Visit with Mohammad's family

Trip Start Mar 04, 2007
Trip End Jun 15, 2007

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Flag of Palestinian Territory  ,
Friday, April 13, 2007

This week, Retha McCutchen and I were invited to dinner at Mohammad's house.  

He has been a guard for the Ramallah Friends Schools for 13 years and is the welcoming presence many people see when they first enter the gates of the Friends Boys School.  He has helped me with many things like moving luggage, getting my SIM card (and reading the Arabic instructions!) so I could use my cell phone, helping with directions and bringing me a space heater when it was going to snow. My life has been made much easier by his helping presence!

He lives with his family in the Jalazone Refugee Camp begun in 1947 as the Palestinians were displaced for the incoming Jews.  He lives on the second floor of the family building; his mother and sister live on the first floor in one apartment and his brother lives with his family in the other first floor apartment.  He has a brother who lives on the second floor to the left.  We went up on the roof to see the expanse of this place where several generations of people have grown up; people who for generations farmed the land of their village and now live in cramped quarters with no ground to plant. It is a dry, dusty place where the children play in the streets which are no wider than a narrow alley.

As we came into the lower courtyard we were greeted by his brother's children.  Up the narrow stairs to the second floor, we were welcomed by Mohammad's wife, Shireen, and their daughter, Layan.  As Shireen put the finishing touches on the meal, we sat in the living room, brightly painted in spring-leaf green.  The living room was an azure blue, like the sky on a cloudless day.  Each place was set with a plate of Mansaf, lamb on a bed of rice with a yogurt sauce over all. When I was in Jordan, I was told it is their national dish. 

His mother joined us for tea and Nescafe as we looked at their wedding photos taken in 2000. Retha shared pictures of her children and grandchildren but I neglected to take my photo book - maybe next time.  We watched Layan work with her Mickey Mouse interactive computer game that taught counting in English.  Layan is in Kindergarten at the Friends Girls School.

Shireen has made their apartment a small oasis in the midst of the terrible conditions of the Jalazone Refugee Camp; a place of hope amidst despair.
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