Invitation to dinner


Eftar — the meal at the end of the day during Ramadan.  Oh, such a happy moment!  I was invited to eftar by an adult student at Bethlehem University to her home for dinner.  H. made couscous, a tomato-and-vegetable sauce for the couscous, rolled grape leaves, a plate of pickles and home-grown olives, fresh green salad, chicken, and fried, stuffed dumplings.   At table were H. and her husband, two of their grown children, daughter-in-law, and three squirmy, laughing grandchildren (ages 2, 2, and 5).  For dessert, we had a tiny cup of Arabic coffee, and then watermelon and a baked pastry with white cheese.  I  was charmed by the experience of a family enjoying each other’s company across three generations over good food in a spirit of mutual celebration.

Nuts and Spices

Photos taken in the Old City of Hebron.  Nuts, spices, pasta, couscous, and ground coconut are presented in bags.  These items are purchased by weight.  The yellow squares are sun-dried apricot leather.

Olives and pickles

I buy cured green olives in the market and pack them at home in olive oil, lemon, and brine.  The other olives and pickles are delicious “as is” : eggplant, cauliflower, turnip, carrots, peppers…

Springtime fruit

Peaches and apricots, figs, and apples (lined up beside a peach) — all ripe, sweet, aromatic, and flavorful.  I think the same amount of flavor in American apricots and peaches is packed into the fruit here.  The flavors are concentrated in these tiny parcels.  And then there are the figs, bigger than any I have ever seen!  I will eat one of the apples tonight after supper to find out what they is like.  These fruits come from my landlady’s garden three floors below.  She has told me to pick as much as I want, and take lemons too!


This is Ramadan and the air is alive with the sounds of muezzins calling the faithful to prayer. I think the mosques compete for the lengthiest and most elaborate recitations.  The Beit Jala mosque is about four streets away so I hear the congregation late into the evening.  The melange of sounds — the  muezzins, the church bells, the roosters and the dogs — give a vitality to the day and night, a sense of community and intimacy that is so much a part of my experience here.

Beit Jala Mosque


On Saturday I picked up an announcement that one of my colleagues in the library had died unexpectedly. The funeral service was held yesterday afternoon, after which the men carried the open coffin over their heads, followed by other male mourners, to the graveyard for interment. The women went to a large hall and were later joined by the men for a meal.

I was privileged to be welcomed into a community to observe their grief and deal with my own.  Going back to work today will be painful, realizing that this unique person is no longer part of the team that keeps the library humming and happy.

This life cut short is also an occasion for me to “stand down” (image from the ancient Greek language) from my daily agenda and assumptions, to separate the wheat from the chaff, and to rethink what is truly valuable in my life.

Labour of love

Last Saturday I was a guest speaker at Birzeit University in Ramallah.  I had time to visit  the museum next to campus and view the exhibit entitled, Labour of Love.  It is an extensive exhibit of Palestinian embroidery, most of which was displayed on women’s clothing.  After perhaps half an hour, my eye could pick out distinctive colors, patterns, and embroidery techniques and associate them with a local region.  This photo shows embroidery on the side panel of a dress from Gaza.


A Bad Patch

The past month has been beset with problems.  My hard disk failed; my passport had to be renewed; it rained every time I had to go out.  Life went on.  I’ll try to bring the posts up-to-date.

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