Well, the daily blogging thing didn’t quite work out like I planned. I found that the days were so emotionally and physically exhausting that I just couldn’t bring myself to write at the end of each day.
I must look like a friendly, helpful person, because I was sitting at a charging station in the Madrid airport responding to some work emails when a Nigerian man approached me. He introduced himself as Timi and wanted to know where I was going. “Chicago,” I told him. A look of relief spread over his face. He would be flying to North Carolina, but his elderly, wheelchair-bound mother was going to Chicago. Timi wanted to know if I would accompany her, ensuring that she was able to make her connecting flight to Minnesota.
I agreed, and next thing I knew there were two other Nigerian women who were part of this deal. They had all come from Nigeria, strangers (except for Timi and his mom) sticking together to navigate the Spanish landscape of the Madrid airport.
I am reminded of the day that the Pal Craftaid ladies and I were waiting to board a bus in Jerusalem. We had spent a long day meeting with our artisan partners and were heading back to our apartment in Bethlehem for the evening. I saw a young Muslim woman approaching with a baby in a stroller. She picked up the baby – who was dead asleep – and was struggling to fold the stroller and load it into the storage compartment under the bus. In a moment of frustration, she looked up, saw me, and asked, “would you mind holding her?” “Of course not,” I said. And I held that sweet, sleeping baby while her mother got the stroller situated.
In a world where violence, mistrust, and division are widespread, it is a comfort to remember these human moments. We all have mothers. We all have babies. In the words of Ram Dass, we’re all just walking each other home.
Israel/Palestine can be a depressing place where peace and justice feel like a faraway dream. The situation is incredibly simple in some ways, and in others, overwhelmingly complex. I think this is partially the reason for my sense of paralysis when it came to writing during this visit. Always the same question: Where to begin?
Because it’s the human moments that matter most, that’s where I’ll leave you. A few of my favorites from the second half of the trip:
- Sitting on the bus on one of our many trips to Jerusalem, eyeing with dismay a blister on the back of my heel in light of the long day of walking ahead, a voice came from behind me: “excuse me?” I turned around to find a young Muslim woman holding out a bandaid to me. “Put this on your foot,” she said.
- Spending an afternoon with the Giacaman family: 3 brothers who own an olivewood shop at Manger Square in Bethlehem. They are part of a huge, extended family of Palestinian Christians (Catholic) who have lived in Bethlehem…well…forever. Prior to meeting the Giacaman brothers, I would have cynically assumed that most of the olivewood products sold in Israel/Palestine were made in China. Touring their ‘factory’ in the lower level of their ginormous family home/compound, however, showed me an entirely different reality – woodshavings everywhere and various fascinating and impressive stages of production, from olive branch to finished product. The really meaningful part of the whole experience was having dinner at their family home – the 3 brothers, their wives, and children (and one grandbaby). One of the brothers, Robert, shared with pride about his daughter, Natalia’s first communion just a few days prior. Laughter and good food abounded.
- Being covered in kisses by Usama and Lorette, our hosts, and by the three elderly women whose homes we visited. These three (Naemeh, Helen, and one whose name I can’t remember at the moment) would live in poverty and isolation if not for the care of ATTA (Aid to the Aged). They welcomed us into their homes and gave us glimpses into the joys and wounds of their lives.
Now in Chicago and approaching 24 hours of travel, I am nearly home. Two of the three Nigerian women have made it to their connections – Timi and I have spoken, so he knows his mother is well and in the right place – and one final woman is still with me; her destination is also Indianapolis. We’re walking each other home.
With prayers and hope for peace and justice in Israel/Palestine, and until next time,
|Robert and his daughter, Natalia|
|Visiting Helen, pictured with her late |
husband on their wedding day
|Dinner with the Giacaman family|