Palestinian Proverb: الجاهل عدو نفسه – The ignorant is his own enemy
Over the last few weeks there has been a lot of news about increasing violence in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Unfortunately this is not ‘new’ news. For this post I have chosen to concentrate on one issue which places great restrictions on the freedom and development of the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt).
al- Khalil, or Hebron is the second largest city in the oPt and is home to more than 250,000 Palestinians. There are also over 500 illegal settlers, many of whom have come from America. Upwards of 1000 IDF soldiers are stationed to protect these settlers and impose curfews and strict restrictions on Palestinian movement. Hebron is divided into two territories, H1 which is controlled by the Palestinian Authority and H2 which is under Israeli control. The Palestinian population in the area of Hebron which falls under H2 has been greatly reduced by the imposition of restrictions and IDF presence as well as settler harassment.
Frequent assaults on Palestinians by the settlers include throwing stones, eggs and glass, as well as verbal and increasingly violent attacks. The complacency, and often involvement of the IDF, who mostly ignore incidents of aggression towards Palestinians and international aid workers has come under great scrutiny, yet perpetrators are rarely apprehended for their actions. In most cases, it is the victims of the attacks who face the repercussions. Settlers in Hebron are more and more frequently entering Palestinian homes and refusing to leave, relying on the protection of the IDF to facilitate their illegal actions.
As the Israeli government continues to pose trade restrictions on the Palestinians, huge numbers of the population rely on foreign aid to survive. In 2014 Action Against Hunger helped 543,468 people by providing support to local farmers and traders.
Donate here to support their work: https://www.justgiving.com/Sophia-Vassie
Three years ago I spent three months living and working in a part of East Jerusalem called Sheikh Jarrah. I was lucky enough to make many friends and had the opportunity to travel. Here is one of the memories I wrote down while I was there:
In Bethlehem I met Yusef; an Arabic teacher and taxi driver. His wife, a teacher of Arabic and Islamic religion, also had two jobs alongside being ‘the greatest cook in the world’. Yusef offered to take us to the Shepherd’s Field – on learning that I speak Arabic and have a cousin called Yusef, he quickly refused any payment for the lift.
After a short drive we stopped at the gate to the Shepherd’s Field. Yusef explained that he would have to wait outside as he was not an official tour guide and would likely get in trouble with the police. I asked him if he couldn’t just walk with us as a friend; we had not expected him to act as a guide, but he was adamant that he could not enter. Luckily, a group sat outside a café opposite the gates informed us that the police had packed up for the day. And so he came with us and as we walked together down the path to the ancient church Yusef began telling us a story;
‘A friend of mine in al-Khalil (Hebron) has a small house with a tiny shop attached to it. The house has only two rooms and is poorly maintained with bad electricity and water supplies, and no access to rubbish collection. This house is very close to the Ibrahimi Mosque [which is known in Judaism as the Cave of Patriarchy]. One day a Jewish settler came and knocked on my friend’s door. He says to my friend, “I will pay you $60,000 for your house.” Of course my friend refused, his house has been in his family for many generations and even though it is very modest, he feels lucky to have been able to hold on to it for this long. A few weeks pass and the settler returns. He asks my friend again if he can buy his home, but this time he offers $200,000. Of course my friend refuses even though this money would help him and his family greatly. Months pass and the settler returns for a third time, this time he has a contract with him. He says to my friend, “I will give you $1.6 million for this house, with this money you can go to America and start a new, better life with your family.” My friend looks at the settler and at the contract and at his tiny house surrounded by rubbish in the street. He turns to the settler and says, “Brother, why do you want to pay this money for my home?” The settler with tears in his eyes replies, “because this home is close to the Cave of Patriarchs and Abraham is my grandfather.” A few minutes pass and my friend hands back the contract to the settler and once again refuses his offer. The settler surprised, asks my friend “will you not take this opportunity to provide for your family?” My friend picks up a stone outside his home and shows it to the settler, “I would not accept this money for one stone that makes my home.” The settler asks why, and my friend smiling replies, “because Ibrahim is my grandfather too.”’
Before we left, Yusef happily told me that the previous day (Friday during Ramadan) he had been able to pray at al-Aqsa. For the first time in five years he had been allowed to cross the checkpoint into East Jerusalem. As I left to get the bus back I felt the shadow of the Wall follow me, knowing that Yusef would never be sure when his next visit to the Mosque would be.
Kunafa is a traditional Arabic dessert found across North Africa and the Levant. Made with filo pastry and a smattering of pistachios and rose water, it vaguely resembles another Arabic/Turkish favourite – baklava. It is said that that the idea of Kunafa was originally brought to the region by the Ottomans. Palestinians in the city of Nablus added cheese between the layers of pastry and created what is now an internationally recognised and loved dessert.
- 1 pack of Kunafa pastry – buy this from any middle eastern shop
- 250g Ghee or butter
- 250g Mascarpone
- 300g mixed nuts and sultanas
- 100g Dessicated coconut
- 50g Pistachio
- A sprinkle of rose petals
- 2 tbls Rosewater
- Juice from 1 lemon
- 250g Sugar
- Make a syrup by adding sugar and a cup of water to a pan. Bring to the boil without stirring. When the sugar has dissolved squeeze in the juice of one lemon and add rose water. Take down to a simmer, never stirring, until the syrup has become thick and shiny.
- Set the syrup aside to cool.
- In a bowl toss the kunafa pastry in ghee or melted butter until covered – Kunafa pastry is just shredded filo pastry!
- Layer the kunafa pastry in a pan and pack down tightly.
- Add a layer of mascarpone and top with crushed nuts, dessicated coconut and sutanas then add a second layer of kunafa and pack down tightly.
- Place in a hot oven and cook until golden.
- Remove from oven and pour over syrup immediately.
- Leave to cool – when cooled tip upside down and sprinkle crushed pistachios and rose petals.
- Serve with fresh mint tea!
Remember to donate to Action Against Hunger by following this link: https://www.justgiving.com/Sophia-Vassie