Follow The Fennel

February 17th to March 2nd – Taybeh

Staying with that family was much fun and I learned my favourite Arabic word: mishnuun, which means crazy. They were four girls, one boy, the parents and a gold fish. Sometimes there was quite a language barrier, but that was never a problem. Actually, it added even more fun.

At the first weekend they took me to a family visit in the West Bank. I visited three homes and stayed, as a surprise, overnight at one of them. There was good food and interesting vegetable gardens. One of the women took me to a wedding party, where the music was just too loud, but we all enjoyed it. Marriages usually take place in a wedding hall. In this case it was an only women’s party, only the bridegroom and the bride’s father were inside the hall. There was music, dancing, a big cake and no photos. When Muslims marry, one partner takes the other’s engagement ring from the right ring-finger to the left ring-finger. Whereas in Germany people have their engagement rings on the left ring-finger, usually just worn by the women. The marriage ring is another ring, only worn at the right ring-finger and worn by both husband and wife.

A few days later I went on a trip to Bethlehem. There was a very interesting volunteering position. We had a short skype interview and then they asked me to drop by to see the site. I did so and the project is really amazing. They told me I could start volunteering at their place whenever I want. But as I told them, I would like to arrive at 16th, I had to wait a long time to get an answer. They replied with very view words, that they cannot find an accomodation for me. I thought: Ok, for that I wasted one day and 100NIS? They could have thought about that earlier.

On Friday the oldest daughter took me with her on a school trip for girls only to Jerusalem. The schedule included prayers, the souq and getting a tour about the Al-Aqsa mosque and the dome of the rock. Al-Aqsa mosque is the third holiest place in Islam. But it is not to be confused with the dome of the rocks, with its impressive golden dome. Both are on the same property. There are many clashes between Jews and Muslims, since the area is holy for both.
The girls wanted me to join their tour. But as a non Muslim I was asked by a guard to leave the area, since friday is Muslims only. Nevertheless I wore a hijab all day long. I felt somewhat silly but wanted to try it out. Actually, I like it as a fashion.
Since I was not allowed to enter the mosque, I went to the church of the holy sepulcher. It is not like a usual church, and unlike other churches I like the atmosphere of that place. There are plenty of rooms or better halls on ground level, and below and even above. It is said to be the place where Jesus was crucified and revived. It is used by many Christian confessions and as they tend to fight over using the church, a Muslim family holds the key.

On the next week, the second youngest daughter took me to her school’s heritage festival. First some of the kids did performances like dabke or a small play, then we went inside. Every classroom had its own project and the classes were skipping clasrooms. There was mosaic for a clay jug, a story teller asking about traditional garments, something about local herbs and old agricultural tools. There was also a picnic with meals the kids had had to bring from home. It was marvellous. And the school and classrooms were really nice.

My job at the family was to teach the kids English. I helped with homework, pronunciation, did some vocabulary games, and of course conversation. I also helped with 1st grade math, played with the children and did dishes. But somehow I was not satisfied with the amount of English teaching. It was also exam period for the children, and they were happy for any distraction, like me for example. So I decided to leave, at least for now.

While the family members were strict Muslims, my next hosts are Arab Christians. It is a guest house in Nazareth. This time I did not use public transport but hitch-hiked the approximately 70km to my new hosts. I miss the West Bank.

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