The Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan

Bashir had never been able to understand how another people’s ancient longing – their wish to return home from a millennial exile – could somehow be equated with the actual life of generations of Palestinians who lived and breathed in the land, who grew food from it, who buried their parents and grandparents in it.  He was skeptical that this longing for Zion had much to do with Israel’s creation, “Israel first came to the imagination of the Western occupying powers for two reasons,” he told Dalia.
“And what are they?” she asked in reply, now feeling her own skepticism grow.
“First, to get rid of you in Europe.  Second, to rule the East through this government and to keep down the whole Arab world.  And then the leaders started remembering the Torah and started to talk about the land of the milk and the honey, and the Promised Land.”
“But there is good reason for this,” Dalia objected.  “And the reason is to protect us from being persecuted in other countries.  To protect us from being slaughtered in cold blood just because we are Jews.  I know the truth, Bashir.”  … “I know that my people were killed, slaughtered, put in gas ovens.  Israel was the only safe place for us.  It was the place where the Jews could finally feel that being a Jew is not a shame!”
“But you are saying that the whole world did this, Dalia.  It is not true.  The Nazis killed the Jews.  And we hate them.  But why should we pay for what they did?  Our people welcomed the Jewish people during the Ottoman Empire.  They came to us running away from the Europeans and we welcomed them with all that we had.  We took care of them.  But now because you want to live in a safe place, other people live in pain.  If we take your family, for example.  You come running from another place.  Where should you stay?  In a house that is owned by someone else?  Will you take the house from them?  And the owners – us – should leave the house and go to another place?  Is it justice that we should be expelled from our cities, our villages, our streets?  We have history here – Lydda, Haifa, Jaffa, al-Ramla.  Many Jews who came here believed they were a people without a land going to a land without people.  That is ignoring the indigenous people of this land.  Their civilization, their history, their heritage, their culture.  And now we are strangers.  Strangers in every place.  Why did this happen, Dalia?  The Zionism did this to you, not just the Palestinians.” (Page 160-161)

To me Zion is an expression of my very ancient longing, for me it’s a word that symbolizes a harbor for my people and our collective expression here.  And for him, it’s a regime of terror.  Something that’s an obligation to fight.  And to resist in every way.  Because for him if Zionism is a reign of terror, then terrorism is an appropriate answer!” (Page 219)

Victory For Us Is To See You Suffer by Phillip C. Winslow

“We are occupying their land and – I hate to say it – we are their masters,” one reservist told me over coffee when I met him again in 2006.  “We tell them when to go to sleep, we tell them when to get up.  We tell them whether they can go through the checkpoint and what they can carry with them.”
The power can be confusing and corrupting.  “The guys who stand day and night at the checkpoint … their job is to distinguish between ordinary civilians and the ones who have come to hurt you,” he said.  “To the simply soldier at the checkpoint the next guy is the one who is going to kill him.  We are not tyrants,” he told me, in a variation of a common statement. … “The nineteen-year-old [soldier] … he’s the god at the checkpoint, and he has not qualifications to be God.” (Pages 14-16)

The soldier was nineteen or twenty and had collar-length hair covered with a red bandanna instead of the regulation helmet.  The afternoon was lung-searing Jordan Valley hot, and he was sunburned and looked as though he would rather be anywhere else on earth.  After checking our IDs, he motioned us through.   Then he told us to stop again.
”Wait.  I want you to do something.”
”Yes?”  I said.  Now what?
”HELP US FIX OUR SHITTY COUNTRY!” he yelled in general exasperation, throwing both hands in the air. (Page 27)

The army was rounding up and arresting so many Palestinians that month that it had a hard time keeping track of them.  When news broke that soldiers had used blue marking pens to write identifying numbers on the arms and foreheads of Palestinians in Tulkarm refugee camp, there was an uproar.  Yasser Arafat pounced on the issue and compared it to what Nazis did to Jews in the concentration camps.  B’Tselem, Israel’s main human rights group, in a March 12, 2002, press release, called it “a symbol of the IDF’s loss of any moral compass in its treatment of the Palestinian population.” (Page 47)

In 2005 a twelve-year-old boy holding a toy gun was shot in the head by soldiers in Jenin Camp during Eid al-Fitr.  The IDF apologized right away.  Then the parents of the dead boy made a stunning gesture: They donated their son’s organs to six people in the hospital where he died; all six recipients were Israelis, and four were Jews. (Page 86)

“I was on a bus going to work, and I saw a guy next to me shot to death.  By a soldier.  They shot the bus.  Five others were wounded.  The soldier cried.  He was crying.  An officer came up to him and said, “You shouldn’t cry, this is your job, you are a soldier and you killed a man.  This is part of your job.”  They are human.  They are just young boys.  This is not right for them.” (Page 88)

Girls mostly left the fighting to the shabab and tried to get on with their studies. At the Aida school, I asked a group of seven- and eight-year-old girls, all intifada veterans, what they would say to the soldiers if they had the chance.  “Go away from us.  What have we done to you?” one said.    “Don’t come too close, because we need to study without your interruption,” her friend said.  “Don’t steal our Palestinian flag,” a third said.
Would they have any advice for boys in the camp?  They all raised their hands.  “Don’t throw stones at the soldiers next to the school, because they will shoot us,” one girl said.  The others nodded.  Young girls saw the logic of consequences in a situation devoid of common sense. (Page 91)

“It is very hard to focus sometimes,” a straight-A student who lived a block away from “ground zero” in Jenin Camp told me.  “I put pressure on myself … I focus because I want to continue the learning.  The best way to fight the Israelis is to study.”  (Page 99)

The local [Nablus] economy bottomed out.  At the time, the UN World Food Programme and the ICRC provided some aid, but residents said it was not enough to alleviate the shortages.  Besides, they fumed, they wanted work, not international charity. (Page 104)

What I couldn’t grasp was the strategy behind the hard line.  The punishment and gratuitous brutality took away Palestinians’ hope for any solution other than more violence.  Did Israeli politicians reason that the security forces could crush the spirit out of people and make them submit?  Had the concluded that if they made collective lives so miserable Palestinian society would pressure the militants to lay down their guns?  If that’s what Israel thought, I thought they were badly mistaken.  The heavy hand of the occupation just hardened the Palestinians and made them hate.  Perhaps Israel had underestimated sumud, the Arabic word for resistance – not armed resistance, but the kind of flexible force a tree presents to a gale.  Both type would certainly continue.  (Pages 110-111)

“In a corrupt reality the actors are corrupt.” [Said by former IDF soldier on how the checkpoints change a man’s behavior and thoughts] (Page 179)

Avichay Sharon put it this way: “The problem is not the sergeant who slapped a Palestinian around at the checkpoint: It’s the sergeant standing at the checkpoint.  There’s a sort of pathology with the Jewish people, especially Israelis, a people who have been persecuted for a long time.  It’s a paradox that we, as the powerful, don’t see ourselves as the oppressor.”  (Page 181)

“One story is about a little kid, a boy of about six, who passed by [an IDF soldier] at my post.  He said to me, “Soldier, listen, don’t get annoyed, don’t try to stop me, I’m going out to kill some Arabs.”  I look at the kid and don’t quite understand exactly what I’m supposed to do.  So he says, “First, I’m going to buy a Popsicle at Gotnick’s – that’s their grocery store – “then, I’m going to kill some Arabs.”  (Page 187)

As written by Ze’ev Jabotinsky, the founder of Revisionist Zionism:
As long as the Arabs preserve a gleam of hope that they will succeed in getting rid of us, nothing in the world can cause them to relinquish this hope, precisely because they are not a rabble but a living people.  And a living people will be ready to yield on such fateful issues only when they have given up all hope of getting rid of the alien settlers … (Page 189)

“A comprehensive agreement is undoubtedly out of the question now,” Ben-Gurion wrote, practically quoting Jabotinsky.  “For only after total despair on the part of the Arabs, despair that will come not only from the failure of the disturbances and the attempt at rebellion, but also as a consequence of our growth in the country, may the Arabs possibly acquiesce in a Jewish Eretz Israel [Land of Israel].” (Page 190)

Gershom Gorenberg wrote [on colonization of the occupied territories]: “They would not be citizens; they would not even be allowed to live in Israeli cities in the West Bank.” (Page 190)

In 2007 [Ami Ayalon] was asked if he stood by his oft-quoted remark that the Palestinians and Israelis hate each other.  “I cannot say that I hate Palestinians, but I think, as a nation, as a society, yes, most Israelis hate Palestinians and most Palestinians hate Israelis,” he said.  “We do not trust each other and both sides feel that the language of the other side is only the language of violence and power.  So the question for us is how to create a different dictionary, in which societies and states will understand a different language – a language of diplomacy and negotiation.” (Page 193)

[Story told by Dror Etkes]: “I saw a bird lying on the sand, dying.  She had a huge fish stuck in her beak and was not able to swallow it.  My image was immediately Israel.  Trying to swallow something bigger than what you can.  You’re trying to digest or to swallow something which is indigestible.”  (Page 200)

[Portion of “The End of Zionism” by Avraham Burg]:  “It is very comfortable to be a Zionist in West Bank settlements such as Beit El and Ofra.  The biblical landscape is charming.  You can gaze through the geraniums and bougainvilleas and not see the occupation.  Travelling on the fast highway that skirts barely a half-mile west of the Palestinian roadblocks, it’s hard to comprehend the humiliating experience of the despised Arab who must creep for hours along the pocked, blockaded roads assigned to him.  One road for the occupier, one road for the occupied.
This cannot work.  Even if the Arabs lower their heads and swallow their shame and anger for ever, it won’t work.  A structure built on human callousness will inevitably collapse in on itself.  Note this moment well:  Zionism’s superstructure is already collapsing like a cheap Jerusalem wedding hall.  Only madmen continue dancing on the top floor while the pillars below are collapsing.
Israel, having ceased to care about the children of the Palestinians, should not be surprised when they come washing in hatred and blow themselves up in the centres of Israeli escapism.  They consign themselves to Allah in our places of recreation, because their own lives are torture.  They spill their own blood in our restaurants in order to ruin our appetites, because they have children and parents at home who are hungry and humiliated.  We could kill a thousand ringleaders a day and nothing will be solved, because the leaders come up from below – from the wells of hatred and anger, from the “infrastructures” of injustice and moral corruption.”  (Pages 201-202)

But if so many people held [Avraham Burg’s] views, I asked, why didn’t the situation change?  Nava Elyashar quickly corrected me.  “It’s not that there are so many of us; it’s that there are so few.”  (Page 202)

Growing Up Palestinian by Laetitia Bucaille

Bassam says: “Our goal has always been t liberate our country.  We’re realists and we recognize the principle of the two states living side by side.  To win back our rights in our own land, we much us both political and military means.  The occupation prevents us from living as we wish to.  We need a revolution to force a change.” (Page 8)

The idea was to create a daily series of acts of defiance whereby the people of the territories could stand up to the IDF and reaffirm the personality and the existence of the Palestinian nation.  This affected the relationship between occupied and occupiers by giving the former a dignity that had been suppressed since the imposition of Israeli martial law.  In this sense, the Intifada was a revolt again surrender and humiliation. (Page 18)

The Oslo accords gave the Palestinians nothing but the bastard status of autonomy over most of the Gaza Strip and a small area of the West Bank: as a comprehensive formula for an enduring peace, its future was uncertain to say the least. (Page 37)

Salah had been an active militant ever since he saw their younger brother Khaled killed in an Intifada scuffle between soldiers and stone throwers.  Khaled had taken a bullet wound: Salah went to help him, but Khaled told him to run so he wouldn’t be arrested; the soldiers would make sure he got to the hospital.  Nevertheless, Salah lingered on a nearby rooftop to see what would happen.  Instead of helping Khaled with first aid, the Israelis riddled him with bullets while Salah looked on helplessly.  From that moment, he became a committed militant. (Pages 38-39)

Despite all this, residents express a strong attachment to the camp, in which most of them were born and raised; they are proud of belonging to its strong community.  “We’re simple people here; we have real affection for one another.  It’s different down there in Rimal where there’s money.  Only simple people can love each other as we do.” (Page 59)

When war brings physical, material, or psychological insecurity to the community, mothers and fathers look to find husbands for their daughters, believing that they will be protected.  Furthermore, by ridding itself of female offspring, the family is freed of a double burden: there’s one less mouth to feed, and no more need to worry about the girl’s virginity.  The family’s honor remains intact. (Page 63)

To avoid being in an inferior position, some Palestinians concealed their identity and masqueraded as Israelis.  Fuad, one of the Nablus shebab, worked as a house-mover in Israel.  “I told them I was an Israeli,” he recalls.  “My brother did too.  He became an Israeli from top to toe – you’d never know he was an Arab.  He spoke perfect Hebrew.  He told them he’d been in the army and he’d killed five Arabs.  They all congratulated him.”  To fool the enemy, to mimic his most extreme ideas, to adopt his outward demeanor – all these were ways of turning the tables, or at least of convincing oneself that one had escaped the reality of the situation.  In any event, the sense of duping one’s foe gave a certain satisfaction, even at the risk of losing one’s own identity. (Page 81)

Most Gazans under twenty have never known anything other than the place where they were born.  A test carried out on children and young people from the ages of ten to twenty-four have shown that three out of four think the map of Gaza is the map of Palestine.  This inability to picture the national space is an example of how a generation, and indeed a whole society, trapped in a given territory can have its imagination literally amputated by the experience. (Page 87)

“Of course I’ll accept a Palestinian state that includes the West Bank, Gaza, and Jerusalem.  You could hardly dream of more.  If they’ll respect us, we’ll respect them.  If they want peace, if they give us peace, we’ll give them peace back.  I agree with Gaddhafi: if Israel gives the Palestinians their rights, the Arab would will no longer view Israel as its enemy.  If the Israelis accept us, I’ll be very happy to place them at the head of the Arab League.” (Page 112)

“I’d like to see a country where every child has rights.  I’d like to be able to go wherever I like, like anybody else in the world.  I want a country without war and without weapons – like Switzerland.  Of course that won’t happen in my lifetime, but maybe my children will see it.” (Page 112)

When a special unit came to crush the political and military activities of Bassam’s group and shot Khaled right in the middle of the Balata refugee camp, Aziz was the whole thing.  “I was leaning against a wall talking to someone and I saw the Special Forces come in.  One of them shot Khaled in the leg.  I saw the bullet go through his pants.  I wanted to go in there, into the wound to feel what it was like.  Then they fired at him again and I wondered how the soul leaves the body.  I just watched and said nothing: the gunshots, the people yelling.  They killed him in cold blood, just like that, like they were squashing an insect.  At that moment I understood that in just the same way we Palestinians were convinced that Palestine belonged to us, the Israelis were quite certain it was theirs.”  Aziz went home and wrote a poem. (Pages 114-115)

“In some ways I like the occupation, because it has made us learn the value of our country, which has led us to love our own people…” (Page 116)

For some young people the dilemma is quite simply insoluble: it’s impossible to live here, while to try and live anywhere else – even if you do manage to surmount all the obstacles to getting there – is like tearing out your soul. (Page 120)

Islamist rhetoric explains the vulnerability of Israeli society by the fact that its members are afraid of death. … Believing that the Achilles heel of the Israelis lies in their attachment to life, the men of Jihad look beyond their own obvious inferiority in terms of weaponry.  They calculate that their willingness to sacrifice themselves gives them a moral superiority over the citizens of the Israeli state. … Their hope is that fear will lead the Israeli government to buckle, and/or that a significant number of Israeli citizens will simply leave the country.  The plan, in short is to terrorize the Israelis by repeatedly targeting their point of greatest weakness. (Page 136)

The sense of being relieved of any real choice with respect to their own existence is one that the shebab often express; hence the meticulous arrangement of their own demise, in the act of striking at the heart of enemy society, paradoxically allows them to regain control of their life – if only at the last moment – and in doing so to inflict upon the enemy a devastating revenge for what he has done to them.  They can escape the iron ring of impotence to which both they and their community are shackled, by choosing the way of the martyred hero. (Page 137)

Two months after taking up his command, the new Israeli chief of staff, General Moshe Yaalon, made this comment: “The Palestinian threat is perfectly invisible.  It’s like a cancer … if you fail to diagnose it correctly and people say it’s not a cancer, only a headache, the treatment won’t work.  I think it’s a cancer.  There are all kinds of treatments for symptoms of cancer.  Some say you should cut out the diseased organs altogether.  For the time being, I’m applying chemotherapy.” (Page 150)

On March 5, 2002, after a particularly bloody week, Ariel Sharon declared that the Palestinians would “have to be hit very hard” because “unless they understand they are beaten, we can never return to the negotiating table.” (Page 152)

Palestinian violence serves to nourish the bellicose rhetoric that underpins the IDF’s tactics of repression.
Thus from the point of view of both protagonists, violence remains the strategy that yields most results: it alone holds out the possibility of a result, insofar as its goal is to compel the enemy to give up. (Page 153)

It’s Been A While

It’s been a while since I’ve updated this.  A lot has gone on – most of it sad or negative in some way.

My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and will be having a double mastectomy tomorrow.

I decided that it was time to come home so that I could help with her recovery.

I hope I’ve made the right decision, although it will probably haunt me for the rest of my life.

I miss Palestine already and can’t wait until I can return.

I won’t be teaching at the same school when I do though.  For I know my time there is over.

What God has planned next I do not know.  I just hope it takes me back to the place that has become my home.

Palestine I love you.  But more than that, I love my students.  You are amazing people who have touched my heart and life in uncountable ways.  I love you all dearly and my life is not the same and never will be.  I miss you all with an immense hurt that cannot be quenched.  I hope that I taught you even a fraction of what you have taught me.  I will forever be your Miss Laura.

Please pray for me, my students, my family, and my mom.

Palestine Forever!

In Class

Right now my 8th graders are working on model volcanoes and earthquakes so I thought I would take this time to update my blog again.  I realized that in order to update this regularly I needed to take any time I could!  So here we go! : )

Lot’s goes on in the day-to-day life of a teacher but it’s hard sometimes to put it into words or to see how it all fits into the “grand scheme” of being in Bethlehem.

Today is our last day of school before Thanksgiving break and the Eid Al Adha.  I think the teachers are more excited than the students about this 5-day weekend!  I’m finally going to get to see the tourist sites in Jerusalem – the garden tomb, the ramparts of the old city, and enshallah the Dome of the Rock!

This is what I see everymorning from my bedroom window!

Every day I get up at 6 am and watch the sunrise.  I don’t get up just for the sunrise, but it is beautiful and worth watching.  From there I check my facebook (which usually has no activity) and my email (which has even less activity).  Then I get dressed for school and start collecting my books and papers or finish any last minute planning I may have for the day.  I’m downstairs by 7 each morning.  I organize my classroom – straighten the desks, get my books in order, pick up any trash – before going outside to greet the students and other teachers as they come in for the day.  Some students get hugs, some get high-5s.  Some I talk to in my broken Arabic.  Most get English!  The bell rings at 8 and the day officially begins.

My first period class is probably my favorite to teach.  Not necessarily because I love them more but because the combination of subject matter, time of day, and personalities of students creates a fun environment to teach in.  This is the 8th grade class that is with me right now.  They seems to enjoy learning more than any other class I teach and they seem to enjoy me more regularly than any other class I teach.

They also include some of my closest students and some who make me laugh a lot.  There’s Lucy (because she treats her little brother like Lucy treats Charlie Brown) who was the first “student-friend” I had here.  She is a sweetheart and I enjoy talking to her.  Sometimes she’s dark in her humor but that just adds to her charm and character.  She thinks differently than most of my other students (and most of the people I know) – deeper, more complex – and this gives her an air of maturity that other kids her age just do not possess.  Plus she’s super cute!  Then there’s Zac (because he’s the Zac Efron of the 8th grade class).  He makes me laugh a lot because he’s so completely random and carefree.  And that’s just two of them!  I have one student in the 8th grade who has a baby face and he’s fun to smack (a very Arab thing).  And the girl whom I think is the smartest person I have ever met (and one of the hardest workers too) is in this class.  She and I have had a few deep conversations about life and education and things like that.

My second period is my only prep period but instead of using that time for school stuff, I attend the 9th grade Bible class.  This is fun because I’m seen differently in this class as I am in the classes I teach.  They also like to comment on their science during Bible just for my benefit!

Third period is my 10th grade class.  What I like about this class is they are older so I can trust them with more responsibility.  So they get to eat in class and sit wherever they want and things like that.  This is, unfortunately, my least favorite subject to teach.  : /  But this class also has some great students whom I enjoy hanging out with.  This is considered the basketball class since half of the class is on the basketball team (both boys and girls).  One student in particular did not like me at first, but we have since become “friends.”  She still isn’t ready to admit that but I do and I tell her that as often as possible.  She and I talk online most every night for a few hours (or more).  She is an amazing girl who has a bright and beautiful future ahead of her.  God has something extra special planned for this one because she is trying so hard to derail Him and failing in most cases.

After that we have break (kind of like lunch without a cafeteria).  We sell snacks in a canteen and play basketball or soccer in the courtyard.

Fourth period is my first of two classes with 6th grade.  They are a … lively bunch of students but mostly good kids.  There are a few of them that really make me laugh and there are a few who really make me yell.  This class does not enjoy learning and are already trying hard to get out of everything they can.  They are also the class with the most amount of “Miss, somebody did this to me” whining.  It’s annoying!  I’ve been taking their desks away when they get in trouble (that’s their first warning) and if they get kicked out of class they miss their break.  I have also scolded them often enough for their whining that now all I have to say is, “Are you whining?” and they stop and say, “No Miss!”

Then I have afternoon break with the elementary school.  More snacks and much more playing and running!

Fifth period is … *sigh* 9th grade.  These are the laziest kids I have EVER worked with!  Instead of studying and using their time wisely, they scheme and manipulate to get out of things.  Today they have a BIG test over the entire periodic table of elements.  Most of this class is already failing and this test will just put the final nail in their coffins.  7aram!  Well actually, I don’t feel that sorry for them because I’ve done everything I can to help them learn it, but they refuse!  I can’t MAKE them do it … all I can do is give them the opportunity.

There are a few students in this class that aren’t like this.  Baby Sister is my adopted sister (her and her two older sisters … and their parents are my adopted parents).  She is a leader in the classroom and a caring friend to her classmates.  Baby Sister acts very different at home and school … which is fun for me.  I also (since I’m the oldest sister) get to ground her and give other punishments if I feel they are fit.  Right now she’s grounded from facebook and MSN/email for three weeks (I even changed her passwords)!  Then there’s Roxanne (because she looks like the character from A Goofy Movie).  She is a sweet girl of about 5 feet 2 inches who is a great ball of obsession.  She obsesses over boys and movies and music and … school (but it’s different).  She’s a great student but her voice is almost always a perpetual whine.  She gets mad easily and quickly at me but we can usually work it out in a day or less.  But she’s a dear sweet girl who makes me giggle!

Sixth period (always makes me think of the song from the Evens Stevens Musical Episode) is my second class with 6th grade.  They are … worse in this class than in the previous one with them.  They enjoy the subject though and bombard me with answers to questions I haven’t even asked yet.

In all my classes I have a system.  The students earn brownie points when they impress me (they are kind of like the points on Who’s Line Is It Anyway … they are arbitrary and almost pointless).  These points can be earned by treating each other with kindness, helping someone, getting good grades, standing up for “the underdog,” good behavior – really anything can earn you points.  But points can be lost by the opposite of all those things.  Once a class gets to 1000 points they have a party.  So far my 8th and 10th graders have had a party and are well on their ways to party #2.

After school I have tutoring, drama, basketball, or small group depending on the day of the week.  These last anywhere from 1 to 3 hours.  All (except tutoring – which I call Teacher Detention) bring joy to my heart and ache to my head.  But I love them!

After this my day involves individual time with students (usually on MSN), time with my adopted family, and time working on the next day or grading that days work.  All in all about 75% of my time is spent doing something school related.  And I wouldn’t change it for all the riches in the world!

You may wonder: How is God moving here?  My answer would be, “How is He not?!”

God moves and stirs in these kids hearts every day.  I have students who have gone from troublemaker to sweetheart.  In some classes the kids who were failing are now succeeding.  And in others I have found new ways to interact with the tough kids to get them out of their shell.

One student loves Jesus but is in a very powerful Muslim family but he can’t help himself from participating in Bible class and talking about Jesus!

One kid can’t stop smiling because Jesus lives inside him (he, too, is from a Muslim family) and it is Jesus’ sweetness that permeates from him.

One girl can’t stop asking questions about God and the Bible.  She’s extremely curious saying that she wants to make sure she believes the right thing – the Truth.

One girl (whom I don’t teach) came up to me just yesterday to tell me that she wants to talk to me.  When we briefly spoke she told me how she feels about herself and then said, “No one knows this Miss Laura but I knew you would care.”  I just hugged her and told her we needed to get together soon to talk more.

I could continue telling stories of students like these who may not recognize God moving in their lives but know that something is changing.  It’s AWESOME to see!

Well I think that’s about it for today!

Prayer Requests – 1. That my students desire to learn! 2. SLEEP 3. More creativity in the classroom to pick up the students who are falling behind 4. Even more love! 5. More supporters both praying for me and financially sustaining me.

Support

I am a teacher who doesn’t get paid.  I am a teacher who LOVES what she does!  I am a teacher in Bethlehem.

Here’s the issue:  I have to somehow get people from the US to give me money so I can live here and stay here.  This includes things like food and heating and college loans and car loans and miscellaneous expenses like clothes and shoes and toilet paper and music (this is a big part of my new support system).  My parents are graciously taking care of my finances for me – when money comes in they put it in my bank account, but the money is slowing down and they are feeling anxious about it and unsure of my future.  Not to mention they are worried about my use of the money people have given.

Let me explain my life here in Bethlehem and my financial uses:

1. I teach science to 8th, 9th, and 10th graders, plus history and Bible to 6th graders.  I love this!  My students are fantastic and most of them amaze me daily!  Teaching this many classes keeps me busy though!  I work about 6.5 hours a day in the classroom, then tutor for 2 hours after school, then grade and lesson plan for about 4 or more hours after that.  Then I talk to students online and hang out with them most days which adds to the length of my “teaching” day.

2. I lead a small group of 10 girls.  We have fun hanging out on Thursdays and making dinner.  We listen to music and talk.  It’s fun to hang out with the 8th and 9th grade girls like that.  It’s more like a youth group environment (which I’m very used to).  I spend about 5 hours a week preparing for this group … mostly because I can’t cook!

3. I have an adopted family.  They take care of me and I try to take care of them.  They have 4 kids – 1 boy and 3 girls.  The youngest girl is the only kid I actually teach.  All three girls treat me like a sister – calling me names and picking on me, but they also listen to me and ask for my help or advice about things because I’m the older sister.  I love them a lot!  I’m at their house 2 or 3 times a week (or more if I can)!

4. I lead a drama group.  We meet once a week after school and work on skits and human videos and acting skills.  I have about 11 kids in that group – most of whom are not in other groups with me which gives me even more kids to be around and hang out with and get to know outside of school.  This group takes about 5 hours a week!

5. I have friends.  The other teachers have become great friends!  I love hanging out with them as often as I can.  I should do it more often but just don’t seem to have a lot of time for that!

6. There is so much more that just sort of “comes up.”  And I love it!  But there isn’t much time left over to write on my blog.  Or call supporters.  Or email family.  Or facebook with friends.  I say all this not so you feel sorry for me but so you are empowered by what God is doing here and how He is molding and changing these kids!  I feel so honored and blessed to be a part of this thing – this movement – He is doing!

Now, my support group is getting smaller and the money is slowing down.  I need money – unfortunately – to be able to continue what I’m doing here and what God wants me to do here.  Please prayerfully consider supporting me in prayer and in finances.

Again, here is a list of what my money is used for:

1. Student Loans ($1000/month) 2. Car Loan ($500/month) 3. Food ($100/month) 4. Utilities ($100/month) 5. Miscellaneous Expenses like toiletries, clothes, shoes, food for my small group, music, laundry detergent, supplies for school projects, etc ($150-200/month)

Some of these things may not seem very important but they all are and I never spend money on something that doesn’t have a purpose in my life or the lives of the teenagers and families I’m ministering to.  It is all for the ministry God has placed me in!  And I greatly appreciate your consideration in joining the team of people who allow me to be here and do this work.

12:18 Am

So it’s late and I haven’t written on here in … AGES!  For that I apologize.  : (  I thought I was better than this, but alas I am not.  Please have grace for my type-o’s tonight – errr … this morning – because I am tired but need to write.  : )  YAY!  Two different emoticons in one VERY short paragraph.  Way to go kid!

So … life.  Well in one word it’s CRAZY!  I love it all the time but that doesn’t stop it from being CRAZY.  Sometimes it becomes too much and I turn CRAZY.  It is by far the most rewarding thing I have done with my life.  And what could be better than that?!

So, highlights of the things you’ve missed – because I suck at blogs.

1. Jerusalem Trips with Students Number 2 and 3.  I (along with Big Red) too three girls to Jerusalem a week or so ago.  Two of the girls were the same as the first time (winners in a game) and the third was (is) my favorite student.  I know, I know … teachers shouldn’t have favorites.  But we do!  Deal.  Okay the trip was shorter this time but just as fun (although fewer pictures were taken).  We went to a book store and to Jaffa street.  Had some ice cream.  Ate at Burger King.  Walked through a garden.  Then went home.  Trip 3 was just me and one other student.  She was supposed to go on trip 2 but she was sick (7aram) and couldn’t go so (since she too won the game) I took her the following weekend and we did the same things as the other girls.  It was fun – especially since it was just the two of us.  We had a nice time chatting and laughing and whatnot.  We even ventured into the old city a ways and didn’t get lost!  For those who know me well, that is a FEAT!

2. I have had a MAJOR breakthrough with a stubborn and tough skinned student.  When I first got here everyone told me that She-Ra would really like me and we’d click right away.  But we didn’t.  We were like oil and water (because we’re so alike as opposed to the chemical reaction that occurs between oil and water … oops … Science teacher moment).  Anyway, this week we really started talking (vast amounts of time on MSN) and she’s now told me she loves me, that she knows I love her, and that we’re friends (or close to it).  I’m SUPER happy about this.  I really do love her a ton.  She’s an amazing kid and I can’t wait to see what AMAZING things she accomplishes in her life.  : )

3. Progress Reports went out this week.  This is a sad event at my school because all the kids FREAK OUT.  But this time it was sadder still because the majority of the school received lower grades than normal.  I even got to give out a 2% to a student.  How do you bounce back from a 2%?!  In one class I failed 11 out of 14 students and two of the 3 who passed had LOW C’s.  Another class I failed about 50% of them (around 8 kids).  In yet another class I failed just under half.  And in one class (my saving grace) I only failed one student (9 passed!).   Unfortunately, this makes the grades “my fault” instead of the students – even though they were failing my class and math, Bible, English, and History (and maybe Arabic too).  None of the other teachers were to blame for the poor grades … just me.  7aram … I know.  But don’t worry … I’ve moved on and am GOING to find joy in this situation and find ways to work through my frustrations.  : )

4. Winter.  It’s coming!  It’s getting colder and windier and rainier … are those even words?!  People are starting to use their heaters and sweatshirts are worn by most students most of the day.  Some of us are hoping for snow … but we don’t have “central heating” like most people think of it.  It is all gas powered … and the gas is EXPENSIVE!  So we use little gas heaters or electric ones.  The only – and I mean ONLY – time you use the gas-powered central heating is when you are about to shower and want it to be hot!  But even that uses a lot and must be synchronized with the others!

5.  I love my job.  Even when kids make me mad.  Or things don’t go as planned.  Or I spend all my time working.  Or I just want to go back to bed.  I love my job and I love my students.  And the fellow teachers and this place!  I LOVE it!

6.  I am starting the support-raising now so I can spend the small window of time I’m planning for America with my family.  If you have thoughts, ideas, or people/organizations to suggest PLEASE let me know.  : )  And prayer would be WONDERFUL!

I think that’s all for today.  From Bethlehem!