Sunday, September 12, 2010

Reminiscing: My time in the Middle East

While walking through an eco-festival in Grenoble yesterday morning, I noticed a booth selling Palestinian crafts. Hand-carved wood figurines of camels and shepherds, beautiful handmade shawls, and bottles of olive oil. It made me miss the region so I thought I'd take a few posts to highlight some of the adventures I had while staying there. I first encountered Israel and Palestine in January 2009. I stayed in the region for a month participating in a project for my graduate school. I loved it. And as soon as I returned to the States I made plans to go back. And I did. For nearly 7 months I lived in Bethlehem working for a joint Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian environmental NGO. It was an amazing experience and the region and the people (both Israelis and Palestinians) made an indelible mark on my heart and world view. 

Tel Aviv, 2009

Here is an excerpt from an e-mail dated July, 2009

I'm getting ready to set off for Palestine so I thought I'd just start the "i'm still alive" e-mail updates now.  I've crammed just about everything I might need (and plenty of stuff that I probably won't) for the next 7 months in two bags, and I'm sitting here staring at my passport and rehearsing the story I've got to tell the Israeli guards at the airport, but somehow I can't wipe the bemused look off my face when saying that I am a devout Christian who is there to see the Holy Sites...again. I think of the Greek Orthodox marching down the streets of Jerusalem. Their somber faces and billowing black gowns are how I picture the devout, and it is not a category I wish to fall under. My devotion has less of the severity that comes from kneeling uncomfortably on hard surfaces for too long and more of the passion that comes from laughing hysterically while dancing under the stars of a glorious desert sky. I am excited, albeit a little nervous, to be going back. There are things I have missed and moments I look forward to experiencing again, but not enough time has passed for me to forget the difficulty of life there and the powder keg frustration of a people under occupation. I know that if things go wrong, it will happen too quickly for me to react. There is no escaping that vulnerability. When the Israeli jets fly low and fast, my heart stops with the knowledge that my innocence is irrelevant. My location is not. But since I'm sitting here with my ticket, my passport, and every intention of going...I try not to think about it too much. 

Bethlehem, 2009

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