Were I to write about the hassle, humiliation, and nervousness of getting into the Palestinian Territories, my story would get lost in a million of similar ones. What matters most to me during every journey is the people I meet on the way.
So I will start with an Israeli sherut driver, who was the first one I talked to outside the airport. I arrived in Tel Aviv in the middle of the night with the memorized instructions how to reach Betunia, my host Palestinian village.
We had no common language, and yet he drove me exactly to the station I needed and treated me to a warm cup of tea. For a couple of hours before dawn I was the only traveler patiently sitting in a small bus station in the Old City waiting for the transportation to Ramallah.
The mini vans with Palestinian workers started to arrive as early as 6am. Later I learned that they are the “lucky” ones who managed to get a permit from the Israelis in order to legally work in Jerusalem. At about 7am a brave driver ventured to take a foreign woman with a big suitcase on board. That morning I was spared the “joy” of passing through the check-point on the way to Ramallah, the luxury Palestinians cannot enjoy on daily bases.
I was really happy when the bus finally reached my village. All the way to the house I was followed by a crowd of children shouting their happy “ahlan wa sahlans” (welcome). It was the first thing that struck me – just how young the country is. According to the statistics, the average household size is 7.3 persons and 53% of the population in Palestine is below 18.
The welcome I received at the home of my hosts was more than warm. In general I have found families in Palestine to be extremely hospitable. Everybody invites you to their homes, offers you fresh juice and fruit, and tells all about children’s school, family visits, and harvest of grapes.
The host family immediately started chatting with me about all kinds of things, not seeming to mind that my classic Arabic from Georgetown didn’t get me very far in Palestine. However, I managed to understand that Abir, daughter-in-law of my hosts, is 19 and has been married for three years.
She had to drop out of high school to take care of the house, not an uncommon thing to do for young girls in the villages, where the median age of marriage is 18. Overall, 40% of married women in Palestine are under 18. They stay at home, clean, cook, and take care of the children. Later that day I was already feeling part of the family – we all sat outside and folded grape leaves, which is one of the main component of Palestinian diet.
I will still have to experience bread making, family gatherings, weddings, etc. And I am really looking forward to new experiences.
Posted By Tatsiana Hulko
Posted Jun 13th, 2007