I have been describing my recent (October 2014) trip to Palestine/Israel as a “spiritual and culinary journey.” The spiritual part came from my fellow travelers, guided by a clergywoman who provided inspiration and understanding as we dealt with the minefields of viewing the Occupation through the lense of Christianity and humanity.
|Makloubah (photo by Diana Fisher)
The culinary part came from the outstanding hospitality we experienced (nothing new to those of us who’d been there before – see, for example, “Food – Glorious Food” - February 22, 2013) and, for me at least, particularly from Easmat in Tulkarm, and then from Lorette in Bethlehem.
Easmat is the wife of Muawya, who was the taxi-drive/translator for my EAPPI team when we were in Tulkarm in the spring of 2013. She is the mother of four young boys, and was a charming and gracious hostess to our team – welcoming us to their home for traditional Palestinian meals, and cake and coffee visits. On this, my first trip back since leaving in late April, 2013, I returned to Tulkarm for a visit with Muawya and Easmat and their family.
|Palestinian Market (photo by Diana Fisher)
It was a day during which everyone in our travel group of six had made her own plans – and, for me, those plans were to take the bus to Tulkarm (via Ramallah) for lunch with Muawya’s family. Upon my arrival in Tulkarm, I found Muawya at the taxi stand, and he drove me to his home where I visited with Easmat as she prepared our lunch. It was the first time I’d seen her without her hijab (on previous visits there were always men present) and she reminded me of my daughters and daughters-in-law, as she bustled around the kitchen, juggling cooking and child care. I was much impressed that she remembered the names and ages of my children and grandchildren – especially considering how many internationals had been in and out of her home in the past several years.
As we visited in her cozy kitchen, I sipped mint tea and perched on a chair, while Easmat prepared a delicious chicken and rice dish (she wouldn’t let me help). The boys wandered in and out of the kitchen, looking for a snack, wanting help with their homework, curious about the foreigner in their home but polite and respectful of the adults. The oldest boy even asked me for help with his English homework! It was a delightful day – and one I will long remember!
|Lorette (photo by Diana Fisher)
In Bethlehem, our small group stayed in an apartment in a “family compound” owned by Lorette and her husband, Nicola . Other family members lived nearby; their three sons and their families lived in a building a short distance away that Lorette and Nicola had built for them. Family is important – and they have done everything they can to keep theirs close.
Lorette prepared all of our breakfasts and dinners while we were in Bethlehem – sometimes we were a group of eight (our travel group of six, plus Lorette and Nicola); at other times, the table expanded to include other family members, friends, acquaintances and “drop ins!” There was always plenty of food to go around!
During our time there, Lorette gave us cooking lessons (the “culinary” part of the trip) in her spacious kitchen. We accompanied her to the local market in Bethlehem (just one street over from the “tourist market” off Manger Square) and watched her select the foods that would end up in our dinner.
Then it was back to the kitchen, where she set us to task – one chopping veggies, one frying cauliflower, another chopping garlic (a LOT of garlic goes into Middle-Eastern cuisine!). The camaraderie of group cooking was wonderful – and the results made for mighty tasty eating!
|In Lorette's kitchen in Bethlehem (photo by Diana Fisher)