To experience true hospitality is to spend time with the Palestinian people. Without question, they are the most gracious and hospitable people I have ever met! Let’s start with a simple visit – say to the mayor of a village who wants to talk to us about settler violence or problems with agricultural access.
First of all, we know we will spend a minimum of one hour, because no visit is complete without beverages and social time. When we sit down, we are offered tea or coffee (saying “no” is not an option!). Then we make “small talk” for a while before getting down to the business at hand.
|When we sit down, we are offered tea or coffee
Often snacks are passed around as we talk – cookies or other sweets, sometimes even popcorn!, and the meeting will conclude with coffee – strong, Arabic coffee served in tiny cups and flavoured with cardamom. (I don’t like coffee, but must take a sip for the sake of etiquette, after which I am free to leave it.)
|An impromptu olive oil tasting included bread, cheese, tomatoes and olives.
Other visits include full meals. In the first week of our stay in Tulkarm, this included an impromptu olive oil tasting at the home of the local mayor, complete with bread, cheese, tomatoes and olives.
|Magluba is a traditional Palestinian dish
Another time, while interviewing a Nakba survivor, her daughter-in-law served us lunch – maqluba with chicken, and a beautiful salad!
|Can anyone identify the vegetable in front?
The food here is both tasty and healthy – think “Mediterranean diet.” Fresh fruits and vegetables are plentiful – the streets of Tulkarm are filled with market stalls offering bananas, tomatoes, cabbages, cauliflower, onions, eggplant, and other wonderful produce – including some we are not familiar with. Can anyone identify the vegetable in the front of this photo? Bread – think pita bread the size of a large pizza – can be bought fresh and warm from the oven.
Not having access to a scale, I have no idea whether I’ve lost or gained weight – my clothes still fit, so maybe walking the hilly streets of Tulkarm offsets the feasts spread before us! At any rate, don't waste any time worrying that I will go hungry! The people may be poor, but the land is plentiful – and the spirits are rich with sharing!