Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Afaf


When I moved into Helene's apartment during her holidays for Ramadan, I inherited a sweet friend who has been so kind to me. I only hope that I have been able to reciprocate some of the kindness she has shown me. And, I really hope that life will treat her kindly, because she deserves it!

Afaf was born in Jerusalem into an Christian Palestinian family. She lost her mom before she could remember her. Her bond of love with her father was especially strong because he was both father and mother to her. Her young life in Palestine (which Jerusalem was a part of) was full of happiness, but things changed in 1967 when Israel expanded into Jerusalem. Things fundamentally changed. The irony of the situation is that the expansion of the state of Israel is supported to a great extent by Western Christians, while Christian Palestinians like Afaf's family have suffered just as much as Muslim Palestinians. Back before the Israeli occupation of Jerusalem, life seemed idyllic. For the most part, Palestinians of all religions lived relatively harmoniously. But that changed after the 1967 six-days war, when Jerusalem became occupied by Israel. Competition for scarce resources usually does exacerbate differences between groups and jealousy. By 1969, her father was worried about Afaf's well being, so he sent her to live with her older sister in Jordan where she finished her schooling.  She has lived in Jordan ever since, although she has to return to Palestine and then re-enter Jordan every so often.

In Jordan, life is much harder compared to the West Bank. The cost of living is high but salaries are not. The land in Jordan is not as fertile as the land in Palestine, and it's more of a struggle to survive. The social networks of the past are broken because of migration. Life is not easy. But I admire the way that Afaf finds opportunities to reach out to others. I was lucky enough to be the recipient of her kindness. She is an amazing cook, and I've been so grateful for her generosity in cooking amazing dinners for me (I am going to miss her wonderful Salads!). I have quadroupled the size of my Arabic vocabulary of food-related words thanks to her!  And I have been inspired by her spirit of generosity. The Tabbouli that she made and donated to our charity Iftar turned out to be a favorite of the guests!  I'm grateful for her unrelenting efforts to pull me out of my shell on days when I just felt like hiding at home. I have learned from her that it's not important how much you give to others, but how much of your heart you give to others that really matters. It's a lesson I am so grateful to have been reminded of!

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