Last night I had a great opportunity to eat Palestinian food again! A few nights ago, I received a phone call from my friend Nidal (pictured with me on the left) and he let me know he was in Clifton, NJ. Nidal lived two floors above me in Beit Sahour, in the West Bank this summer. Nidal is here in the states for a few months, working in Hartford, CT to earn some money for his family to survive in Beit Sahour. He’s a hilarious guy, and we had a lot of fun hanging out last night with the Palestinian family (also from Beit Sahour) that he is staying with. As soon as I got there, they made me sit down and eat this chicken dinner, which was just a “warm-up” to the fish dinner (prepared according to an Iraqi recipe) we ate. It was amazing. Fish, pita bread and arack (kind of like ouzo, definitely an anise-flavor to it).
It was just amazing to eat the food, experience the culture, listen to the rapid-speed Arabic again. Also, sad to hear stories again – stories just come up all the time with the Palestinians. For example: when this couple moved into their rented home, their landlady had been incredibly rude to them. Eventually, the approached her and asked why, and it was because the painter who had painted their place told the landlady that these people were “bad” people, that these Palestinians were terrorists, that they smelled bad, cooked food that smelled horrible, that they were just very untrustworthy people. And the woman believed him – that fed into enough of her assumptions about the Arabic culture, and then she acted on those false-assumptions.
Their relationship with their landlady is great now; now that the woman has had time to get to know this couple, enter into community with them. It is just sad to hear more and more stories about false assumptions and people’s “perceived” understandings about the Arab-world, and Palestinians in particular. It is my hope that one day we can move beyond these. It was great to see Nidal though, and just reminded me about how much my friends and “family” in Palestine affected me this summer, and how it will continue to affect me for the rest of my life. In a good way, but nevertheless, there is still a huge bond that was created with Palestine and its people.