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Thursday, June 7, 2012

The First 10 Days

Today marks day 10.  It feels like 3 months already.  In the last 10 days we have:

1.   Had our first hitch hiking experience. (Don’t worry mom, we were/are fine.)
2.   Ate the best hummus of our life- topped with mushrooms, or eggs, or tahini, or vegg.  (Seriously, be careful how you say hummus in Hebrew. If pronounced incorrectly, it sounds like Hamas. Yes, I’ve scared off Israelis when telling them that “I love hummus”)
3.   Drove through the Judean deserts with a guy named Samer. Who ripped me off, but engaged    me in lively discussion. He even told me that he thinks Hamas is alive and working…yeah, that’s what I want to hear as I travel with you in your cab through the desert.  Ironically, I had peace the whole time… I never felt scared on that 3 hour journey.
4.   Met some awesome people. Israelis, Palestinians, Yemenites, French, Germans.
5. Learned a lot more about the conflict. No one even agrees on the facts. Which makes it easy to avoid making opinions.
6.   Spent time on a half nudie beach. Lot of thongs. Men thongs.
7.   Watched the sunset go down from a hilltop as a young, Orthodox man played the piano.
8.   Killed several roaches in our apartment…..
9. and experienced walking through the checkpoints.  (not Thomas, just me. Don’t worry David case you read this. =)

From Tel Aviv to Jerusalem to Jaffa and Palestine. Our Hebrew/Arabic sucks. A lot of people speak English, but I feel like that stupid American who expects it.  Everyone told us to expect Tel Aviv to feel like New York. They were right. Beautiful diversity, busy, noisy, dirty, alive and non-stop. Thankfully, we live in a quiet part of town, close to a large, outdoor market called the Carmel. We are also within walking distance of the beaches, Jaffa and a few main shopping streets.

I’m writing today from a very modern café, sitting outside, doing some people watching.  I’ve just finished a lively conversation with an Israeli lawyer about water issues.  I’m asking everyone I meet about their experiences with water. Water scarcity is an issue here, in the middle of the desert and everyone has a story to tell about it. The lawyer’s story was hilarious. He told me that as a kid they were told that all of their drinking water came from a huge lake in Tiberius. His family would often vacation there and they would swim in this lake. He would ask himself, “Am I swimming in the same water that I drink? Is it okay to pee in this lake? I always pee when I swim, but I don’t want to drink my pee.” Pretty hilarious.  Eiad, the lawyer, comes to this café every day. He sits next to an ex-Israeli secret agent, turned fiction writer. He’s an older gentleman with a “secret life” said Eiad. 40 years ago he had the idea to bottle water. And today, apparently all Israelis drink bottled water because they’ve been told the tap water isn’t clean. “Marketing, marketing, marketing,” says the novelist in broken English.

Palestinians have a different story about water. Eiad told me they have wells in their homes. Not sure if this is true or not. I’m headed back there on Sunday and I plan to ask a lot of questions.

Canaan Fair Trade Olive Farmer
The workings of God are truly amazing. I’ve been offered a paid position with Canaan Fair Trade for the summer. I wasn’t sure I would even have the opportunity to work with them, let alone be paid for it. I’ll be helping them to measure the impact of their work. They’ve been given a grant to interview farmers about how fair trade has changed their lives, economically, socially, etc. I’ll be managing a team of Palestinian students to do the interviews. Upon completion, I’ll be helping to analyze the themes of the interviews, looking for themes such as changed leadership capacity among farmers, better living conditions, etc. Again, the sovereignty of God is incredible. Just a year ago, I was working on outcomes measurement at my job in Boston. These are skills I had never planned on learning, but work that I really enjoy. Is fair trade making a difference? How? We will gather the narratives and use it strategic planning and as marketing material too. It’s SO exciting. I head back on Sunday and will get an apartment with a family there too. I’ll stay for about a week at a time and then do work from Tel Aviv on the off days.

Not gonna lie. I’m also really nervous. Crossing through the checkpoints has been one of the most emotional experiences of my life.  (In Bethlehem they didn’t even check our passports. We watched Palestinians put their shoes and clothes back on. But we walked on through. Tears streamed down my face as we entered Palestine. Driving through the desert was breath taking. I met some of the farmers who work for Canaan. They quickly loaded me up with fresh produce and stories.  The work of Canaan is incredible. They work with small olive farmers all over Palestine.  They help them press, export and market their olive products. (Dr. Bronner Soaps is one of their biggest clients.)

 I’ve needed courage. I don’t think I’ve ever really prayed for courage. Grace and peace, yes. But courage… this is a new concept to me. What does it mean to be a “fearless, courageous leader?” Fear is over-powering. The media shoves fear into our souls. They push their agendas and show us the violence. They don’t show us the lady who offers you tea and homemade cookies in front of her humble home. She speaks a mixture of Arabic and English and wants me to tell her about my life in “Ee-may-ricka.”  This is the people of the West Bank.

 I hate that I find suspicion creeping into my thoughts all the time, questioning the motives of almost everyone.  And here is where I am with this: There are beautiful people every place in this world. Some have evil intentions, but most do not.  I feel a great love for both the Israelis and for the Palestinians.  No difference. And I know that a lot of Israeli’s feel compassion for the Palestinians. And that many Palestinians want reconciliation and peace with Israelis. This is the majority. Why isn’t the voice of the majority louder?

Thomas loves his work too. He’s headed to the Wiseman Institute on Sunday to check out their labs. He’s doing some sort of hydro/soil experiments. Basically, I have no idea what he’s doing. Using heat to test the solubility of certain liquids? He’ll have to have his own blog if you want to hear about his work cause I’m like, “oh honey, you’re so smart with your science stuff. Way to mix those chemicals and do that lab stuff. You are working that sexy, lab coat with your nerdy-Rasta man ways.”

This weekend we are going to Jerusalem for the Festival of Lights. They light up the whole city. Should be awesome.  Tonight we are going to Jaffa for an Arabic dinner. Sunday to Wednesday I’m in the West Bank with Canaan and next Thursday we are going to Eilat to snorkel in the Red Sea. We are having the time of our lives…..and I hope wherever you are in the world, you are too