We arrived on site at 8.30 am. A shelter for us all had been built along with an outdoor loo. It was over 30 degrees today so both were well needed given the lack of intimacy many of us in the group have had with anything calling itself sunshine and heat in recent months. Luckily about 50 large bottles of water had been bought in, along with bags of wonderful fruit…hence the thankfulness we all had for the standalone outside toilet/hole in the ground.
We were seated, Arabic coffee and hot, black sweet tea was served and we were introduced to Dad, Mum, Daughter…other son, daughters were at work and school. A tiny, hugely brown eyed 2 year old was also there – son Of the the man who had had the foresight and kindness to pre arrange the infrastructure that would keep us all well protected, well fed and thanked to an inch of our lives for the rest of the day. He started crying pretty quickly (the toddler son). Hardly surprising as there were 31 of us ‘never seen or met before’ European people. None of this family had ever met a real European before. How they coped I do not know, but cope with much graciousness and gratitude they did.
We heard the story in full. Heartbreaking, shocking, quite unbelievable that such pain and real despair could be inflicted on one family unit time after time, with no real reason or need for it… Oh and it wasn’t personal. Palestinians are – all of them according to red notices at the mouth of the roads leading to partitioned villages and refugee camps, ‘dangerous to the lives of Israeli citizens’and therefore it is forbidden to them to enter those areas. Obviously this does not apply to the still in and barely out of their teens soldiers whose presence in languid heavily armed trucks on the side of the road and those on guard from the watch towers at every intersection between the ‘Israeli only’ road and Palestinian village slip ways, is palpable.
Drones will already have picked up the highly colourful ‘roof’ of our shelter for 30, created from plastic mobile phone advertising hoardings… A strange juxtaposition between the world of capitalism and materialism, and the ‘next nothing but please share with us everything we have’ world of these homeless human beings and their friends.
Without the money raised by the Trust this resurrection of a families future would never, ever have been possible. It has also brought short term employment and additional income to others. This is invaluable in a land where many have to work for settlers just to put bread in the mouths of their children, many girls and women who risk financial, health and safety, verbal and sometimes other sorts of abuse from those who employ them as agricultural or domestic workers.
So so many people came to greet us throughout the day, from regional and community leaders, to children and teenagers racing out from their homes as we went for a walk at lunchtime. “Hello, hello… What is your name please”.. Followed by the grand huggie selfie. Lunch came courtesy of the areas women’s association- unbelievable upside down tipoutable pots of rice and baked chicken and cauliflower, yoghurt and salad. We are spending time with the women and girls of the camp on my birthday and I can’t think of a better thing to be doing.
So… What did we ACTUALLY do? You would not believe me if I told you. Suffice to say I was transported into the opening scenes of Les Miserable less the chains, for about 6 hours. And although I did think I might die of untested exertion and heatstroke a few times, I bloody didn’t. And by God you should see what we have achieved so far. Amazing.
This is all the more extraordinary for the party is almost 90% Middle aged and Christian in one form or another. Yes indeed, mad aunt March has brought the young, beautiful and spirited Clara to a Christian working holiday. I fear she may never forgive me, but so far we have managed quite a lot of giggling. Whether that will last for the next 10 days we will see.
More annoying than the plethora of Christian references to music festivals and unbelievable biblical myths is the insistence of almost everyone to engage us is discussion about how many seats the SNP will win and is Nicola really as fine as she came over on the big debate – oh and how did we vote in the referendum? I of course just welly in there, causing discomforted silences around the dinner table. Clara is more circumspect, smiling and saying ‘ask me again in a few days when I’ll know if I will want to share something so private with you.’ They all love her.
Most amusing fact fact I heard today…in one of the churches where Jesus was supposedly born, anointed, crucified or rose again from, is a footprint that is his. Jesus was a size 9.
it all starts all over again tomorrow at 8. We will again meet inthe foyer in our sensible hats and I will again try to stifle the panic of finding myself one of the cast of the Great Grand Marigold Hotel. However, I am not crying yet, at least not for negative reasons. Moved to the core, yes. What an astonishing thing to be doing.