More confirmations for the rest of my remaining just-under-a-week here – I’m due to have lunch with Jean Zaru after Meeting tomorrow – then, if all goes as planed (new plan, as of tonight) – I’ll join the Jerusalem contingent to the al-Arakib demo at Lehavim Junction (that I already told Amos I couldn’t make – but that was before I knew about the organized travel). Arik Ascherman (of RHR-Israel) was the contact person, and I phoned him from skype. He assured me we’d be back by 8 p.m. or so, as I’d arranged to go for a restaurant meal with Danielle (my old friend and Jerusalem hostess) after that. Much of the rest of the week is still up in the air.
Sunday, Sept 14: The best laid plans. . . . Even though I got up bright and early–or so it seemed to me–by the time I walked to the East Jerusalem bus station, found the bus for Ramallah, sat while it filled up sufficiently, and finally set off — it was already 11:30 by the time I reached Ramallah, and I got to the meetinghouse just as Friends were beginning to make their way to the annex for tea and cookies and a bit of socializing. There were a number of volunteers from a meeting in Oregon–probably evangelical or at least FUM (one of them mentioned George Fox College….), there to do some teaching for a month or two, if I understood correctly. We then adjourned to the Nazareth Restaurant and Jean explained that she had a previous arrangement to meet with me, and joined me at a table for two.
We both ordered humus with fool (I always forget the proper name for that mixture), but Jean is gluten-free. What a fate in such a bread-centred culture! A friend brings her gluten-free bread from a bakery on Prophets’ Street from time to time (I must remember to bring some gluten-free goodies next time I visit). She shared the candy with the volunteers so “they wouldn’t feel left out” by her desertion to a separate table, and we had a good visit, including about 10 minutes of her speaking about the importance of BDS as a nonviolent means of putting pressure on Israel to end the occupation. She gave me permission to share it with Friends and Friends’ publications once it’s been transcribed and edited.
By the time I left Ramallah it was already two. Then, once I’d passed through Qalandia checkpoint (with no trouble at all–so far, no one has noticed [cared?] that the number on the little card that takes the place of the entry stamp in my passport doesn’t match the number of my Canadian document….)–and I phoned Arik to say I’d probably not make on time it to the meeting point for the drive to the al-Arakib demo, he informed me that everyone else had cancelled (he himself couldn’t go because of a board meeting), and there was no transportation. He suggested that I grab a bus from the Central Bus Station. However, even though I got off Ramallah-Jerusalem bus in French Hill and caught the evil Veolia light rail
I still made it to the Central Bus Station just a little before four, only to be told that the bus leaving at 4 for Lehavim Junction would take “about 110 minutes” to reach that stop!!! No demo for me, then. Interestingly, the first place I saw a light rail station was in (Arab) Shu’afat, and I wanted to catch it there, but the bus driver explained that that station lacked the means to purchase a ticket! (“No box. You have to catch it at the next station” i.e., in predominantly Jewish French Hill).
While I was at the Ramallah Meetinghouse, I took advantage of its open wifi to skype Jeremy, only to find out that he’d decamped to Germany the previous day and wouldn’t be back until a couple of days after I’d left. But he gave me the phone number of a friend who, he said, could put me in touch with the Abu Ghalia family (the phone numbers I had for them, like so many others, out of reach in my missing address book). I called and spoke to Maryam and we arranged that I would visit the next morning (Monday), see the school, etc. , after which I would return to Danielle’s to pick up whatever I’ll need for the next couple of days in Hebron and Bethlehem.
Unfortunately I didn’t realize that a) the Maryam I made the arrangement with was NOT the daughter of Eid Abu Ghalia, who teaches at the school in Khan al-Ahmar (the threatened demolition of which is described in the excellent 27-minute video on http://www.jahalin.org), where school goes on until one or two in the afternoon), but a cousin who teaches at the kindergarten on the jabal–where the kids leave before noon. I, or course, arrived in Abu Dis close to noon, and by the time a brother had been sent to fetch me with a car, it was close to one. We chatted a bit–I and the Maryam who I thought was another Maryam–and she took me to see the empty kindergarten, and pointed out the girls’ 1 – 12 and boys’ 1 – 8 schools in an adjoining compound, also empty of children at that time.
I had a very nice visit with Maryam, who turned out to be from a third family (or a third branch of the Abu Ghalia clan?). I recorded her appeal for help to expand the kindergarten:
“Hi, I am a teacher in the … kindergarten in Arab el-Jahalin in Palestine, Jerusalem [district]. I ask you if you can help us in our kindergarten to make a second [floor], because we need that for–we want to make like two-room, one room for [each] age, because we have different ages, from 3 years to 5 years, and we have only one room. And we need another room [so there can be a separate place ] for three and four years, and another room to make a play room for the children for when it’s too hot to play outside at 10 or 11, and also in winter when it’s raining. And we need a room with a roof. And if you can help us with that, thank you very much.”
After I spent some time with Sarah’s family,
including a little time visiting with Mohammad, who was lying on a couch in a separate room, recovering from a kidney stone operation–a monster-big kidney stone that they had sitting in a jar on the coffee table besides his couch–and a lovely meal with Sarah and several of the kids of super-tender (probably home-grown) chicken with spiced rice and crispy bits of vermicelli–absolutely yummy, I said I wanted to go see Eid. They said “Why?” “To say hello.” It’s a family that I’m not as close to as theirs, but I did see a lot of in the old days–and Eid was always the one who drove me to and from the Jabal in the past. So I went over there (accompanied, again, by one of the smaller kids, as I recall). The only English-speaker in Eid’s family was Maryam ( the one to whom I thought I was speaking earlier – who does teach at the Khan al-Ahmar school). Eid’s wife (who’s name I never properly learned) said, “Oh, you spoke Arabic better before,” which was definitely not the case. Interestingly, I did fine understanding and making my self understood with Sarah and her kids (Mohammed of course speaks Hebrew). When Maryam gave me her email address, I recognized it and realized the mix-up–in fact she told me that the KhA school was in session until 12:45, and I could have made it! I get the feeling that there’s some ill-feeling, as well as lack of communication, between the two families.
Before I left Sarah and Mohammed’s, I was given a tour of the yard, where chickens and even the odd goat were still kept, a small remnant of their previous livestock-based life–and of the upper floors, still under construction–
an addition I suspect intended to accommodate the anticipated growth of the family after Mohammed’s apparently recent marriage to a second wife (an event mentioned almost casually by Sarah after we had seated ourselves in Mohammed’s sick room); and was encouraged to photograph chickens and such, but not the faces of the women or girls.
It all worked out for me, in the end. Luckily I had bought three boxes of candy.
I walked from the Jahalin encampment back to Azariya. It was a really short walk, maybe a kilometre or less back to the main street. When I got there, I couldn’t see any buses. Somebody said in English, “Where are you going,” and I said “Jerusalem,” and he said “In five or ten minutes, there’ll be a bus.” Then I see a 36 bus arriving. That was the number I’d been originally told to take, so I started toward it. He said “No, not that one.” When I asked why not, he said something in Arabic, I think about my clothing, and kept repeating it. I presume he was saying that because I wasn’t covered (short-sleeved T-shirt, and no head covering), I couldn’t travel on a bus with men, or something. But I got on anyway. The driver didn’t have a problem with my garb. So I’m on my way. Hopefully this is a little faster than the 63 I took this morning, which stopped in every small village along the way, it seemed. The 36 is a minibus, and presumably there was some reason I was told to take that one by two different people, both Maryam (on the phone) and the guy at the Jerusalem bus station this morning.
When I reached Damascus Gate, around 4:30, I asked a service-taxi driver how late there would be transportation to Hebron and he said two or three hours, so I figured I’d be safe aiming for 6:30, although Gabriel sounded sceptical when I told him my plan. I made it back to the bus stop just before 6:30 and lo and behold, there was a numbered minibus loading up for Hebron. Jean Zaru at the Ramallah Quaker Meetinghouse.