PCDC News: FEBRUARY 2021
One thing you can be sure about when you go to visit people in the West Bank is that you really have little idea what will come up, or where you will actually be going to when you get there. As we are all volunteers, we use our initiative, try to honour requests from schools, and let God guide us each day, and see where He leads us.
One day, a young lady called at school looking for work. The school was unable to offer her any, so she asked us if we could take her home. We were happy to take her, as on that visit we had hired a 10-seater minibus so there was no problem.
Except that on the way she told us that she had just come out of prison (not that that means anything if you are Palestinian, as it is common to be arrested and sent to prison without any kind of trial), and also that she lived in Nablus, a long way from Bethlehem. However, we had promised, so off we went. It took us a couple of hours to get so far north, and we arrived around 8.00 p.m. and her family greeted us warmly.
She and her sister went off to make some supper, leaving us to chat with her parents and teenage brother. I love doing this, especially when none of them could speak any English, and our Arabic was not up to much! It’s my favourite way to learn a language! Mother made her own bread in an oven buried in the earth some way up the mountain outside their back door. She took us up to see it. Such glorious home-made bread! Later she mentioned a herb called za’atar which grows on the mountain. I was most anxious to pick some, but the boy offered to go as it was now dark. He was soon back, with a bunch of za’atar, a delicious herb to accompany some meals. I dried it and brought it home!
We then got up to go, but they persuaded us to stay for supper. When it came (at about 11.00 p.m.) there were 27 small dishes, each one lovingly prepared, salads and hummous, (home-made), baba ghanouj, stuffed grape leaves, flat pies with some sort of meat in them, tabouleh, flatbread called khoubbiz, made in the oven up the hill, thick yogurt called laban (homemade again), olives and fruit, then coffee and a hubble- bubble for those who wanted it! Such hospitality is common in the Middle East, and we finally got away about 1.00 a.m., and reached Bethlehem at half past 2. I will never forget that night!
Even the poorest families offer visitors fruit or coca cola, even if they have borrowed it from next door, as hospitality is a sacred thing. Yes, we have spent some wonderful evenings with families, sometimes crying with them, laughing with them, loving them and listening to their life stories, with compassion in our hearts. Muslim, Jewish or Christian families, all appreciate getting a visit, and are a great joy to spend time with.
May I tell you now about another Muslim family where things have not worked out too well. This family lives in Hebron. There is Mother and two sons, one called Hassan*, the other called Mahmoud*. Mother and Father are divorced. Usually when that happens, the children must go with the Father. It is the custom, and it is the law. But not this time. We heard that Father had gone off to find another wife. The divorce can be done by text on the phone. When he left the family home, he took all his wife’s savings, leaving her with nothing. The new wife rarely will take on her new husband’s children, which causes much heartache all round. It is a common problem.
Mother’s life is now a bitter challenge. There is very little work for women in Palestine, and what there is will be poorly paid. It’s hard for her to earn enough to buy food. The only work she can find is to do a little cleaning. Rent must be paid. Electricity is very expensive, and water is also costly. So she cannot pay for school fees. Her situation is very bad, very worrying for her.
The two boys’ lives are intertwined: they are inseparable. Pcdc is glad to support their needs at school. Always when we are at that school, we find the two boys to be smiling, happy, and glad to come and talk with us and tell us their news. We take their photo, and then they scamper off for a game of football.
This is work that all of us love doing. Sharing with families their lives. A lot of time is spent listening, just being there. When we visit the Muslim families we often are accompanied by Mahmoud, one of our former students from Hope School, who helps us now that he is in fulltime work as a male nurse. He calls it payback time, as Pcdc gave him a fulltime education at secondary school, and as his family are poor, we paid his full fees at university.
Mahmoud is a faithful Muslim, but loves to help both Christian and Muslim children with us. We know he is absolutely trustworthy.
Arab people are very curious. When they know we are in their area, we see the curtains move as people watch us, to see where we will go! Why have the foreigners gone there? It is safer for the people we visit to have Mahmoud with us as everybody knows him. He is now married with a beautiful little daughter. We have had such lovely evenings, especially in Ramadan, when we are graciously invited to break the fast with his family, at sunset.
What a privilege it is. When will we be able to go back? At present no visitors are allowed in the land. Thank you for helping us to help such lovely children from broken homes.
Malcolm Jones and the Pcdc team.