Day 13: Surprises

Because we love the feeling that we get at Nabi Musa, we decided to go to Nabi Musa for jumua–surprise! Jumua wasn’t there..all the towns close their shops and head for Al Aqsa. But, surprise! My hubby had the honor of leading prayer there! Again, it was a great feeling to be asked to be the imam at the masjid of a prophet (as) in the absence of the shaykh. After dhuhr prayer, we were also invited for the best tea I’ve ever had and cookies by the custodian of the tomb and the cook. We learned that 35 people live at Nabi Musa from neighboring villages and that there was a battle that Salahuddin was in that took place here…it seems like in a way, Nabi Musa is a shelter, as the people who live there aren’t necessarily related. They go out to work in their separate towns and come back to sleep. We love the presence of Nabi Musa in the desert, but we also wish they had an address (most places in Palestinian territory actually don’t have addresses, everywhere we’ve been has been based on following landmarks for directions, signs, or people) or a bank account or website, as this masjid is due for some sadaqa. But I guess being so far away from the riches of the world and so close to simple living is perhaps what gives Nabi Musa it’s charm. The people make due with what they have. They aren’t beggars, and are generous with what they have, however little or much. For instance, at first, our invitation after prayer started with tea and ma’moul (date cookies). Then out came
water…juice…watermelon…apples…and cream cookies! It sounds simple but it was a feast in their eyes…and our stomachs…we were so full by the time that we left, that we really had to decline the rest of their stash that they were bringing out. Instead of taking no for answer, the custodian of the tomb and cook sent us on our way with lots of loose leaf tea, apples, and more yummy cream cookies. Mmmmmm…we hope customs lets us bring the tea back into the US!

So we missed jumu’a :(, but Allah knows best and knows we intended to go. Our choice for jumua just happened to be in the middle of the desert and hard to reach another jumua spot in time. And in return, we got to see another side to our beloved Nabi Musa.

After partaking in the feast, we headed to Jericho for Banana Land and a later lunch that wasn’t so great…but surprise! Banana Land is a carnival type family fun park with rides (the kind we have outside of malls sometimes in the US). Who knew you could enjoy a carnival for only $2.50? I told you with a name like Banana Land, it had to be fun!

Afterwards, we walked around downtown Jericho to get a better feel for this ghosttown. Well instead of ghosts, this town is POPULATED with flies!!! What’s that book, Lord of the Flies? Well, I might have to write a book called the Town of the Flies! I mean, we’ve seen flies before and actually, this country has a lot of them, especially where there is a lot of garbage…i.e. Palestinian territory. But YOU HAVE NEVER seen as many flies as these. They get on your face, food, they even swarm the clothes so much that you’d think the flies were a part of the clothing design from far away. Yuck! We’re done with Jericho, y’all! It’s a sad poor town that doesn’t even carry my size in a jilbab.

So we headed back to the Old City for asr at Al Aqsa to find the city closing and a lot of armed guards!!! Why?! Surprise! It’s Yom Kippur tonight starting at sunset AND the Sabbath..so the Israelis close down everything, and I mean EVERYTHING… Streets, roads, checkpoints, and even television stations for the Day of Atonement when no one is supposed to work. The Jews do a 24 hour fast from sunset to sunset, only devoting themselves to the remembrance of the Almighty and seeking His forgiveness. News flash for us–we got advice from a Muslim friend to not move the car under any circumstances or the car might get stoned. He repeated this warning as a plea like all of 15 times. Then he told us we must hurry home before sunset, stay put, and call him when we got there. I could tell from his eyes that if anything happened to us, well, let’s say perhaps it would cause the 4th intifada. I never felt scared like this before…what did we step into…?

Now you know that sounds crazy and some Palestinians are jaded and tend to exaggerate, but I called Irit, my Jewish friend we met the other day, remember? I don’t think I told you before, but she’s very secular and liberal and I highly value her opinion for getting along on the Israeli side. So if there is one thing that the two extremes in this country agree on, it’s not moving the car on Yom Kippur. Well, at least everyone agrees on something… So, Yeah, um, we aren’t moving the car.

There is no driving on Yom Kippur. Who would think that on a day when Jews were seeking forgiveness for their sins, they’d sin by thowing stones at others not obeying their rules?! It all makes sense now…when we were trying to go to the Dead Sea last Saturday, roads were blocked off for the Sabbath as well. And Yom Kippur starting today throws off our plans for tomorrow…going to Ramallah for some much needed family fun at an amusement park!!! This is the downside of living in a Jewish neighborhood and an Israeli society…I liked our apartment until today.

I’m going to miss the things that happen to us everyday in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City…like being asked a random question in Arabic at the Bab An-Nazir gates of Al Aqsa to make sure we are Muslims, having a Palestinian “aunty” I never met before in my life volunteer to hold Noora for me while I pray, strangers giving Noora candy (and when I refuse, saying sugar is good for babies), people asking what my daughter’s name is and then breaking out into song as if we are in a musical (no joke!!), and of course, searching endlessly for a real sandwich and hamburger here…

So we were to stay put for Saturday and if we needed anything, we had to walk. The only good thing about this is that I finally get a chance to catch up the blog…welcome to the (more or less ;)) present day.

P.S. The TV stations will be off until 8pm tomorrow (it says so on the TV guide…they even turned off the music that plagues the TV Guide!), except for a handful of sports, news, and BBC channels (in total, somewhere around 6-10 more international channels). So, for our collective viewing pleasure, I looked up the song that every Palestinian, whether young or old, woman or man, sings to our daughter, Noora, accompanied by hand drumming or clapping. Beware, it has musical instruments and a belly dancer extraordinaire on this you tube video! (But she’s the most covered belly dancer I’ve ever seen…wait, nope, saw a girl in niqab belly dancing once…people do the strangest things…but anyway…here’s “Ya Noora, ya Noora” by the old-timer Farid Al-Atrash):

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6 thoughts on “Day 13: Surprises

  1. Abu Omar is Omar’s father and the Palestinian that told us to stay off the road on Yom Kippur. He said that once he had go go out on Yom Kippur to do something and the Jews started throwing rocks at his car and he had to bob and weave them on the streets driving 180km/hour (that’s very fast and over 110 miles per hour). We made it back to our apartment safely and chilled the rest of the night after picking up the most delicious baklava ever.

  2. Asalamu alaikum […] You’re so funny! I feel like I’m right there with you, feeling the tensions, giving a sigh of relief when things turn out ok, getting teary-eyed at the poverty and laughing when you describe your interactons with the many people you meet. Stay safe, my loved ones! Can’t wait to see you and give you all big, big hugs n’ kisses!

    • LOL, so did we!! I wish the old b&w American musicals were this vibrant! Makes me want to dance! I think I did end up dancing with Noora for a while to “her song”. Not too bad for replacement entertainment, eh? Gotta love YouTube…

  3. ye, this trouble the religious Jews are making – throwing stones on people and cars on Shabbat (Saturday)…no matter if one is a Muslim or a Jew, mind you…I have never could understand it. Luckily, not all religious behaving like this – only the insane extremists.

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