Hope you all performed well on your midterms! I have been MIA for a while because we had a one week vacation from school in observance of Eid Al- Adha… First, to respond to your questions about Ghadafi- everything was still safe here, there are peaceful protests downtown pretty much every Friday and on Thursdays usually peaceful protest in response to the regime in Syria. Observing the Arab Spring here has been a bitter sweet feeling, only because I cannot go to Egypt or drive to Lebanon because of the protests. Travel to Jordan’s neighboring countries is much cheaper being in Jordan versus flying from America. I will have to hope to return another day and explore every neighboring country, maybe once new government and infrastructure is set up, which,would be far more exciting to witness life following the Arab Spring. Now after that week of political changes, we received a break from it all in celebration of Eid Al-Adha.
Eid Al-Adha is a celebration that comes after Hajj, which is a pilgrimage to Mecca and occurs 70 days after Ramdan. It is the celebration of sacrifice; symbolic of when Abraham dreamt that God told him to sacrifice his son Ishmael and his willingness to do so even though he loved his son. Abraham told Ishmael of the need to sacrifice him and because of his courage to sacrifice the son he loved in the name of God, Ishmael’s life was spared.
A lamb is now slaughtered in honor of Abraham and wealthier families may even purchase camels or cows to serve to their guests during this extravagant holiday. Here in Jordan, its is known as the day when, “the streets run red.” Slaughtering is allowed in the suburbs and country sides but not in the city. I spent the first two days of my week off in Amman to observe the holiday. The streets were packed with people the Friday and Saturday before the Eid that landed on a Sunday. It literally looked like ants everywhere because people do not stick to the sidewalks but roam all over, even in between cars in the midst of traffic. Rush hour traffic hours here are typically from 11am-5pm but during the Eid it was all day. I have an uncle who lives in Marj El Hamam, which is 15 min away from another uncle who lives in Jabal Al Ikhdar, and it took us an hour to get there the day before Eid because people were purchasing last minute gifts and new clothes. Finally, when Sunday did roll around we all put on our best clothes and exchanged gifts. My ten aunts and uncles all were visiting each other in the morning and exchanging gifts and giving money for the celebration before the dinner party later in the evening which was held at my dad’s eldest brother’s home. I invited some of the girls from the program to join in the festivities that evening with my family and it was amazing. My family taught them how to belly dance, we enjoyed Arabic food, laughter, chocolate, date cookies, and tons of tea. I couldn’t be up all night celebrating though because I had to head out on my first trip to Israel and Palestine early in the AM!
I have already filled this blog with a boat load of information so I will try to sum up my Palestinian trip quickly and let the photos speak for themselves. The first thing I learned upon arrival was that Israeli immigration and customs is no joke. They held me for two and half hours asking me endless amounts of ridiculous questions all because of my name and because I also made the mistake of telling them I wanted to visit the West Bank. Questions included: what my dad did for a living, his name, what I was studying in America, the name of my aunt and uncle that I was planning to visit, and if I was carrying a gun and if so did I plan on shooting anyone. At that point I began laughing because I do not do well in stressful situations. I ended up being released and when I headed towards the VIP line to get my passport stamped, I politely asked them not to and I got held for about 2 hours. I had to provide the name of the village I was staying at as well as both my aunt and uncles names and phone numbers. Security called them to ensure my story was legitimate and later I was released, I came to the bridge (that crosses the border from Jordan to Israel) at 9am and did not leave till 2:30pm. I was going to my dad’s village called Husan, which is right outside of Jerusalem and takes only about 15 min to get there.
My aunt Manal is my dad’s sister who I haven’t seen in 14 years and my dad hasn’t seen in 20 years. My dad hasn’t been to his village in 40 years. This trip was not a vacation but rather an insight into my dad’s childhood, learning about Palestinians since little is ever exposed about them, and reconnecting with family. I decided to not really go to too many tourists attractions since my family would be unable to see them. Upon arrival, it truly felt like a homecoming, kids were lined up in the streets to see me, and my aunt and uncle were outside of their home waiting. Everyone greeted me with hugs and kisses, huge smiles, and warm welcomes. People I didn’t know but who knew my father were already inviting me over to their homes for tea. I washed up and put my luggage down and began the tour of the village, and spent the first night getting to know my great uncle who is 95 years old, his nieces and nephews and their kids. I also visited my uncle’s mother and father who are also his neighbors- she is 75 years old and has 15 children including a set of twin boys, Mussa (Moses) and Yousef (Joseph) (20), and the youngest, Mohammad (15).
I spent most of the trip with the boys and we toured Bethlehem, Jericho, the Wall, and Bateer. Jericho was the hottest place on the planet I have ever been because it is the lowest point in all of Palestine. It was sandy but beautiful. I visited Hashim Palace, an old mosque and grave yard, and rode the famous Telefirque- which is a gondola that lets you see all of Jericho and takes you to a hill that has an amazing mountain side restaurant and a huge church that many come to visit and pray in. In Bethlehem, I visited Jesus’s birth spot. It was incredible to see how packed it was and here people sing or speak in what sounded to be Latin. Many Palestinians state that Bethlehem is the Hajj for many Christians. The streets of Bethlehem were beautiful, but the most breathtaking sight for me was seeing a church and mosque right across from each other and witnessing people engaged in their faiths simultaneously and get along. It was captivating.
Following Bethlehem and Jericho, I spent two days visiting the small village of Husan. I saw people pulling the olive trees, farming, and toured my dad’s old neighborhood and the home he grew up in, which is probably the size of your bedroom. I had coffee with many people in the region and when I asked about how they felt about their neighboring Jews, I came to find out that they do business with Jews. My uncle worked for a Jewish man, and they were friends with a lot of them. The people stated that they have no problems living, working, or befriending the Jewish population. Their issue is with Zionism and feeling entrapped by the Wall, and having difficulties with travel and obtaining services. Speaking of the Wall, I will not say much because I am sure Professor Matthews could provide you with better information and detail than I can. Just know that in the village I was staying in, the wall would appear one minute then disappear and pop out somewhere else, it truly zig zags in and out. The last thing I will say is that the hospitality was amazing, I explored amazing spots and beautiful caves. The village was fairly conservative, and everyone knows what you ate for breakfast without having to say a word, the weather is gorgeous, and I cannot wait to go back.