Thursday, August 31

the land of abu-bishara

well, we have had quite the adventureous time the last few days. tuesday was jericho and than wednesday and thursday were spent at abu-bishara's farm. jesse has made friends with a family who own some land south of bethlethem and invited us to go with him to have a relaxing evening and stay on this farm. so we said, sure, that sounds great. sammy, one of the palestinians who lives at the house of hope, gave us a ride there. the land is on the top of a hill and extends to one side of the hill, about a hundred acres. abu-bishara's land has been in his family since the 1920's when his grandfather bought it. they have always lived on it, mostly in caves underground (because it is cooler), with limited electricity and water. they have olive trees, grape vines, many fruit trees, and lots of space. however, over the last fifteen years, the israeli government has slowly been building settlements on the land around it and are trying to get the land from him. his land is now completely surrounded by settlements, but he has all the original papers saying he owns the land, and so far has been able to win the court battles. but it is still in the courts, so he is not safe yet. in order to keep the land, abu-bishara must keep it fertile. this year, he planted 650 new olive trees and is planning to plant new grape vines. he has some young men who volunteer their time (mostly from europe) and live there for a few months to a year so that he has help on his farm. we also got to (i guess it was a priveledge) help him with some of the work during our stay. jesse did not tell us we would be working in the hot sun all afternoon, but i guess that is his idea of a relaxing time. it was fun though. we built a wall, watered his olive trees, cut bushes, and other things like that. another thing that abu-bishara does with is land is he has a camp there called "tent of nations: people building bridges". he has three large, bedouin style tents that serve as lodging for people passing through, camp groups, or groups of young people. people from all nations come through and stay with him. sometimes there are children's camps, sometimes there are organized weekends, and sometimes there are people like us who just show up. the program sounds very neat and seems to be a way that is leading towards reconciliation between people groups. besides slaving away in the sun, we also got to enjoy a few meals and many cups of tea with abu-bishara and olli, a german guy volunteering there for the next year. every meal was pretty much the same--pita bread, cucumber tomato salad, grapes, oil and spices. it was very tasty. it was intersting to talk with him about the settlements around his land. he is very proud of his land, and even though it is not the greatest piece of property (it is in the middle of a desert), it is part of his family's history and a very important part of his life. he didn't seem bitter or angry towards the settlers, even though they have made his life very hard, but instead just works harder to keep his land worth something so that he can continue to live there. if you think of it, pray for abu-bishara. pray that he will have the volunteers he needs to keep his crops healthy. pray for rain in the winter so that he will be able to collect water for the summer. pray for tent of nations, that it really will be building bridges between people and that it will break down walls and point towards reconciliation. (p.s. sorry if lots of things are spelled wrong. i was hom-skooled and my parents never taught me to spell and the spell check won't work.)

Wednesday, August 30


well, yesterday was quite an adventure. jason and i were invited to go to jericho with jesse, the other american volunteer here, and fida, a palestinian who is the head house mother, and lulu, another worker here. they were going to visit two of the students, so we said sure, we'll go along.

the day started very early. we had to get a taxi from bethlehem to beit-sahour, which is about ten minutes away, and then a bus from beit-sahour to the bus station in the middle of the town. jesse wasn't sure how long it would take, so to be safe we left at 6:15, to make sure we would catch the jericho bus at 7. we got the the bus station at 6:30, so we had plenty of time to watch the locals. on the street corner near the bus stop, a man had set up a "coffee shop" and all the locals were just sitting around talking and drinking coffee.

the bus finally left about 7:15. now jericho is not that far from bethlethem, but the palestinian busses are not allowed to go through jerusalem, so we had to go around, through the valley of fire. the road was very steep and curvy, probably worse than the road to devils den, for anyone who has been there. and we were in a huge bus with breaks that squealed on every turn. needless to say, this made me more than little nervous. but we made it down into the valley and back up again and arrived at the checkpoint. since the road goes near jerusalem, the israelis wanted to make sure that everyone had permits to go to jericho. an idf (israeli defense force) solider came onto the bus and told everyone we had one minute to get our id's out. he looked about 16 and was carrying a huge gun. that also made me more than little nervous. but we got through the checkpoint without any problems.

we got to jericho about 9 am. jericho is in a valley and is much hotter than bethlehem. it was probably about 95* when we got there. and it only got warmer through the day. our first mission was to find somewhere to eat breakfast.

Ok, now Basaam (this is the correct spelling of the name) takes over. Rather than eat breakfast at restaurant, we decided to buy bread, hummous, cheese, and Bamba (think: Peanut Butter Cheetos) at a grocer's. We walked up and down the streets of Jericho (think: a hotter version of Death Valley) until we came to a place in the sidewalk where it was shaded. We squatted down on our haunches and ate bedouin style (think: all from the same bowl and same cup).

After breakfast we decided to hail a cab, in order to visit Kais, who is a student at the House of Hope, and his family. unfortunately we could not find a large cab and instead we all crammed into a five-seater. Sarah was sitting on my lap with her head out the window, yes we were quite the spectacle. We became even more of a spectacle because we had no idea where we were going. We would drive to neighborhood, the cab driver would ask someone standing by "Wain (where is) Abu-Kais?" or "Tariif (do you know) Abu-Kais?" This continued for approximately 45 minutes, because everyone, even if they had no idea where Abu Kais lived, wanted desperately to help us find him. We drove up and down dirt streets and back alleys, asking children, adults, and anyone we saw if they knew where Abu-Kais lived. Finally, we found their house, but they were not home. After no less then 15 minutes of conversation, two neighbor boys hopped on a bicycle and showed us where the family was for the day. We followed slowly behind, all jammed into the taxi.

For the sake of brevity, which is already lacking, I will skip to the bus ride home. Which was quite eventful indeed. We loaded onto the bus at 3:30pm. We had just polished off our water, and the rest of the bread, hummous, and Bamba from breakfast and we were all feeling quite full and sleepy. We expected that we would arrive in Bethlehem at around 5 o'clock, 5:30 if the traffic was bad. The traffic was bad.

As we were trying to go through Bethany (yes, that Bethany), we were stopped at an Israeli check point. Now, we may not have mentioned this explicitly, but Arabs do not drive like Americans. If there is a space big enough for a car, a car will fill that space. Whenever traffic slows down, a road that is originally designed to be two lanes becomes 3, 4, or even 5 lanes as every driver tries to find the quickest way through. This was exactly what was happening at the checkpoint. Picture in your mind a road that is about 40 feet wide. There are three lines of traffic going one way and three lines going the other way. Directly in front of you is a truck full of goats, to your right and left are very small Opel's with Israeli flags on them. Everywhere there are cars within inches of one another. Honking, honking and more honking. We moved through this area like snails climbing up a pane of glass. It took us 2 hours to move about half a kilometre.

The saving grace of this frustration was the way that everyone on the bus bonded together and made a good time of it. One man from Beit Sahour started asking Jesse and I if we were in Hamas or Hizbullah, and were causing all the problems. A woman who was sitting behind us had four children with her, and the baby girl and I became friends. I will tell more about this in the next letter. But during the trip back, everytime the baby started to cry, her brother would get her to look at me, and if I smiled at her she would stop crying and laugh instead. (Not laugh at me, with me ... I think).

I'm sure you are all tired of reading this now, if there is anyone still reading it, but come back soon for a story about our stay at the farm of Abu-Bishara.

Sarah and Jason

Monday, August 28

some lists--by sarah

things i miss about america:
(in no particular order)
dr. pepper
a variety in my diet
sane drivers
air conditioning
my family
wearing shorts
holding hands
other people speaking english
snack foods
good tasting water

things i love about palestine:
tea or coffee at every meal
the hospitality
new friends
beautiful views
no one is in a hurry
the adventure
walks at night

Sunday, August 27

"A Real Arab"

Yesterday, someone called me a real Arab for the first time. What was due this honor? Was it my impeccable Arabic pronunciation? No. Was it my perceptive grasp of Arab culture? No. It was the fact that I accidentally dropped my trash on the ground. Bethlehem is covered in litter, and so when I was unwrapping and ice cream cone and some of the paper fell to the ground, Fida' (one of the other house mothers) looked at Sarah and said, "Ahh. Now your husband is real Arab." Not sure how I feel about that one.

This afternoon, we went into Jerusalem to see Sarah's aunt, a reporter for the LA Times. While we were there she introduced us to a man named Nabil who, she said, "could get you out of any trouble you could possibly get into." Apparently this is one of those people who know people that I am always hearing about. It's nice to know one, even if I am not planning on getting into trouble myself.

No one wears seatbelts in Bethlehem. In Israel, it is against the law to drive or ride without one, but in Bethlehem, no one wears them. Everytime Sarah or I get into a car with Sammii, one of the other house fathers. He reminds us not to wear them. I think that is a way of enjoying one of the freedoms they do get as Palestinians. Oh yea, and the driving here is crazy. It reminds me of Latin America with an attitude. You should really check it out sometime.

Friday, August 25

Bringing down the hair

Today I have sad news. For today is the last day of the beard of Basaan (that is how I think I would spell my arabic name). Peter, please correct me if I am wrong. I have been told, and have noticed myself, that I do not look much like the Arabs around here. The only Arabs with long beards are Hamas, this is not the look I am going for. I either look like Hamas or an Israeli settler, not exactly the way to build bridges with the people in this neighborhood. So tomorrow, the beard and the hair will be significantly shorter. I will be sure to post pictures when I get the chance.

Well, I am going to play futbol with Aiman, I'll be back later.


Thursday, August 24

The City of Meat

For those of you who do not know, in Arabic the name Bethlehem means the City of Meat. My dreams are fulfilled, all my life I have wanted to live in a city with such a wonderful name. Fortunately, this does not mean that there is meat hanging up all over the city (although the meat section of the market is quite odorific).

Sarah and I have woken up to the call to prayer from a nearby Mosque both mornings. Right now, I wake up just glad to be here and I see the call as a reminder of where I am. By this time next week I'm sure I will be grumbling and rolling over to cover my ears with my pillow.

My Arabic is woefully inadquate. Obviously I did not expect to be able to get around with what I know, but I hope that I will be able to live normal life and get around the city by Christmas time (this way, Hannah will have a competent tour guide when she comes to visit). Many of the employees at the House of Hope speak excellent English, but some speak no English, so I will be forced to learn. Al-humdilallah!

Yesterday, we got to sit down and have tea with a shopkeeper named Adnan. He speaks wonderful English and I believe he wanted to practice on us, he also wanted to sucker us into buying something from his kitschy little shop. It worked. We bought a beautiful rug for about 120 shekels (less than 30 dollars). Hopefully we will have to opportunity to visit him again and build a friendship. He is the first person outside of the House of Hope who we have been able to visit with for any decent period of time. Pray that there will be more.

Ma Salammi,
Jason (for Sarah)

P.S. Once we figure out how to load pictures onto this computer, we will grace you with the view from our balcony and other pictures. Until then, just imagine it as best you can.

Sunday, August 20

we are outta here!

well, tomorrow is the big day. we fly out of tulsa at 10:24 am and arrive in tel aviv at around 2:30 pm on tuesday (6:30 am central time). we would really appriciate your prayers as we are traveling for safety and adjusting to the new culture and all that good stuff. we'll will post again when we get there as soon as we can.

Thursday, August 10

As Promised Grand Canyon Update and Pictures

Since I know that you are all waiting with bated breath to hear how our visit to the Grand Canyon went, I suppose that we can stop keeping y'all in suspense and just let it out. We arrived at the Canyon in the evening of August 1. This was a day later than we had planned because we decided to hang out in Cali with brandon for an extra day. After we set up camp, we went out to the rim and I got to see the Grand Canyon for the first time in my life. Sarah walked me up to the edge of the rim with my eyes closed (as I tried to walk as slowly as possible so I wouldn't go off the edge) when I opened my eyes, it was one of the most magnificent things I had ever seen. It literally (and I don't mean literally the way most people mean, it actually happened) brought tears to my eyes. We got to stick around for the sunset and saw some beautiful views.

There was a rainbow going into the Canyon when we first got there.

After we waited around for a while, the sun started to set behind the rim, and rain started moving in, which created some really interesting views. There will be some more sunset pictures on our photo album as well.

One thing I did not know about the Grand Canyon is that they want to scare the heck out of all of their visitors. In every bookstore they sell a book that is the size of a dictionary and is entitled The Canyon of Death. It contains lots and lots of stories of people dying at Grand Canyon NP in all kinds of horrifyingly painful ways. There are also signs all over the park that tell stories of people who have died or almost died while hiking in the Canyon. I think the purpose is to get people to recognize their limits and take lots of water when they hike. The impact is to keep people on the rim. During our time their we decided to cut our one excursion into the canyone from 7 miles to 5 miles to 3 miles. We could have done 7 not problem.

The last morning, we got up to leave for Ruidoso and we decided to get up really early (4:45am) to see the sun rise over the Canyon. I learned that it is difficult to take good picturs of sun rises, so you'll have to settle for what we got, unless you go there yourself and drag yourself out of bed at 4:45 in the morning.

As you may or may not know. Our 40 days of purposelesness have come to an end. Today is 41 days since we left Siloam and Sarah and I are in my parents' house in Little Rock. In the next couple days we'll let you know about our stay in Austin, TX and provide a bit of a summary of our trip.

Monday, August 7

Apparently it is a little more difficult to find Wireless internet Cafes in Southwest than on the West Coast. Before I post pictures and tell about our Grand Canyon visit. I want to tell you about the fun we had in California.

Avilla Beach is a small beach community about 2.5 hours north of LA. It is a kind of hidden gem of the Pacific Coast, because not a lot of people know about it. While there we had the opportunity to go into the San Luis Obisbo area where we met a couple who was moving into the area from Dallas. Thankful for some good Southern company, we ended up hanging out with Tony and Hannah for the rest of the evening, we went and saw a funk band at a local dive and had a great time. Making new friends is so fun!

After leaving Avilla and heading down to Mission Viejo, we had the chance to hang out with Brandon all weekend. We were having so much fun with him and his friends that we decided to stick around for an extra day, delaying our Grand Canyon visit. The last evening we were there we went to a lake with Brandon and a whole bunch of other people. We rented Kayaks, took them to a relatively private area of the lake and engaged in "Kayak Jousting." This consisted of paddling toward one another at full speed, then dropping our oars and impact and trying to wrestle the other person into the water or into tipping their kayak. My shoulders, back, arms, and chest are all sore now.

Skipping over the Grand Canyon (I'll wait 'til we can show you some pictures) we arrived in Ruidoso, NM on Thursday evening. The scenery on the state highways rivaled any drive we've had so far, and the town is gorgeous. Now I know why every person from West Texas vacations here. I seriously think that I saw more Texas license plates than New Mexico plates.

Beth Miller (Leah’s mom, for those of you who know her) took us out to dinner to Casa Blanca, a great Mexican restaurant that is located in what used to be a huge vacation home. If anybody ever goes there, you should totally order the fried green chilies as an appetizer. Muy Bueno!!

Check back later this week for more updates . . . Including pictures of the Grand Canyon. (cue theme music) . . . (and we're clear).

Friday, August 4

Finally! A Bethlehem Update

This is a copy of an update email we sent this morning. If you would like to be added to our email list, send us an email to let us know to

Dear Friends and Loved Ones,

May this letter find you well and with the Love of God in you. The two of us have been preparing ourselves for Bethlehem, and are looking forward to our departure date with both excitement and a bit of trepidation.

First, to the issue on all of our minds. We have received a lot of phone calls and e-mails from many of you, which we greatly appreciate. In the last few weeks, we have contacted the House of Hope and they have said that the violence in Bethlehem really is not anything to be concerned about. We are still planning on flying out on August 21 and on staying there throughout the school year. While the war between Hizbollah and Israel is causing us some anxiety, we believe that God is still calling us to Bethlehem. Moreover, we have confidence that when God called us to the House of Hope, He knew that this latest development would take place. What has now changed is that we know more than we knew before. If you have any more questions or just want to talk to us, please feel free to give us a call or e-mail.

One thing that we do want to ask, is that when you read or hear about the violence in the Middle East to take time to pray for those who are affected by what is happening. Please also pray that God will work in the hearts of the leaders and the people of the Middle East and bring peace.
As far as our finances are concerned. God has been very faithful and our loved ones have been very generous. Out of the $13,367 that we targeted to raise we have raised $8,940. Over the next 9 months or so we hope to raise the other $4,327. The amount raised however, does not yet include pledges of support, which we will incorporate into our next update. Thank you so very much for your generosity! It makes our trip possible, and it also encourages us in immeasurable ways to know that you are behind us.

We also have a few specific prayer requests that we would like to share with you. If you are willing please include some of these requests when you speak to God about the two of us.
- Please pray for smooth transitions. A lot of things will change such as culture, language, our jobs, and our living conditions.
- Please pray for our families and friends who are staying here. Obviously, with the violence in the region, those who love us are worried about our safety. Please pray that God will comfort and help them feel safe.
- Pray for the students, staff, and volunteers at the House of Hope. Pray that we would all become closer to God and that we would reflect God in our relationships with one another.
- Pray for our relationships with God, that we would regularly take time to develop our relationship with Him. This will likely continue to be difficult as our lives become busier.

Thank you all again for your prayer and financial support. If you know anyone that would be interested in supporting us in prayer or financially, or in being on our e-mail list, please feel free to pass this letter on. Below is our contact information and the information that is needed to give financially.

Jason and Sarah Pollack
Phone (until August 21) 479-549-7753

To Give Money, Please Send To :
Every Nation Ministries
PO Box 94564
North Little Rock, AR 72190
When sending a check, please write Bethlehem Ministry in the memo line so that the money will be used for our ministry.

God Bless,

Jason and Sarah