Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Jerusalem Summer Tales

The past week deserves many adjectives, the most expressive and accurate of them being, exhausting.

This week, I will share some tidbits with you all from conversations, experiences and awkward situations.

Firstly, this week I started to volunteer/intern at an NGO (non-governmental organization) called Middle East Nonviolence and Democracy, MEND. It is a very interesting organization founded by a British woman who married a Palestinian. I had emailed a few organizations before I came here in the hopes of securing an internship for the short time I'm in Jerusalem. This week, the director of MEND emailed me and expressed her interest in me coming to work for them. So today after Hebrew class located on the unbelievably lush Mt. Scopus campus atop Jerusalem, I hopped upon the new Israeli light rail train and headed due north towards Beit Hanina, the location of the NGO. Leaving the flowery oasis of the Hebrew University campus and getting off at a dusty road was like walking into two different climates. I met up with another intern who walked me through the downward sloping streets to the office. There are two interns, a director and the manager, with several other project leaders. I am thrilled to be able to work here for the next month, employing my Arabic while strengthening my Hebrew. More to come on my new work...

Some tid bits from the week:

I told a friend of mine that I was working at this place.
She asked, "Are you working with Arabs?"
I say, "well, yes, of course."
She replies, "Even at my work, I work with Arabs but I don't like them."
I asked, "why not? But, wait  do you mean Arabs, Muslims, Christians or Palestinians?" There are so many terms, some politically correct, some politically incorrect, others inaccurate. I explain the Arabs originally came from Arabia, and a great majority of the Israeli population are Jews who came from non-European, Arabic speaking countries.
She said, "I mean Arabs. In Hebrew, they are all the same. We just say Arabs. They are, how do you say, my enemy?"
I say: "all Arabs? Christians too? Why?"
She says: "No, they aren't trying to take my land. Just the Arabs I don't like."

I honestly didn't know how to respond. First, such hate is tragic. Second, no distinction between Arab communities, religiously and culturally diverse reveals a serious lack of knowledge. I took this as an example of what I want to work for this summer. Instead of demonizing the "other" side, lets find a common ground, shall we? [Dispelling stereotypes is one of the key foci of MEND!]

I officially cannot eat hummus. For me, it is like the ice cream of the Middle East. Because I am a child living inside a grown-ups body, it is nearly impossible for me to eat hummus without dripping some on myself. Today, 4 spills. My jeans are covered in little beige spatters of hummus. I suppose evidence of the glory of the hummus.

Found a glorious little garden in a religious neighborhood behind my home. In back windy streets, off to the left, my friend saw an intriguing cluster of roses. We walked carefully along the cream colored streets lined with Jerusalem stone towards the roses and happened upon a glorious garden surrounded by little apartments. Roses, yellow red and white filled the trellises. Little wooden benches sat romantically under the lush greenery. I couldn't help but take pictures, which of course, do it no justice.

#4: Drank a freshly juiced watermelon/melon drink today for $2.00. Be jealous. Nothing beats Jerusalem heat like a fresh watermelon beverage on a fine Tuesday! 

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