We arrive back at the house site where speeches and thanks and embroidered presents of gratitude are offered again. Claire and I present the quache to the Mother and tell them it’s story. We all pass the cup around and drink – it takes ages.
Whisky of course is not possible so we have brought two small bottles of iron brew to do the business with instead. The younger daughters screw up their faces in disgust and are quickly admonished for their rudeness. We all laugh.
We have brought two olive trees with us and these are ceremoniously planted to wild applause.
I meet the most important man in the villages wife. She has been abroad this week. She works to promote sports development opportunities to Palestinian children and to break down international barriers using sport as the bridge between nations. She is stunningly beautiful and articulate and I know instantly that both she and her husband Meran are going to become important people in my life. There is no doubt. She feels it too. We can’t stop hugging each other.
Then we are hurried off to the refugee camps community centre where we are astonished to discover the entire population – so it seems – in waiting.
What follows is an extraordinary couple of hours. Women on one side, men on the other. Speeches, presents upon presents. Applause, tears, cakes, more cakes, plaques, hugs… It’s all too much.
My iPad is purloined with some determination by a young woman who reminds me so much of a girl here in Scotland call Beatrice who I am very fond of. The only marked difference the headscarf and language. The smile, the laughter, the twinkling eyes and the cheekiness all strikingly similar. I just let her take it and soon she is videoing everything that is going on in the hall. Footage I will treasure.
The Amos Trust volunteers are now all ‘on stage’ and Martin steps out front. With one practice behind us we launch into a choral backing of his powerful rendition of ‘we shall overcome’ and the place erupts. My new beautiful friend sits at the front, her face covered in flowing tears.
I don’t really know what to think or to feel. I am overwhelmed with this whole experience.
Before we leave, Meran – the most important man – catches my hand. “You will never stay in a hotel when you visit Palestine, you are the first and only woman to be invited to stay with me and wife and my children, every time.”
I don’t know what say. The feminist on me chortles a little but the enormity of the privilege being bestowed is well understood. I tell him I am going to be back, but not until I have a plan and a strategy for the support and development of the new cultural centre for Allrowad that I have committed to. He hugs me. I hug him back.
One last stop for five minutes in the current two roomed home of the family for whom we have rebuilt a new home. It’s awful. It’s a slum. 9 small piles of clothes are laid out against one wall. Worldly possessions are these, one picture and not much more. There is no bathroom. But today Mother is smiling. Meran whispers in my ear “this is the first I see her smile, I like her face this way”.
I say goodbye for last time to Mohammed the oldest son. He asks if he can keep in touch and I give him my email address. I ask when he plans to go back to his job in Jordan. “Never” he says, “I have left my job, I will stay here with my family now. I am going to train to become a graphic designer.”
I’m proud to know him. I so hope those bastard bulldozers stay away.