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Journal 3

It's amazing how much can happen in one week here. A week ago I was in Jordan and now I am living here in Beit Sahour, a village near Bethlehem. It's nice feeling less like a tourist here. Egpyt and Jordan were amazing, but I was ready to settle down when we arrived at the Alternative Tourism Group (ATG) office in Beit Sahour. After a quick meeting with the group, my Palestinian host family arrived and Ashley Handrich and I headed off to the home we will be living in for the next two weeks.

Sa'ad and Suzy are great. They have three boys: Cesar, age nine, Jirar, age seven, and Tamar, age five, who are completely adorable. The youngest two speak no English so we've been playing "war" a lot because the numbers pretty much speak for themselves. Ashley and I stay with our grandmother, Rania downstairs. She is really sweet and, ironically, has been to my hometown back in Oregon. It's comforting to know you can make connections anywhere, even thousands of miles away. I don't know why, but it made home seem closer, somehow.

I have a love-hate relationship with the food here. Love, because it is delicious, and hate because I eat altogether too much of it!. How can I refuse fresh baked pita bread? Not only have carbs always been my weakness, but there are such interesting things to dip it in, like Dibis a spread made by cooking grape juice until it is thick and oh so yummy. My host mom, Suzy, is sending some back to the States with me.

The past week has been eye opening in many ways. It has been stressful communicating with my family and feeling like an outsider. At times I feel like my mind is constantly processing the things I see and hear each day about the conflict engulfing this region. From the first day we've been hearing speakers give insights on everything from land confiscation in Palestine to the fundamental beliefs of Islam.
I've already changed my mind several times about my view on the conflict. The only thing that remains unchanged is my confusion. I thought I recognized the complexity of the situation here before I left. But there is more involved in it than I could have ever imagined. It will definitely take a full semester to even remotely understand this land that means so much to so many.

One of the hardest things is looking at the people in my host family. They are so wonderful, and yet they are so limited in so many ways within the society. I've watched home movies with them (around four hours of wedding and baptism footage) and if only the world could see what I see, they would know that these people could never hurt anyone.

Despite the outbreak of violence which has occurred in the last few days in Jerusalem, I continue to pray and hope for peace. It is possible; I can feel it.

"For God is not a God of disorder, but of Peace."
I Corinthians 14:33

Karie Smucker

Photo galleries:
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Gallery 14

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Gallery 1