Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Hi Paula,

I've met an American woman who shares many of my interests. I was excited about meeting Jane. Nora had told me months ago Jane wanted to meet me. I was eager to know a woman of my own age and background. The local Meeting House had been a disappointment because so few local people attended. To my questions, Nora had replied that Jane lived in the city and had done so for five to six years. She was a single woman, had come to the West Bank to work for an NGO and remained after her contract ended. Our few phone conversations revealed a lively personality and no hint of a southern accent.

When my driver and I arrived outside her house, a tall woman with large round eyes and a shortened nose climbed into the car. A look of confusion crossed her face when I turned and introduced myself from the front seat. I wondered what in my appearance had surprised her. Naseer drove us to a restaurant she had chosen in the downtown area. During our lunch I learned she was a graduate of Harvard; she had the self confidence of one who had distinguished herself early in life. She spoke Arabic fluently and had specialized in the study of sharia, Islamic law, while in college.

She had moved to the area from the US six years earlier to administer an NGO program with a multimillion dollar budget. From the American south she had conquered her southern accent but her native Alabama was just around the corner. After criticizing the Christian Zionists and their Messianic zeal to promote Israel she confessed she herself was actually an evangelical. My growing admiration turned to caution. I warned her I had little patience with proselytizers. She assured me she did not attempt to save souls. I decided she and I did not share a definition of evangelicals.

Jane told me how she often demonstrated against the Wall and house demolitions and invited me to join her. I answered that I had a long history of involvement in demonstrations and had ceased due to a painful ankle and a realization that it was mostly theatre with no measurable results. She said in this area, in Palestine, it keeps you sane. She then told me how one family had retrieved their confiscated home by proving it had been taken illegally. She said sometimes there are measurable results. I concurred that perhaps years of disappointment had made me cynical.

She said the presence of Americans and Europeans will often dampen the aggression and cruelty of the Israelis. She told of one young Japanese photographer who was visibly shaking as he photographed from ground level the raised club of an Israeli soldier. She said she herself was once arrested. While witnessing the beating of a Palestinian at one of the checkpoints she started shouting, “You bastard! You bastard!” She was taken into “protective custody” by the Israelis. One female soldier asked her if she thought they were evil. She answered no. She thought they were involved in an evil system and compared it to the south of her childhood prior to the civil rights movement. I told her I thought that was an excellent answer.

She had an infectious laugh and was a delight to be with except for one annoying habit. She would not let me complete a sentence without interrupting.

She has invited me to join her for the next two weekends at her church in Jerusalem to celebrate Easter.

I hope you have a happy Easter.



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