Journey to the Holy Land – Day 14

November 6, 2010

Today was a very uplifting day for my spirit! Saturdays are one of the days that the Palestinian elders come to the Senior Center for recreation and community time together. There are about 40 people who participate in the various services offered here. More people come in the winter than in the nicer seasons because the Center is heated whereas many people do not have central heating in their homes. The Center hires a van to pick up those who do not have transportation or do not live close enough to walk.

The day begins by praying one decade of the Rosary followed by a reading from the Bible and explanation of the text.

 After prayer time there might be some kind of a group activity. On this day nothing formal had been planned so I offered to give foot massages to anyone who might be interested. I brought many Avon personal care items with me to donate to the Center including products for foot care.

Three of the women were willing to allow me to perform this service for them. It is difficult to describe how very moving it was for me. Some might have seen these feet as swollen, arthritic, calloused, and marked by bunions. I saw them as the carriers of years of culture, heritage, family responsibilities and care for the next generation, and yes, oppressive living conditions.

After each foot was soaked in a pomegranate chocolate solution (pomegranates are a locally grown fruit and who can argue with anything chocolate!), I dried them with paper towels, the only available drying agent. While each foot rested on a pillow, I used a soothing cream and gently massaged it into the top, bottom and heal taking care not to cause any pain to feet already worn with the ravishes of time. I was moved to tears when one woman said “I will never forget you.”

Even though only three of the approximately twenty women (and none of the men) in attendance had the massage, I hope the message was received that we must all be willing not only to wash each other’s feet but to allow others to serve us by having our feet washed. It was very humbling for me, and I will cherish his memory always. Perhaps on Monday there will be others interested in the foot washing experience because of the example that their three peers set.

The next few hours were spent in a meeting with the director of the Center and one of the local women who was the force and impetus behind the opening of the facility. I learned about the various programs ha are offered as well as the needs of the program in order to continue.

Currently, the Center serves a population that is 60 years of age or older. The facility has only enough funding o offer its programs three days a week. Besides being a gathering space for men and women in this age group, he programming includes medical screenings, fitness classes, arts & crafts, games, cultural activities, educational speakers, and a hot, nutritious meal.

The Center is formulating plans for a new program which will serve the needs of women between the ages of 45-59. This population often has nothing to keep them busy and active which oftentimes leads to depression. I will assist the facility administrator in writing a position paper for this proposed project. By putting together the goals and objectives, the Center will be able to submit the pilot proposal to various agencies that provide funding or grants to worthwhile causes.

Some of the programs offerings for his age group would include what is already available to the seniors. In addition, this target group needs computer literacy as well as functional literacy training (reading and writing) in both Arabic and English, ways to promote income generation, and instruction in producing organic agriculture. I am hopeful that what is now a dream will become a reality in the next year.

In the evening I was invited to the home of Jamilah who I mentioned previously as the volunteer force behind the opening of the Senior Center. We spent a lovely time together and I enjoyed looking at her 1950 wedding pictures. Although she is a Latin Catholic, her husband was Greek Orthodox and so they were married in his church. It was the custom in that culture for the bride to leave her home accompanied by her attendants, family and relatives and all walk in procession to the church. She would meet her groom and the priest at the entrance, the priest would join their hands, and they would then enter the church for the ceremony.

It was fascinating to learn about this cultural ceremony. Jamilah told me that at that time everyone in the town attended wedding ceremonies. No official invitations were sent. Ah—can you imagine the chaos in this day and age if that happened? Uninvited guests would be wedding crashers. Hmmm…I seem to remember a movie title by that name.

After sharing a delicious meal, Jamilah and her daughter drove me home by way of Birzeit University as I had heard many people speak of having a relationship with this institution either as a student or professor. On the way we were detoured by a traffic accident. I am surprised it is the first one that I have seen since arriving (see my previous posting about drivers in Palestine). Unfortunately, there were people injured in the crash.

I am amazed by the number of pedestrians who walk in the streets without fear for their lives! I guess they figure it is the driver’s responsibility to warn them by sounding the horn if the walker is in danger of being hit! Believe me, I stay on the sidewalks whenever possible and inshallah—God willing, I will stay safe and in one piece until I return home.

Published in: on November 7, 2010 at 1:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

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