Washington, District of Columbia, USA
March 08
I am a social activist (not afraid to call myself LIBERAL in capital letters) who is passionate about peace and loves to read, travel to developing countries, listen to/see provocative lectures and plays -- and drink mojitos!


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OCTOBER 19, 2008 3:33PM

Romance in the desert, and our first arrest

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The first member of our team "bit the dust" today.  No, no, she's all right. But she was arrested and had to sign a condition agreeing to leave the West Bank for 15 days.  Hannah (from Pittsburgh, who I picked with on my first day of olive harvesting) went to some fields near a settler area with two French volunteers from another organization.  The military showed up and on the spot declared it a "closed military zone" and ordered them to move back. When the French women refused, they were pushed to the ground by the soldiers and Hannah jumped on top of them in an attempt to prevent them from being handcuffed and arrested. The result: They were all three taken into custody. The French women were given five days to leave the country, and the Israeli army tried to get Hannah to do the same. She fought back, because the army really had no legal right to act as it did.  And it worked! She only has to leave the West Bank for 15 days. So, we have lost Hannah for a while as she chills a bit in Tel Aviv.

Today, I partnered with Jahawah (more about that odd name in a minute) and harvested olives in a field right by an Israeli military base.  In the past, it has been the site of quite a lot of trouble. However,  it was quiet today -- I like to think because we were there, but who knows.  So, we did a lot of picking, a lot of tea drinking (as I think I've already said numerous times, the tea here is really wonderful, especially when they make a fire and brew it right there in the fields) and a lot of talking about everything under the sun.  So let me tell you a little about Jahawah, because I find her fascinating.  Her "real"  (or should I say former) name is Gabrielle and she is British and Jewish (with an Iraqi father and an agoraphobic mother).  Jahawah is in Israel as an exchange student studying Middle Eastern history, Hebrew and -- now -- Arabic.  Before arriving for her studies, she spent three months in Jordan, where she stayed for a short while with a Bedouin family who suggested her new name, which I think means "golden" or something like that. (She is beautiful in a very gypsy kind of way, and, as I'll note, the men all love her. Being with Jahawah -- a name that she will make legal when she returns home -- is both entertaining and a bit dismaying. The men literally fall at her feet and you end up feeling a tad invisible.)  She then moved on to Petra (also in Jordan), where she met a young Bedouin man who takes tourists around on camel rides. The next thing you know, he took her home to meet his mother (!) and she lived with them for three months. He has already proposed (through his mother, of course) and she sometimes thinks seriously about taking him up on the offer,  until I play "house mother" and remind her that what seems romantic on "vacation" often is a bit different when it becomes your life. I mean, the young man has very little education (she is not sure he even reads or writes), the women in his family all wear the hijab and eat separately from the men, and he never wants to leave Petra even if he could (he doesn't have a passport that allows him to travel).  Meanwhile, she has an Iranian boyfriend back home in the UK who calls her periodically to argue as she picks olives, and the "shebobs" (the young, unmarried men who have been hired to help pick) all hang around her like lovesick pups. I think the adult men are quite taken with her as well.  Actually, I can understand why. In addition to being young and pretty in an exotic kind of way, she literally "glows" with life and knows Arabic to boot. She is lovely to be around and we had wonderful talks as we picked throughout the day.

In the evening, we ate dinner at the home of one of the two brothers whose trees we picked, along with his lovely wife and baby boy (who is so fair and blonde he could be an American!). Afterwards, we had a cup of Arabic coffee in a rustic coffeehouse that actually looked more like a stable, and -- my husband will be shocked at this -- I tried smoking a nargila (also called a chicha, or hookah) for the first time. I do not smoke and never have, but the entire community (well, the men; the women just don't go to places like that!) had piled into the coffee shop by this time, and this is what they do. I just sort of thought, "when in Rome. . ." And you know, I rather liked it! The apple flavor is very subtle and you feel delightfully lightheaded (or maybe it was the abundance of Palestinian hospitality having its effect once again). [Don't worry, I won't be making it a habit!]

Tomorrow, I'm off to the village of Azmud with Jean (the first time we've picked together ) and Katie. There has been a string of settler violence and harassment there this week.


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palestine, west bank, nablus

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Sounds like an amazing day - you are getting to know so many inspiring people. Tomorrow sounds like it will be more challenging.
very entertaining. the village reminds me of the village in Croatia where my father's family was from, lined with olive trees along the road.

what a strange and wonderful journey you are on.