a simple day…
Yesterday was a good day, a day of surprises, a day that is a good example of the life I live here. We expected to go to Al-Walejah, a near-by village, to harvest olives so we had to be up early to have time to dress, eat, and get to the meeting point in Bethlehem, where we were told a bus would meet us to take us out to the village. We were to get to “in front of the courthouse” on Hebron Road by 8:00. Unfortunately, none of us knew where that was – and, as it turns out, neither did the taxi driver! Fortunately, the guys who we were meeting knew where we had been dropped off and came to rescue us! So, on to the harvest… well, not quite…
First, we had to wait for others to arrive, so we went into an office to wait and it turned out it was the headquarters of the Palestinian Medical Relief Society – which meant we spent about an hour getting an introduction to their work around the Bethlehem area and the West Bank. They sponsor mobile units that travel all over the West Bank, offering primary care to villagers who have no medical facilities in their town. Dentists and doctors with specialties (gynecology, ophthalmology, oncology, etc) volunteer hours each week in 26 clinics. Together these programs reach 1.5 million patients in the West Bank each year – even though they are often prevented from reaching the one who need them the most. In recent years, seventy-two women have delivered their babies at the wrong side of the checkpoints, and many of the newborns didn’t survive. The doctor talking with us said, “they are living in tragedy, yet bringing hope.”
Grateful for this new contact, we were now ready to pick some olives…Joining with a few others we began out journey to the village. We met at the home of the group leader and waited for a larger bus that took us down into the fields on a road that was so narrow and steep the driver drove the last mile or so backwards to be sure he could get the bus back up the steep grade. Then we trekked to the field… but no! First we were taken on a tour to see an olive tree whose underground trunk was 25 km around and whose carbon-test results date the tree at well over 3000 years!
Finally, 2.5 hrs after we started our journey, we reached the field and began harvesting with about 35 internationals and 25 Palestinians. About 12:30 lunch was served – bread to be dipped into bowls of the greenest olive oil I have ever seen, fresh hummus, home-made yogurt cheese with more oil, piping hot falafel balls, and grape molasses. And, of course a fire was started for Arabic coffee and mint tea!
About 3:00 we finished for the day and found our way home – stopping at the market stand for fruits and veggies. After a quick shower and dinner, we headed to Manger Square in the Old City of Bethlehem for a huge, 5-screen showing of “Identity of the Soul,” a multi-media presentation with readings by the beloved Mahmoud Darwish, Palestinian National poet extraordinaire who died last August in Houston TX, after a critical heart operation there. It was an ironic end to a day that began with volunteer doctors trying hard to serve/save their people.
The “Identity of the Soul” was an amazingly sophisticated, intellectual, multi-media presentation from a people living in oppression, with little medical care and up to 65% unemployment, who depend on protection from internationals to pick their olives – reminding me once again how difficult it is to define these people and this situation in which they struggle to find their identities! So we ended our day over a last cup of coffee… a bit more confused but glad for the gifts of the day!
peace/salaam – Pastor Pat
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