Sunday, January 31, 2010

a place of hope

I awoke hungover from the anger I had held in excess the night before. Our last day in Israel/Palestine had me longing for some sign of hope.

Early that morning I walked the streets of Jerusalem taking in every last bit of the bustling markets, crowded streets and falafel selling street vendors. In the midst of chaos there is life. People living, loving, working. Life.

I later joined four women from our group to spend time at a school in East Jerusalem. We walked three blocks from the Holy Land Hotel to a gate in the back corner of a parking lot. As we stepped through the gate we were greeted by a petite woman who radiated persistence, hope and joy. She immediately welcomed us and invited us into her school. The woman was Maha Sader, the principle of Rawdat El-Zuhur. Mrs. Sader knows every child in her school by name and she loves and cares for each and every one of them.

The children in this school seem like any other children in an active, thriving school, until you hear their stories. Each of the children who attend school at Rawdat El-Zuhur are dedicated.

They live in East Jerusalem, the Palestinian side of Jerusalem, which is divided into pieces and parts by walls and checkpoints.

They wake up at 5 am to begin their 2 hour trek to school. This travel time is not justified by extensive distance, but is due to the time they spend standing in line at checkpoints. As they wait in line to get to and from school they often witness harassment and humiliation and experience hunger and exhaustion from standing in line in the early hours of the morning- just to get to school.

But they are there. Enthusiastic. Determined.

When we walked into the sixth-grade classroom Mrs. Sader asked the children what song they would like to sing for us. All at once they said "We Shall Overcome!"

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