This is Suzi’s last night. We are going out to dinner shortly, with Said and his wife Siham. The original plan was lunch, but that, of course, got changed. Eiman and Layla took us to a market in a nearby town to look for some glass decorations that we’d seen at Said’s house, and that Suzi wanted very much to bring home as gifts. The quest began rather belatedly, largely due to a very long wait at the bank. We never did find the glass, but did eventually stumble upon a shop with other glass pieces, that were, according to the young man, from Hebron. I bought several pieces, and so did Suzi, although she was sadly disappointed not to find what she was looking for.
It was too late for lunch when we returned, hence the change to dinner plans, and not including the staff, who would already have gone home. I hope they are not disappointed. Also, Suzi, when she discovered that the restaurant they were planning to take us to did not have Middle Eastern food ( I heard a mention of spaghetti) said to Said that she really wanted to have food typical of here. So we’ll find out soon where they are taking us.
Update: , Said just called to say they’ll be an hour later than they thought!
One of the restaurants here, el Babour, is renowned throughout the country. I have heard it referred to as the best Arab food in Israel, and have also heard it referred to as the best food in Israel! It’s also very expensive. When I was googling Umm el Fahem before I left home, I came across a video, in Aabic, that appeared to be a food show, and a tour of a restaurant. I am assuming that it was El Babour. I’d be curious to go there, but don’t know if I will find the occasion. Perhaps I can take Said and Sihan there at some point.
Suzi treated the staff to a lunch a few days ago, gave money to Kamle who gave instructions to two of the roof guys. An hour later, they hadn’t returned, and we began to wonder. But all worked out well.
Yesterday, I’d been planning to work with Mohammed in the exhibit, discussing some of the photos, when he suddenly, very apologetic, explained that it wouldn’t work out I have become so used to plans changing that it really didn’t bother me. Especially when he and Ola explained what the conflict was, and invited me to come along. They were going to interview and record the memories of an 80 year old woman, part of the ongoing work of the archives to preserve the history of the area.
We drove up and downhill for about 10 minutes, and then arrived at a building where the woman’s grandson was waiting outside to escort us in. The interview took about hour, during which we were served candy, then tea, then juice, then two kinds of cake. Afifa, the woman, sat on her bed, next to her younger sister, with two pillows propped under her feet on the floor. Although she used a cane when she got up to pose for still pictures, she was extremely spry and animated during the whole interview. Here are the words I caught during the hour: Umm el Fahem, Abu Shakra (Said’s family name) Moshe Dayan, and Palestine. Nevertheless it was an engrossing experience. There was Mohammed, Ola, who did the interviewing, Afiifa, her sister Jehad,(who’d previously been interviewed) the grandson, a woman who I was told was his wife, another woman I was told was a cousin, and myself. The whole group, save for me, was frequently laughing, and the grandson and wife seemed intrigued by whatever she was relating. I wondered how much of her memories they’d heard before. I hope I get a chance to hear some of what was said from Mohammed, When I remarked about how animated she was, and all the laughter, he commented that the older people were always happy when they talked about the past. That has me curious, as I was assuming that they must have some pretty negative memories about how they have been treated, by the British and by the Isreali govemment.
A part of the Memories exhibit is contemporary color photos of older couple and individuals, posing in their own living rooms. In the room is also a set -up of a traditional living space, with cushions and pillows on the floor. Although all of the peoples’ homes we’ve visited, before now, are quite modern, with sofas rather than mattresses on the floor, (but with plenty of pillows.) Afifa's house did have mattresses and pillows, upon which her grandson and his wife sat, although we sat in chairs, and she on her bed. Talking today with Mohammed, he asked me what the floor cushions were, His translator said mattresses, and I couldn’t think of any other word, but mattress doesn’t seem right. They are furniture, not beds. Although I wonder if perhaps they are at times used as beds, as well, or once were. I remember, many years ago, when I stayed with a Moroccan family in Casablanca (same one that butchered the sheep on the roof) that the apartment had three rooms, one for cooking, one for the women, one for the men to hang out in, and the same furniture that we sat on by day were our beds at night.
Yesterday, Saturday, was also the day for art classes, followed by my children’s Engllsh class. That has gone so well, the kids are so enthusiastic. We made picture flash cards with simple words on them, like face, star, tree. Then we played a simple game where I called a word and they had to find the right card. I sent them home with the cards, although last week I kept them, worried that they might forget to bring them again. I am afraid that this might be my last class with them, although it’s only the third. I believe the vacation week will encompass two Saturdays, and that will be it.
Right now, as every night, the muezzzins are singing out their calls to prayers, which are broadcast. It’s really a pleasant sound, even though I don’t know what they’re saying. Actaully, it’s probably better that I don’t understand. Sometimes, more than one of them are singing together, in seeming harmony, and it sounds really beautiful. I don’t know whether it’s intentional, or coincidental, that they are simultaneous and sound so good together. Said and Siham’s house is just behind a Mosque, and the sound was startlingly loud when we were there one night . I expect you get used to it if you live with it. Or perhaps appreciate it all the more.