Animal sacrifices, Jesus, Villages, and Village people…

Hello Everyone!

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.

Hashim Palace
The Telefirque Gondola
The amazing view from the top of the gondola ride
A mosque and graveyard in Jericho
The church and mosque next to each other.
Jesus' birth spot in Bethlehem

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.

The entry into the Jewish cities
Images on The Wall
Another view of The Wall
"Don't forget the struggle"
More images on The Wall

28 thoughts

  1. Hi Salam!

    I was just wondering, how many countries celebrate Eid Al- Adha? I have a friend from Turkey and he told me he had a week off for a Muslim holiday, but couldn’t explain it. I am wondering if it is the same one. You are lucky to have so much family where you are studying. How many times have you met your family from there? Does anybody think differently of your style of dress? I mean you must have a different fashion than people in Amman right?? I can’t believe you kept getting detained haha wow STRICT! Nice snake picture, love it!

    Rose :)

  2. Hi Salam!
    That all sounds so amazing! It’s so wonderful that you got to celebrate a new holiday and see all of your family in the process. Your Uncle is 95 years old? WOW. That is truly a blessing. Were you able to speak with him at length? If you had the chance, it would be wonderful to hear some of his life stories, or maybe an old fable from his childhood!!! The picture with you and the snake is amazing, lol. Was this someone’s pet or at a zoo or seomthing?

  3. Hi Salam!
    I envy your whole trip! Its amazing that you got to spend time with your family and discover your father’s roots. Do you think it was because you were part of the family that they were so hospitable? Or would you say that everyone is just more hospitable in general? I watched a video about the Palestinian refugees, and I remember Palestinians kissing and hugging complete strangers. I just think cultural differences is so fascinating! You seemed to like it a lot, would you ever consider moving there? By the way, why did you not want your passport stamped? I love passport stamps! Just curious.


  4. Hi Salam!

    It looks like your learning a lot about different cultures and re-connecting with your own:) So you mentioned that the people in celebration of Eid-Al-Adha slaughter lambs as a form of sacrifice, but are not allowed to do so in the city. Do they leave the city to perform these sacrifices? Or, do they do something else in substitution? Security seemed really strict, which can been seen as the tremendous threat they perceive themselves having. I was wondering if there was a reason why you didn’t want your passport to be stamped?

    Your pictures are always great! Thanks for sharing!!!
    Keep having fun!


  5. Hi Salam,
    I couldn’t imagine the feeling you had seeing the mosque right across the christian church. It’s almost something thats unheard of out west. The sacrifices and other customs are completely different than America’s so being part of those festivities was probably a life changing experience. Good job on the choice of pictures to post. Gives us an insight into what the world has to offer.

  6. Hi Salam!

    As usual, your pictures look so amazing, especially the one with the snake! I’d be too terrified to ever do that! It must have been so fun to visit where your dad grew up. I’ve done that before back in my parent’s hometown, and it was definitely an experience. Forty years is such a long time to not have visited his hometown. What kinds of things have changed since then? I haven’t travelled to many different countries before but the security and customs you went through must have been exhausting—to have security question you for hours. I’m curious as to why you didn’t want your passport stamped though?

    Judy Chan

  7. Hi Salam, it seems like you’re having a great time!!
    Happy Eid :)
    I’m envious that you got to go to Palestine and visit your roots and family and see how people are living there under zionists’ oppression!! how did you feel about that?
    You’re lucky u left the customs by 2:30 p.m, some people are trapped for days!
    I loved that your family said that they actually don’t have a problem with the jews but with zionism! because this is a truth that the West can never know of.. Zionists always try to cover it up to make their occupation legitimate!
    Take care,
    Farah Rassas

  8. whaaaaaaats crackin salam :D

    omg slautering camels also is a tradition or did i read that wrong? i had no idea that camel meat was also eaten is it delicious? did u have to get gifts for everyone, becuase that seems like ALOT of gifts hahaha. plus how long is or does Eid Al- Adha last for about a week?

  9. Hi Salam!
    wow girl it seem that you are finding out more history than any body. I glad that your family was happy to see you and welcomed you. Question though…Were you scare when you kissed that snake???? Those places you visited are really beautiful and sacred.

  10. Hey Salam!

    The pictures you posted are so beautiful! Especially of the Gondola! I have never heard of Eid Al-Adha, so it was really interesting to read about. Why is slaughtering in the cities prohibited? Is it because it is crowded in the cities? I can’t believe you got held up at immigration and customs, that wait sounds insane. I would have been terrified if that happened to me, because I don’t do well with a lot of questions being asked all at once! Also, the traffic seems so INSANE. I get impatient during rush hour here, myself, and reading that it took nearly an hour just to go to a place that was 15 minutes away is just mind blowing. I’m glad you got to visit your family there, it must have been such an amazing feeling to be welcomed with warm hugs and kisses! One more thing: I can’t believe you kissed a snake! Awesome picture!

  11. Hello Salam!

    As always, thank you for posting the pictures of your travels, I especially love the ones of the wall. I didn’t know that camels were part of slaughtering, I knew lambs were but camels seem more interesting. That’s very convenient how your uncle lives so close to you. Did he show you around at all? I think it’s fascinating how you get to see all these old, ancient locations
    (such as the mosque). I personally would’ve of been nervous if I rode the gondola since the view looked so high up. Once again safe travels and happy holidays there!

    Derek Mateo

  12. I loved this post it is amazing that you were able to visit so many family members and learn so much about them. You must have loved being able to see where you father was from and where he grew up that is defiantly a once in a life time opportunity. You must have been freaking out when they held you for two hours questioning you. I don’t know what I would have done if that happened to me I would not have been able to keep calm. The pictures that you posted were so beautiful all of the places that you are able to go to see breath taking and amazing. Thanks for another amazing post.

    -Kaylie McKeirnan

  13. Hi Salam. Reading this journal is like reading from National Geographic Magazine. What an experience to also be able to connect with family in addition to a wonderful learning experience. I was in Istanbul, Turkey last Spring and I saw how peacefully Muslims, Jews and Christians live peacefully together and worship how they choose to worship. Sounds like you are also finding some of that there as well, with your family working and doing business with Jewish people. The photos really add to your blog and reading your blog is a learning experience for me.

  14. Hi Salam,
    It sounds like you have had such an amazing break! I didn’t know that they celebrated a holiday of Eid Al-Adha. It was really interesting to learn about that! I have to say it was really interesting how you got held up at the immigration and customs for that long, just for those reasons! But I guess it is understandable considering we are really extreme here in the US after Sept. 11, 2001, but it is still crazy! It is really amazing though how you get to do all those things! I really love learning about everything you learn there, and it really does teach more about just how different the cultures is there and here!
    Aimee Fischer

  15. Hi Salam!

    It looks like you are having a fantastic time out there! Maybe I have not really read up on a lot of the West Bank but what is the wall you were talking about? I found it very interesting that there was a picture of a Women with the biggest grin holding a giant gun painted on the side of it with the caption “Don’t forget the struggle”. Also are there not laws on traveling with guns there? It was weird to hear they casually said “do you have a gun, do you plan on shooting someone with it”. As if someone would respond with “yes I have a gun and I am going to shoot a couple people but don’t worry about it” haha
    -Stephanie Warshaw

  16. Hi Salam!
    Wow the pictures really show your experience! I believe this entry was one of the best! After reading how your interview went with Israeli customs went I could not help but laugh. However I am sure it was anything but funny at the time. I was wondering if you got a feel how aware Israeli people were of the situation in Palestine an how much of the governments argument of national security they believe, causing the mistreatment of Palestine’s? The art work on the wall is really amazing it is great to see the talent. It is just amazing to me that the wall really represents so much protection, safety to one side and causing poverty and struggle to the other. Do you think this conflict has potential to ever end?

    Alyssa Dronenburg

  17. Wow this was an amazing read. I’m glad you got the chance to reconnect with your family again. It was funny to read your security story. Its unbelievable how they would question you so long after you already told them you are a study abroad student from america. and why did you not want your passport stamped? It is also fascinating to see the different view points between Israelis and Palestinians. I’m glad you got to speak to them yourself and get a first hand experience. I’ve always wanted to visit both Palestine and Israel, and I’m happy you shared your experiences with us.

  18. I loved the pictures again they do a great job of bringing your travels to life. I bet you enjoyed your week off. Did you get to witness any of the sacrifices that you were talking about? If so what was it like and if not was it because you just did not want to see an animal killed or just because you did not get the chance to see it? It must be fun to be able to reconnect with your family like that. I liked the artwork that was graffiti onto the wall. It really is a shame what’s happening there and is just another example of a few people ruining it for the vast majority.

    Daniel Nagel

  19. Amazing pictures Salam!

    Im sorry to hear about not being about to visit Eygpt and Lebanon, I knew you were excited to sneak over there while you were there.

    In your comment about travelling from country to country; a friend of mine studied abroad in Italy a year ago and she said that it was about $38 dollars to travel from Italy to like France. So I think travelling anywhere besides from America is relatively inexpensive.

    I think I would be saddened to see “the streets run red” but I understand that it is part of their cutlure. But I’m glad you got to celebrate Eid with your Jordanian family.

    Happy you got an insight on your dad’s childhood and that you had a warm welcoming in Israel.

    My boyfriend knows a lot about other cultures and he informed me not too long ago that Palestine’s and Israelis’ get along for the most part pretty well.

    Take Care, and hope to hear from you again soon.

  20. Hi Salam,
    Traveling is a truly amazing experience when you can reconnect with family while you are doing it! I had a similar experience when I went to Italy with my mom; we had relatives we’d never heard of dropping by our appartamento and asking us to come to dinner.
    It intrigues me that Israelis and Palestinians get along so well at a local level given the historic struggle between them. You said they work together often and I’m curious about the dynamics surrounding that. Do Palestinians cross the border into Israel to work? Or vice versa? Or do they work across the border/trading? I’m curious to know more about their relations.
    Thank you for sharing the pictures, they are really incredible!

    -Joelle Mestemacher

  21. Salam,

    It sounds so lovely that you were able to see your family in Palestine, despite the questioning! Your pictures are captivating, and I’m sure you’ve amassed memories to last a lifetime. I can’t say I’m surprised by the interrogation you had to endure when going into Israel, but it is a shame that they make you feel as if you’re a criminal for wanting to see your family. I wonder if you were more or less suspicious as a student traveling abroad.

    Your “roads run red” explanation made me cringe. Like you, I don’t eat meat, and it would be heartbreaking for me to see so many animals being slaughtered. I was not aware before this post of the fact that camels are eaten. Why are they allowed to slaughter in suburbs and not cities? I imagine there are health concerns, but I would also guess that leaving the city does not eliminate the health problems associated with mass animal slaughter.

    I hope you enjoy the rest of your semester.


  22. Hello Salam,
    Thanks for the explanation of Eid Al-Adha because I defiantly had no idea what it was, like I said before you are always teaching me something new through your blogs! The slaughtering of the lamb or of any animal was a little disturbing, but it was interesting to know how people celebrate! Very cool that you were able to see family while you were there , that must have felt good! It also must have been exciting for your girl friends to enjoy the company of your family and learn how to belly dance! Visiting your dads village must have been very exciting to learn about his childhood I’m sure that will be exciting for him to hear and for you to share with him if you haven’t already! Again great pictures as always! How did it feel to see family you haven’t seen in that long? What kind of questions did you ask them, or what did they share with you , that you didn’t know about your family!? Thanks for all the great information!!!

    Savannah Reeve

  23. Hi Salam,
    Everything sounds so new and different from the holidays we have here. For the Eid Al-Adha celebration, can any animal be slaughtered? It’s good to see different cultures and to see how those cultures celebrate.

    Your experience with customs sound pretty scary. I don’t think that I would have been as calm as you being questioned in a country I’m not too familiar with. I think that maybe because you had aunts and uncles waiting for you it made the entire process a little less scary. I’m glad to hear you were able to spend some time with relatives. Thanks for the post I really enjoyed it.

    – Mireya Tinoco

  24. I’m glad that the Israeli Immigration officers didn’t harm you. It seems that they (Israelis) practice racial/ethnic profiling of visitors which is unfortunate. Its good that you explored both Palestine and Jerusalem to get a first hand knowledge of the situation in that region.

  25. Hi Salem!

    It sounded like you had a great time! I’m sure you must have enjoyed visiting family and sharing in those memories! My favorite part of your post was your description about the church and the mosque being across the street from one another! The image of people engaged at the same time must have been amazing. I feel like that is such a hard concept for so many people to grasp…If only more people were able to witness that! I was wondering how you felt in regards to the questions that you were being asked, did you feel scared or worried? You mentioned that you were giggling or laughing, I thought that was funny, because I do the same thing when I am uncomfortable! Also, how do you think the questions actions that they asked were compared to security here in the states?

  26. Salam-

    What really caught my eye about your post was how you went to Bethlehem to the birthplace of Jesus. That must of been a mixed feelings and emotions. The graveyard at Jericho looked so sacred and amazing to be in. I wish I could witness and be present to some of the most holy places in the world!! What were your feelings toward these places? I hope that when you saw your family, that it was memorable. I figured customs over there was no joke. It is very important to them to follow what they believe and to honor their standards and culture!! Cant wait to see your other posts!


  27. That festival sounds awesome. It must be nice to get to experience a tradition of that nature. Especially one that still sound like it hasn’t been altered with time. The tradition has been around for a long time and holds true to its original nature. It must have been great to get a glimpse in a tradition that another nation holds dear. I imagine that’s what its like for foreign people to experience something like thanksgiving here. And your trip to Palestine looks amazing, of course, as do all of your trips. The photographs you provide are always great. Palestine too looks rich with culture and fascinating archaeological and ancient sites where ancient costumes and rituals were practiced. Something so fascinating about that area is how ancient the culture is, how rich and deep the history goes. It must be great to be apart of that. It must have also been incredible to visit the supposed spot of Jesus’ birth!! even if you aren’t religious I still feel that kind of area would be quite moving, I had a friend visit there and said it was crazy. Also that is so awesome that you got to visit your family. How crazy it must have been to get to see them all the way out there, and see your extended family. Great blog as always

    -Shane Desfor

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