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Apr 10, 2008

School`s Out!

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During my last week in Nablus a couple things happened that made me realize I would need to return someday.

The first was a quiz that I gave to my longest running English class (my Rafedia boyz). This was a culmination of two months of teaching random, albeit useful, parts of the English language including: phrasal verbs, idioms, superlatives, possessives and vocabulary, to name a few of our lessons. The result of this forewarned quiz was a whopping 80 percent failure rate and the highest mark something like 56%. Hmmmm, slightly discouraging for my part. To top it off, our final class was a bit of a send-off party and the boyz were sweet enough to bring in a beautiful cake. However, the thoughtful icing inscription was a little too telling:

Way will miss yo yor
Fivart class

Not a word of a lie. The redeeming part was that they knew the mistakes -- and the cake was delicious.

Next in my schedule-bursting final week was a trip to Hebron. I had been told to sign up for a tour of this city with a group called Breaking The Silence ( ever since I arrived, however, by the time I got my act together there were seven other people on the waitlist for the day I hoped to visit. Another volunteer, Roman, and I decided to go anyhow and with the help of a Palestinian friend Abed, we were shown the too-close-for-comfort, co-habitation between Israeli settlers and Palestinians.

Hebron is divided into two sections, H1 (Palestinian Authority) and H2 (Israeli controlled), H2 being surrounded by H1. The old city market`s lower level of shops are owned by Palestinians while right above them, in the same building, live Jewish settlers. Needless to say there`s a reason a metal "cage" has been installed between the floors so that debris and other things aren`t thrown down on those passing below. Back in 1994 a Jewish settler stepped into the mosque (next door to the synagogue) and decided to open fire on the praying Muslims; there is now a checkpoint to enter the mosque area.

Walking down the deserted streets (it was a Friday) of this otherwise pretty city we run into an older man who Abed knows. He speaks with him for a moment and we continue on at which point he tells Roman and I that this man feels very strongly about Palestinian injustice... so much so that he named his son Hitler. His son now pays the price for his father`s ironic name choice at every checkpoint.

Back in Nablus I avoid packing up my room and sorting contents of my backpack, instead opting to explore the city by night with my friends Jafar and Raed. I love how this city looks at night, quietly nestled in its valley with gold-yellow glows coming from the countless apartment buildings dotting the hillside - no overpowering spotlights or view-blocking skyscrapers. We take time out at a coffeeshop that looks out over the opposite mountainside and even though this is a place for men (only) to come and drink tea and smoke nargileh, I decide that this is where I would like everyone to get together for my small farewell party. A few nights later I take advantage of the house kitchen one last time and bake cookies, cake and banana bread to bring along and the other international and local volunteers and I have a fun time re-capping my two months and enjoying eachother`s company. I really feel like I`ve made some true friends here - yet another reason I`ll need to come back.

The last thing I did in Nablus was stay two more days than planned. A French rap music group (MAP) was to be performing at Al-Najah university outside in the amphitheatre and it was not to be missed. Those who know me know that I can`t very well pass up an opportunity to dance, so I stayed and got my groove on (as much was deemed appropriate) to some great tunes amid thousands of students. The energy was great and I was able to see everyone one last time before I packed up to leave.

My experience in the West Bank has truly been one of the biggest highlights of my trip so far. I am filled with an increased understanding for the situation in Palestine and also a sense of having faced a challenge (teaching) thanks to Project Hope, that I otherwise may never have tried. I will miss you Nablus.

If you would like to support the efforts of Project Hope, (they sell great olive oil soap!) go to their website at: (thanks!)

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