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February 27, 2009

Thoughts about the old country...

It has always been a "touchy" subject to talk about my life in Palestine. It is hard to describe life there, without getting into politics, and politics in that part of the world are ugly, to say the least. So as a disclaimer, I'd like to state that I've always been for peace, and if it was up to me, war would have ended years ago. I can't help but be a little more sympathetic for my relatives,who still live in Palestine, and be somewhat more influenced by their thoughts and opinions.But above all, I believe in human rights, peace and equality.

Both of my parents, are from a small town called Beit Sahour (Beit in Arabic means house, and Sahour is vigilance). Beit Sahour is about 1 Km east of Bethlehem, with a population of about 15,400, of which 80% are Christians,and 20% are Muslims.


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March 2, 2009

Lets look at the big picture of the Arab World......

I wrote my first entry on Palestine, and more specifically Beit Sahour, few days ago, and inspired by Annie's comment, and few others, I thought maybe I should shine a little light on the Arab World, and hope it may lead to a better understanding of Palestine itself.

The Arab World consists of twenty two*, Arabic-speaking countries that stretch from the Atlantic Ocean in the West to the Arabic Sea in the east, and from the Mediterranean Sea in the north to the Indian Ocean in the southeast. Below is a map of the Arabic counties as recognized by the the League of the Arab States.

* I have noticed ,searching the internet, that the countries of the Arab World range from 22-25 countries depending on the site, with Chad, Eritrea and Israel being the countries causing confusion. I used the League of Arab State website to determine that the League only counted the twenty two counties below.

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March 3, 2009

Beit Sahour at a glance.

Beit%20Sahour%20Alley.jpgSet in one of the most beautiful parts of Palestine, the historic city of Beit Sahour lies to the east of Bethlehem and south-east of Jerusalem. The origins of the name Beit Sahour (the house of vigilance) reputedly stems from the Canaanite words "Beit" meaning place, and "Sahour" meaning night watch, which reflected the importance of the area for shepherds. The land provided their flocks with good grazing during the day and safety in the numerous caves at night.

The area is full of historical and biblical sites of significance. Ruins from Roman, Byzantine, Islamic and Crusader times can be found throughout the area. In addition, there are many sites of special importance to followers of the three monotheistic religions(Christians, Muslims and Jews), to whom this land is sacred.

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March 9, 2009

Beit Sahour: A place to call home

View%20of%20houses%20in%20Beit%20Sahour.jpgThe concept of selling a house in Beit Sahour is almost unheard of. Houses are inherited from one generation to the other in families. Families sharing a house is common as well. Weather it is a one story,or multiple stories, houses are generally big and practical, with plenty of room for big families to gather,eat and talk stories.

A typical house in Beit Sahour would have a spacious common area, a modern kitchen, bedrooms , bathrooms(western), and nice front and backyards. Many houses have balconies as well.

Common trees in people's yards include: Olive, fig, peach, apricot,chestnut, plums, apple, loquat ,lemon ,vines and many others. These are the ones that grow in my family's yard.Most people also grow tomatoes and herbs. Mint is a staple in almost everybody's yard, because it is used to flavor tea. To this day, my parents will only drink tea brewed with mint leaves.

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March 10, 2009

Thob: Traditional Dress in Palestine

What Palestinian women wear is mainly determined by their religious beliefs.Christian women wear modest western clothing, and Muslim women may wear Hijab and Abaya, but may also just dress modestly.

It was not always like this though.

Women in Palestine used to wear a Thob; a full length flare dress, that is loosely-fitted to allow a lot of movement. Until the 1940s, traditional Palestinian costumes reflected a woman's economic status, whether married or single, and the town or district of origin, and a knowledgeable observer could glean such information from the fabric, colors, cut, and embroidery motifs (or lack thereof) in a given woman's apparel.

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April 12, 2009

Palm Sunday

While many Christians are celebrating Easter today( Happy Easter), Eastern Christians are just kicking off the Holy Week with Palm Sunday today.

I don't quite understand the disagreement on dates, but I know that The Greek Orthodox Church follows the Julian Calender, and even though sometimes the Eastern Easter falls on the same day as Western Easter, it most often does not. So, I am celebrating Palm Sunday today, and Easter next week.

Palm%20Sunday.jpgHere's a description of Palm Sunday,courtesy of Holy Transfiguration Monastery:

On Sunday, five days before the Passover of the Law, the Lord came from Bethany to Jerusalem. Sending two of His disciples to bring Him a foal of an ass, He sat thereon and entered into the city. When the multitude there heard that Jesus was coming, they straightway took up the branches of palm trees in their hands, and went forth to meet Him. Others spread their garments on the ground, and yet others cut branches from the trees and strewed them in the way that Jesus was to pass; and all of them together, especially the children, went before and after Him, crying out: "Hosanna: Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord, the King of Israel" (John 12:13). This is the radiant and glorious festival of our Lord's entry into Jerusalem that we celebrate today.The branches of the palm trees symbolize Christ's victory over the devil and death. The word Hosanna means "Save, I pray," or "Save, now." The foal of an ass, and Jesus' sitting thereon, and the fact that this animal was untamed and considered unclean according to the Law, signified the former uncleanness and wildness of the nations, and their subjection thereafter to the holy Law of the Gospel.

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April 15, 2009

Palestinian Easter tradition: Making mamoul Pastries

Mamoul%20Selection.jpg

Easter brings back many memories from my childhood in Beit Sahour; church memories of holy week services, family gatherings, good food and pastry baking.

I have mentioned before that families in Beit Sahour are very big. Whom you and I might consider extended family members or distant relatives , are part of the family in Beit Sahour, and they all gather and visit for holidays.

On Easter day, families gather at the house of the "head of the family", who is by definition the oldest guy in the paternal side of family. For example, our family gathered at my grandpa's house. And by our family, I mean my grandpa's brothers and their sons and families, my uncles with their kids and families, and other cousins. It used to be a total of about forty adults, and twenty kids. Imagine that!And all having Easter fun!

The week to follow Easter is also busy, since everyone in the family visits everyone else's house after Easter day gatherings. I always wondered why that was, and my grandma used to tell me that Easter blessings travel with people exchanging Easter greetings, and everyone wanted the Easter spirit to enter their houses.Hence, everyone visits everyone to say "Happy Easter" and declare "He is Risen".

At every house we visited during Easter, we were served colored eggs, candy, coffee for adults, juice for kids and mamoul.

What is mamoul?

It is a middle eastern pastry(pictured above), made from semolina flour and filled with dates or nuts such as walnuts, pecans or pistachios. In Beit Sahour, it is an Easter pastry only made for Easter, but other countries,and maybe even other parts of Palestine, it can be found all the time.

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This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Candi's Corner: Wanderlust and Passions in the Palestine category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Funny is the previous category.

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