Today we met seven wonderful women, six volunteer at the Women’s Programme Center and the seventh directs the programs. The women chose the site which will be the subject of our work in Balata Refugee Camp, the only open space in the camp where children can play amidst the houses. Balata is about one square mile with a network of houses that are three story concrete buildings. The unofficial playground is an open space about 20 sq feet with blank walls and concrete ground that has four entrance ways. We are hoping to paint all four walls with images that arise from the hopes and dreams of the children living here.
The second site is a remarkable area in the old city which features a faded mural of a woman washing clothes that was severely damaged during the second intifada. Beneath the mural, three martyrs are remembered by the community. The walls of Balata and Nablus are filled with the names of fighters as well as those in prison. The image of the rose and a flaming candle are typical forms of remembrance that families put on the exterior of their homes. The opportunity to paint a mural in the heart of the old city will involve us in a process with people in the neighborhood. We all feel very blessed for such an opportunity to work in this way with local artists and residents. Majdi, our guide and teacher, is responsible for making this possible.
While in the old city, we dined on kenafe, a sheep and cow cheese mixture on top of a special yellow sugary dough soaked with sugar water which is the specialty of Nablus. Nabuls is known for producing over forty different kinds of special sweets. I also bought a dumbek in the market, and while sitting on a chair waiting for Jared to buy some toothpaste, an elder man noticed the drum and asked if I could play. So, I started to play beladi rhythms and immediately attracted about twenty people who started clapping. Drums are a fantastic way to bring people together and we hope to play during our painting sessions.
This evening, Majdi spoke about the settlers and their efforts to ignite clashes by coming into Nablus to visit Joseph’s tomb and then sneaking past the army into the streets to confront the local population. They are being trained by the army, believe it or not, to defend themselves. They have published instructions to their followers: fight men to men, women to women, children to children. We are hoping that things remain quiet and settlers are prevented from entering the town.
Blog written by Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb