America's Unofficial Ambassadors

We work at the grassroots level throughout the Muslim World to counter violent extremism before it takes hold, to promote tolerance and understanding, and to foster better relations with the United States.

When I Hear…Muslim

AUA Network member Claire Everhart is currently living near Jenin in the northern region of the West Bank and volunteering with the Palestine Fair Trade Association through July.

Last week after work I went home with Deena, one of my co-workers at Canaan Fair Trade. She and her family are wonderful. Deena has one brother and four sisters. She and her sisters Maram (17) and Haya (12), and their parents live in the village of Anza outside of Jenin. This village hosts a cooperative of the Palestine Fair Trade Association and supplies Canaan. Vivien Sansour, a Palestinian who helped organize the Run Across Palestine has written a beautiful profile of this community on Canaan’s website (along with several other village profiles). A devastating element of the visit was my camera battery dying before I could take more than 2 photos! I will definitely visit them again though, as I very much want to and they emphatically insist! – so I will take many photos next time.

Happy (belated) Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there! Last Wednesday was Mother’s Day here – always the first day of spring, very fitting I’m sure you can agree:) So, I went with Deena throughout Jenin as she shopped for her mother (and her sister Nour whose daughter is only 2). We stopped by Nour’s house in Jenin to give her a beautiful bouquet of flowers, then off to Anza!

I could not have felt more at home. All the women showed me around their home, several yards (separated by short stone walls), and a fantastic view. With Palestine being so hilly, there are gorgeous views almost everywhere. They, of course, have an olive tree, along with an impressive number of other vegetables and herbs. I seemed excited when they showed me gorgir (not sure about that spelling), a type of very tasty lettuce, so they picked a bunch and made a salata (“salad” – one of the very VERY few easy Arabic words) for dinner. Najia, Deena’s mother, prepares her own za’atar (the green herb I’ve shown in a previous post baked into bread) and lebane (salty cheese/yogurt combination – so good!). Below is the delicious dinner Najia made for us, and the flowers that Deena gave her for Mother’s Day.

After dinner, Maram and Haya had fun teaching me what seemed to be hundreds of Arabic words! I couldn’t get them to stop! I said “hallas” (enough) several times, but after a few minutes they would start again. It was very endearing. Their english is quite good, all students learn English here from first grade.

Later, Najia taught me how to make a delicious cake I love that Deena made last week and brought to work.  I’m going to make it tomorrow and bring it to work for our Monday meeting. It’s simple and not dissimilar from cakes in the US, except for maybe fresh squeezed orange juice with oranges from the tree in their back yard! They also taught me all the ingredient names in Arabic. When the cake was finished Najia flipped it over and poured an entire cup of orange juice on it! It’s fantastic! I wish I had pictures to show. I will take many when I visit them again.

I learned a lot more about Deena as we whispered together before falling asleep. Then we were up early and off to work. Deena’s father, Walid, left us chips, chocolate and juice before he left for work (Deena told me he does this every morning), and Najia packed xubz (bread in a circle shape with a hollow inside) with lebane inside and a cucumber. Way better than peanut butter and jelly ;-).

It is painful to know that so many around the world, hear “Muslim” and automatically think of terrorism and its forms and organizations. A small few have corrupted the peaceful interpretations of the majority. I wish more could know the Muslims whom I know. When I hear “Muslim” I think of Deena’s family and the hundreds (it really has been hundreds with the Run Across Palestine) of other Muslims I have met here, in Ethiopia, and in the US who have been nothing but gracious and peaceful. I think of Maram who got me a pillow to put behind my back while I was sitting against the wall. I think of Laila and Deena who always call me “habibte” (sweetheart). I think of Osama who takes time out of his day at Canaan, several times, to pray. Some of the kindest and most generous people I have ever known have been Muslims.

Run Across Palestine is still taking donations!! Please visit http://onthegroundglobal.org/.

To read more about Claire’s time in the West Bank you can visit her personal blog: http://learningfrompalestine.blogspot.com/.

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