Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Saturated.  I feel complete immersed into culture here, which is exactly what I was hoping for.  I'm speaking broken Arabic with locals, eating delicious Palestinian meals in a home, building relationships, and getting dust all over my feet.  And amidst all this I'm feeling the sorrow and pain of these people as much as I'm able. 

A typical day here involves Arabic class at 8 followed by lectures which range from Palestinian literature, to history, to Isalm.  We've also taken several fields trips this week to the cities of Hebron, Nablus, and East Jerusalem.  We visited refugee camps, Herodium, and some local universities. We even took a whole day to hike the Wadi Qelt valley to Jericho.  But everywhere we go I'm reminded of the reality of these people.  Checkpoints, road blocks, walls, Israeli soldiers demanding ID...  These people try to live their lives as normal as possible but from what I've witnessed, it seems near impossible.  Things we never give a second thought to are huge obstacles to daily life.  Will we have water this month?  Will they stop importing food or health supplies without reason?  Will we hit a checkpoint that may hold us for hours?  All these are valid questions asked everyday.
Graffiti on the wall in Bethlehem

Our trip to Hebron was eye opening and devastating.  Hebron is the largest Palestinian city in the West Bank.  Although it is very much within the green line dividing Israel and Palestine, Israeli military has taken over the heart of the city.  Settlers (many of which come from America) will perch themselves on top of a home and slowly take over.  A place where half a million Palestinians live appeared to be a ghost town.  Hebron is known for placing curfews on the Palestinians.  Not a curfew as in be home by 12, or even off the streets by 10, but a 24 hour curfew requiring everyone to stay in their homes at all times.  No working, no schooling, no shopping for basic needs. A man named Hashim was gracious enough to let us enter his home and hear his story.  Hashim's house has been attacked several times, yet the only form of resistance that he uses is to stay put.  He refuses to leave his home and rightfully so.  For this reason Hashim has experienced violent retaliation in ways I cannot fathom.  Just a few years ago it came time for his pregnant wife to give birth.  Because of the destruction surrounding his house he is forced to snake through beaten pathways to enter or leave his home.  He carried his wife down to the street where he was approached by a soldier.  "Why the hell are you outside?" the soldier demanded.  Hashim explained that he was taking his wife to the hospital because she was in labor.  "Stop messing with me, you Palestinians are always lying."  He begged and pleaded with the soldier to let him pass to which he responded, "go home, and let your wife die there."  Hashim's wife miscarried their child, this is the second child she's lost, the first she lost when she was beaten by local settlers.

In light of my time here, I would rate this story low on shock value.  Many of the things I have heard and seen are too raw and painful to even put into words.  All of us on this trip are finding it hard to know what our role is as young Americans.  And in many ways all we are asked to do is tell the truth.  Let people know the things we are seeing and hearing.  Let people know that there are educated, beautiful people living in this land.  People that laugh, joke, cry, people with skin, with beliefs and thoughts.  I passed a wall the other day where a settler had written, "Gas the Arabs."  I didn't know if I should cry, yell, or get sick.

I understand that I am very much immersed in one side of the conflict.  And please understand that I am in no way generalizing the Jewish or Israeli population.  These attacks on Palestinians are coming mainly from a much smaller minority of extreme Zionist.  I will have a long time to talk and hear about the Israeli stance while I spend the next month outside of Palestine.  But what we need here is a call for humanity.  On a more personal note, I've been challenged to ask myself if I see all people with untainted eyes.  As equals, as brothers and sisters.  Disregarding ethnicity, ability or disability, class, personality.  I think we judge and react irrationally a lot more often than we'd like to believe.  All people deserve to love and to be loved.

On a lighter note... we planted 200 olive trees the other day.  And it was awesome.


  1. Such a great post Sarah - I can only imagine what you are learning firsthand by physically being in the center of this conflict. I've only studied it for many years, and even from an academic standpoint there are no easy answers, no easy or quick fix. So many sad stories on both sides. If you get a chance, google "Kevin Sites, The Hot Zone Project" - he was a solo journalist who reported on both sides of this conflict back in 2005/2006. And please keep blogging when you get a chance!! The world needs voices like yours! Love you tons, LT

  2. Don't let Nate mow around your trees!

  3. Inquiring minds want to know. Were they green or black olive trees? Do the green olives grow with the little red thing in the middle? Do they also put the black olives on their fingers like we do? Seriously though: What is a typical Palestinian meal? If they must stay inside 24 hours, can they call an ambulance for an emergency? What do they do for entertainment? I really look forward to your sharing when you get home. Love and hugs, Daddy

  4. dear sarah, i'm moved and inspired by your stories. bless you, sweetie. the depth of your spirit and compassion [literally translated means "to suffer with"] moves me. I read recently that when you look deeply into the suffering of another, truly get inside their skin, your compassion can relieve their suffering in unexplained ways. You are looking deeply at the hearts and lives of some precious people and at suffering. Whether you know it or not you are transforming lives. i'm grateful for this transforming time for you. God keep you in his care and bring you safely home. much love, pastor pati mary

  5. SARAHHHH!!!!!! I'm SO happy! I haven't been able to figure out why my comments would not post. I use Firefox as my web browser, so Joel suggested using Internet Explorer - yeah!

    I have been so blessed by reading your blogs - God is before you and behind you and WITH you! What a good God to let you be there and be with the people who are suffering and listen to them. They MUST appreciate you!
    You are a very good writer, you truly bring us there. I love you dear niece! A. Glo

  6. sarah, first this post is very heartbreaking and takes me back to a book i read to prepare for our trip to israel; however, i am so thankful to hear your thoughts and reflections on what you are experiencing back in the middle east. pete sent out an email with your updates on our friends from palestine and it was such a blessing to hear what was going on over there. it is so neat that you are able to spend even more time immersing yourself in that culture that is so far away from ours and it is such a good reminder of all that i learned over there. thanks for sharing!
    -sarah wilson