Monthly Archives: October 2013

A Few Photos!

Here are just a few photos chronicling the events of the past few weeks here!


Although fairly unassuming, this is one of the caves at Qumran where some of the Dead Sea Scrolls were found! At Qumran, the religion geek in me was freaking out because it was here that the earliest known manuscripts of parts of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament were discovered. There is far too much information about this to write here, but if the history interests you, you can read more here!

This is a photo of me conquering my fear of heights while helping our friend Salameh harvest his family’s olive trees. The olive trees are a large part of the culture here and it was such a wonderful experience working together with the YAGM and Salameh’s family to get the job done. To harvest the olives, a team of workers is needed both in the trees and on the ground. The folks in the trees strip the branches of their olives, which fall to the ground and are gathered by the other workers. It was hard work, but it felt so good to get a little dirty and to know that our 6 extra pairs of hands helped his family tremendously.

The following pictures are from the wedding of our host Antoinette’s nephew’s wedding last weekend. In preparation for the wedding, several pre-parties were held at Antoinette’s where Abby and I were introduced to extended family, ate a TON of delicious food, and danced until we thought we would fall over. I’ll tell you right now, Palestinians love to dance. The wedding was absolutely beautiful and it was such a blessing to be invited to be a part of the celebration.

There is no way for a picture to do any sort of justice to the amount of dancing that happened this evening. It was marvelous.

No need to be concerned, these kinds of fireworks are standard for celebrations here!

From right to left: Abby, Antoinette, and myself. This photo was snapped at the end of the evening, all three of us ready to fall into bed with tired feet and full hearts from a night of joy and celebration.

Lastly, this week I accompanied the older students from HKS and their teachers to the zoo in Tel Aviv for a field day. The kids enjoyed it tremendously and it was a nice change of pace from being in the classroom. And to top everything off, I saw baby elephants, which made me so happy!

Little baby!

Ms. Hanan and a portion of the special education class that I work with once a week in front of the tiger.

The tiger was staring right at me! So beautiful!

I hope you’ve enjoyed some of these photos!

God’s Peace,


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A Contrast in Hello’s


I know it’s been a while since I’ve added something new, but life has been moving at full speed here, which has been great! School, church, wedding parties, olive harvesting, confirmations, and the list goes on! This place is slowly becoming more familiar and I am so thankful for the people who have welcomed me here with open arms and hearts. With that being said, everyday here is filled with challenges and successes, things that break my heart and things that lift my spirit. The following two stories happened a few weeks ago and are both seemingly small, yet significant, pictures of life here.

Hello #1

As I have started to get myself incorporated into life and community here, I have joined a Bible study on simple living, started by the women of the English-speaking congregation at Redeemer Lutheran. A few weeks ago, heading to Bible study, I was looking forward to the bus ride and the 45 minute walk that it would take me to get to the top of the Mount of Olives; time that I would use to think and reflect on the past few days, time to prepare myself to think about the Word. I wisely put on my tennis shoes, fully prepared for the hike. Walking around Jerusalem is not like the walking I am used to in the flatland of Moorhead, MN. I only thought that I was fully prepared. As I was walking, doing my standard speedwalk, I encountered a few people, mostly Jewish Israelis because I was walking through a predominantly Jewish area. Coming around a corner, I noticed that about 25 feet in front of me was a middle-aged hijabi Muslim woman, which to be honest, surprised me. There is nothing that prohibits this woman from walking around in this neighborhood, nothing that says she should not or cannot be there, yet things are so heavily separated here in most places that I found myself wondering why she was here and what her story might be. And then the following interaction played out, right in front of me. Up ahead of the both of us, a middle-aged Jewish Israeli man approached us. As I watched him approach her, he not only avoided eye contact, but he physically turned himself away from her. As he passed her and looked in the other direction, she moved to the other side of the trees that were lining the sidewalk, a physical barrier between the two of them. And then he got to me. As he passed me, he waved, looked right in my eye, and said, “Shalom, mah nishmah?” (Hello, how are you? in Hebrew). I answered with “Shalom” and kept walking. Along with being the standard “Hello”, “Shalom” in Hebrew translates into “Peace”. In that moment however, the last thing I felt was peace.

Hello #2

Living in Beit Hanina is certainly a different experience from living in Beulah, North Dakota or even Moorhead, Minnesota. I am used to being in a small town or on a small college campus where people recognize you and say hello. The eastern section of Beit Hanina is within the borders of the municipality of Jerusalem, a city with over 800,000 people. There is a much greater sense of anonymity here than I have ever experienced. Despite that, I walk the same street to and from Helen Keller everyday and now that I have been doing it for over a month, there are some familiar faces. There is the owner of our favorite grocery store, who always says hello and asks how I am. There are the school children that I see every morning walking to the bus. There is the shop owner who I’ve lovingly nicknamed “grumpy grocery man”, who always acknowledges me, but never smiles. One of these days, we are going to exchange a smile. Then there are people like Hamad and Omar. I saw Hamad, a middle-aged Palestinian man, and his very young son Omar, on my first day walking to Helen Keller. Walking to my first day of school, I was filled with apprehension and anxiety, not truly knowing anyone at the school or what my role would be there. As I rounded the final corner to the school, I saw them. Omar was wearing a tiny backpack and holding the hand of his father who looked at me and gave me a huge, genuine smile. I thanked God for that smile, knowing that Hamad will never know the comfort that gave me. A few days later, after a few more smiles were exchanged, Hamad said “Sabah lher” to me and I responded “Sabah nnur”, the good morning greeting in Arabic. The next week however, was even better. After turning that final corner, Hamad and Omar came into view. It is really amazing how a familiar and friendly face, even one of a relative stranger, can make a place feel like home. Hamad smiled and said “Sabah lher” and then stopped and continued to speak to me in Arabic. With a panicked look on my face, I tried to explain, “Shway Arabi” (I only know a little Arabic!). He immediately understood and began to speak in English. He introduced himself and his son to me and asked me where I was heading. I told him that I am a volunteer at Helen Keller for one year and he looked at me square in the eye, with a huge smile on his face and said, “I’m so proud of you.” I was so taken aback that I could barely get out a “Shukran” (thank you). We chatted for another brief minute, and as we were getting ready to head our separate ways, he told me again that he is proud of me and said that we would see each other again soon. I do hope that is true.


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