Our EAPPI South Hebron Hills Team 41 arrived at our new home in Yatta on Friday morning. As we eagerly unpacked our belongings, happy to FINALLY put our suitcases aside, the doorbell rang and we discovered that our neighbour and driver, Abed, had come for a visit. We invited him in. “Welcome, welcome, welcome new team” he repeated with a broad smile over and over again as we sipped our tea. Although we had met him when we were here for training, we once again introduced ourselves so that he could get us straight. Christine from the USA, Bosse from Sweden, Matti from Finland and myself from Canada. As he was leaving he invited us for coffee that evening to the home he shares with his parents. It wasn’t long until the doorbell rang again. It was Abed, back to explain that according to Palestinian culture new neighbours are invited to share the evening meal on the day they move in and so we were to come for dinner, not coffee.
That evening the four of us went to their home where we were treated to a delicious meal of makluba, a chicken and rice dish served in traditional Palestinian style. The men and the guests sat on cushions on the floor around a square mat. On the mat was placed a heaping platter of rice with chicken pieces on top, and on each side of the mat were bowls of a yogurt soup that we were encouraged to spoon onto the rice, and bowls of a cucumber/tomato/lime salad. As we ate, we were taught that Palestinian culture dictates that we be silent until the meal is over and then we would visit.
This happened to be Friday, Sept 23….the date that the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas presented, on behalf of the Palestinian people, the Palestinian Authority’s request to be recognized as a full member state at the United Nations. With the 8 hour time change, President Abbas gave his UN speech just as we were completing our meal. (for a transcript of the speech see http://gadebate.un.org/sites/default/files/gastatements/66/PS_en.pdf ) Together we sat around the television and listened to his speech (given in Arabic). Before and after the speech, the screen showed scenes of huge crowds gathered in Bethlehem, Ramallah and Jenin to celebrate this profound moment in Palestinian history.
Words cannot express how important an event this was for the Palestinian people, and for the family we were visiting that evening. Through a painful history dating back to the Nakba (catastrophe) of 1948 when they were displaced from much of their land, through the war of 1967 when the Israeli occupation began, and then through numerous unsuccessful attempts and negotiations for peace until the present, their people have suffered through the loss of land, loss of opportunity and personal as well as national humiliation. Today, many live in poverty clinging to their remaining land, struggling daily to survive against the passive and aggressive violence of the Israeli army and the Israeli settlers. This bid for statehood represents an opportunity to be recognized as a people, an opportunity to stand together and have the world acknowledge their right to exist as a state and their right to determine their own future. Should they be recognized as a state, they could then stand as equals on the international stage and at the negotiations table in the search for peace with Israel.
Our hosts listened intently to President Abbas’ speech, but as they did so they also recognized the reality of their situation. A new member state can only be admitted to the UN on the recommendation of the Security Council. The 5 permanent members of the Security Council (China, France, The Russian Federation, Great Britain and the United States) all must agree before a motion moves forward (see http://www.un.org/sc/members.asp) If this happens, the General Assembly will then vote to determine whether they will ratify the Security Council’s decision. A majority of the UN member nations have indicated that they would vote in favour of the Palestinian motion at the General Assembly level. Unfortunately for the Palestinians, the United States has clearly stated that it will veto the request at the Security Council level, effectively halting this latest ongoing attempt by the Palestinian people to achieve peace and international respect through nonviolent means.
Knowing all of this…. knowing the importance of this motion to the hopes, the aspirations and the desire of the Palestinian people for peace and for their desire for the end of the Israeli occupation… and knowing the US government’s stated intention to veto this motion…..our hosts welcomed each one of us wholeheartedly, including our American team member Chris. In a night of such profound importance for the Palestinian people, she was as welcome in their home as the rest of us were. They showed absolutely no animosity towards her, no anger, and no resentment. Only warmth, good food, and laughter….lots of laughter, accompanied by a strong sense of goodwill that readily overcame our arabic/english language barrier.
I thought back to the numerous news reports I have heard over time portraying the Palestinian people as terrorists, as a people who pose a high level security risk to all around. How terribly we have been misled. We have allowed the actions of a desperate few to taint our perceptions of many. In so doing, we have become the violent one, perpetrating a huge injustice towards this country and it’s citizens. How sad for them…..How sad for us….
Peace, Salaam, Shalom,
Jan we are praying every day for your safety and your ministry in Palestine. How wonderful to get another and more true perception of what is really happening with the Palestine people. Bless you and all your team.
On my way to Brandon this morning, I listened to CBC Radio, interviewing a Palestinian-Canadian woman who discussed the question of statehood before the UN today. Thanks to your blogs, I felt I understood the issue much more than before. I found it interesting how, despite her awareness that the U.S. would likely veto the vote, she was thrilled just to have the question come before the U.N. She seemed convinced that the recognition that would result, would go a long way to helping their cause.
Jan: I appreciate this wonderful portrayal of your evening with the family. I can taste the Maklouba and feel the warmth of laughter and hospitality. And I can taste the bitter but seasoned disappointment of the denial of the Palestinian people’s aspirations for peace and national self-determination.
thanks for your writing! Keep your spirits up! Keep posting to transform hearts!
I really enjoyed reading this, Jan! I too heard the CBC interview of Lina Sobeh Ali (Charge d’Affaires of the Palestinian General Delegation to Canada) by Anna Maria Tremonti (host of The Current). Lina was strong and I think managed to convey a clear and consistent message of hope and resolve. She was gracious too, when I think Anna Maria Tremonti revealed her bias and became quite unnecessarily aggressive. And also persisted in asking questions about irrelevant topics. News is not truth. Journalists like this one try to portray it as such when it’s really their own opinion and bias that they’re trying to convince us is fact and truth. Thank you for this perspective to help provide more insight.
How amazing that you are in Palestine at such a momentous time for its people! I was thinking of you all
last week as world news focused on the bid at the UN. What
a tremendous opportunity to accompany these people throught the coming days of waiting to see what will bear
fruit from this initiative that has put the Palestinian cause in
front of all of us.
Love and blessings,