taken away and separated by a cage as if they were animals that needed to be fenced in, yet fenced in from a sacred part of themselves.
While negotiations stay in limbo, a divide grows manifesting in ever more ignorance and at the solemn reality of it all a physical separation from a people on a day of prayer are unable to enjoy the holy sanctum of what is their right to live and pray.
While others rejoice in the luxeries of life, another people sit on the other side of a fence-waiting, wishing to cross over but sit confused and angry, not knowing how this simple peace in their heart was taken away and why. As time progresses, this confusion transforms. In the beginning a bewilderment that a people are being punished for acts that weren’t of their doing. Then a simple sadness manifests combined with a feeling of helplessness with more time passing and rights not improving and in some eyes, worsening. Then an anger rises to the surface combined with this hopelessness. Why is this happening? Why are a people doomed a hardship they feel they did nothing to endure. And despite all these emotions of violation and abandonment, must still are able to rise above and forgive. Despite what these emotions may do to their own inner soul and will to stay alive, people are resilient and move forward with hope; an inner wisdom that guides them in their right to live and be happy. Despite conditions that criple and rights that blatently degrade their pride and wear on their dignity, people keep kicking. And the ones that instead of fighting back, acknowedge their right to live and lead others to live everyday to pursuing this reality are beyond my comprehension altogether. These people who are good of heart, have the discretion to know what actions will lead to peace and what actions will lead to bloodshed are wise. I sit writing, hoping, dedicated to pursuing a path that will support this cause. But the strength. The strenth is what amazes me. Handed such a hard hand, discouraged and betrayed time and time again, and facing a world that is unwilling to acknowledge the land you were born on and continue to live; yet they still continue on.
Yesterday in Ramallah I was trying to find a map of Ramallah on googlemaps and there was no Ramallah, Palestine. There was no Ramallah, West Bank. There was no Ramallah, Palestinian Territory. There was however a Ramallah, Israel.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Wedding in Nazareth

This past weekend I had the chance to go to a family wedding in Nazareth with my host family. My host dad´s cousin´s youngest son was getting married. I was really excited to go and check it out especially since I´ve had the chance to go to weddings in Egypt and Spain. For an Arab wedding it was on the small side, but this family doesn´t like to have huge parties and it was still a lot of people compared to weddings I´ve seen in the States. The bride was actually from Romania and not Muslim; she is Christian and the groom is Muslim. I think it is really cool to see mixed faith marriages especially here in Israel. Nazareth used to be a predominately Christian city and people here are more open to mixed marriages.

I had actually spent several nights the week before at the groom´s parent´s house. There was food, drinks, dancing and wedding preparations. It is a pretty big to do list for a wedding here. One thing that I thought was really neat was the fact that they hand deliver most of the wedding invitations. That is something very personal and you don´t see that in the States. I kind of like the idea of doing that to show the guests how much they mean to you and that you really want them to attend. The wedding itself was actually two different nights. On Friday night there was food and a lot of dancing as well as some traditional ceremonies.

They did the shaving of the groom to prepare him for the bride; it was a group affair and very chaotic. They also did a henna ceremony where the bride and groom got each other´s first name initials on the others hand. Of course, they had the dancing and mini-procession to officially start the night and welcome the bride and groom to the party. It was very lively and a lot of fun

The rest of the night alternated between eating and dancing. There was so much food and it was all delicious. They party didn´t end until 3 in the morning and even then most of the guests could have stayed and partied until sunrise. I had so much fun with my host family. I even got mini dance lessons. I wasn´t even the worst dancer there, the bride and groom were pretty bad too haha!

On Saturday, the festivities started with a mini ceremony that involved presenting the bride with nice jewelry (the groom´s family gets the bride some really nice jewelry) and pinning money on the groom. There was of course music and dancing and plenty of sweets. This started at the groom´s uncle´s house and then we had a lively, dancing procession of guests and family members that escorted the couple to the groom´s home (since the bride is Romanian and the couple will be living in another city, they went to the groom´s parent´s place). Then we ate some more and watched the traditional dabke dancing which is so neat. They had a lot of that on Friday night as well. Most of the night, the couple greeted guests. We ate a traditional wedding dish of lamb and rice. It was so delicious. My entire host family was there, all 6 children and the parents.

I had a blast this weekend and would love to go to another wedding soon!