Thursday, December 18

back in the motherland

we have arrived in the motherland. it's great to be here. my parents and rachel are loving hiba. i think they are also loving us, but mostly hiba. which is fine, because jason and i are getting a break.

let me tell you what i never want to do again - fly across the ocean with a child. unfortunately for me, we have to do it again in two months. i'm not counting down the days on that one. hiba was good - pleasant, happy, smiley, waving to everyone...just not sleeping. she slept for 1 hour out of 19. good times.

so, since we've been back in the motherland, i've enjoyed lots of dr. pepper, some cheddar cheese, a wonderful breakfast at cathy's corner, a yummy breakfast made by my dad, walmart, running (actually i didn't enjoy that, but i did go), and central heating. mexican food is on the menu tonight. bw3's will come soon.

Friday, December 5

Breaking News: Settlers Riot in Hebron

Yesterday, the Israeli military evicted a group of Jewish settlers from a home in Hebron. Both Palestinians and Israelis claim to own the house, and the supreme court in Israel had instructed that the settlers be evicted until the ownership claims could be settled. In response, groups of settlers have rampaged through Palestinian areas of Hebron. They have set homes and cars on fire, destroyed gravestones and defaced mosques, and fired guns indiscriminately into crowds of Palestinians.

Here is an account from the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

Here is another one from Haaretz. (Nadia Matar is quoted in this article. She is one of the leaders of the movement to take over Oush Ghrab, where our climbing tower is located)

Here is an account from TIME. (Update: I just realized that the man in the middle of the picture accompanying this article was one of the settlers who attacked us during a prayer service a few months ago)

I don't know what else to say. Please pay attention.

Here is an editorial from Haaretz.

Please pray for everyone here - enemies and all. Pray the Palestinian families will be safe today. Pray that the settlers' hearts will turn towards love. Pray for the soldiers as they are attacked by people of their own country. Pray that God's love and peace will somehow reign in Hebron today.

Monday, November 24

An Open Letter to My Detaining Officer

If you are interested, please read an article I wrote for Burnside Writer's Blog. Check it out here

I am going to start writing for Burnside once a month, and I'll link to those articles from here. I'd love to hear your input and feedback on the stuff that I write. 


Wednesday, November 5

Human Life-When does it matter?

 I found myself checking during my lunch break today, in order to read about the results of the election last night, to see what people were saying in other parts of the world, and to feel connect to what is happening in the US right now. I imagine cnn had (and will continue to have) a huge amount of traffic today due to the election. While I was looking around, I noticed this headline. 

As I read the story that this headline led me to I learned a few things.
-At least 20 rockets had been fired into Israel from Gaza last night and today
-The Israel Air Force carried out a number of attacks in Gaza
-Six Palestinians were killed

Now, let's say that you were required to write a headline for an article that included these three pieces of information. What would matter the most to you? What would you include in the headline in order to get people's attention? Imagine the average reader of an American newspaper: what would get him or her to click on that story. Don't worry about what you think the write answer should be, think about what would catch the average person's attention.

Have you thought about it?

Now, pretend instead that 6 Israeli's were killed in the rocket attacks. What would you put in your headline now? 

Monday, October 20

Lovin' Yo Enemies

Hey all, just wanted to let you know that Burnside Writers Collective posted something I wrote about loving your enemies. Some of the material was posted here first, but it's a bit more organized now. Check it out if you so desire. 

Friday, October 17

happy pumpkin day!

*so this was supposed to be posted yesterday, but i got kind of distracted by my husband's detainment by the israeli army. he always takes all the attention...*

today is pumpkin day. also known as my due date (or i guess actually my mom's due date when she was going to have me). also known as not-my-birthday day. my mom sent me a pumpkin outfit for hiba, since her half birthday falls on pumpkin day. so cute!

in honor of it not being my birthday, i'll take this opportunity to remind you that my birthday is soon (although not quite as soon as my mom would have liked...) and give you a list of things i would like for my birthday.

-mint chocolate chip ice cream
-the settlers to leave jason alone
-the soldiers to leave jason alone
-episodes 4 - 14 of season 4 of "the office" from iTunes
-20 lbs. of cheddar cheese
-peace in the middle east
-a season pass for season 5 of "the office" from iTunes
-winter clothes that are not stretched out from an enormous pregnant belly
-12 hours of sleep in a row
-a private jet to fly my friends and family here for a really awesome birthday party
-money, time, and energy to throw a really awesome birthday party
-black boots
-rain, but only if it doesn't come with really cold and windy weather
-a shopping spree at old navy or gap
-a case of dr. pepper
-an iPhone that is unlocked
-money to pay for all the cool apps that could come with an iPhone
-ziad's chickens to be fired

Monday, October 13

ziad and his chickens

last year (right around this time) when we bought our car, we thought we were getting a really good deal. ha! if only we had known... i mean, we were glad to have bought it when we did (since i was with child and not a fan of riding on the scooter), and we did end up paying less for it than we had planned. but since then, i has been the bain of my existence. i think our first clue should have been when the fuel pump happened to break as we were starting the car to drive home, literally one minute after shaking the guy's had that we bought it from. since that moment, we have had so much trouble with it. i think we've paid almost as much to fix the car as we did to buy it. too bad we didn't just buy a nicer one on a payment plan. i can't even list all the things we've had to get fixed but a short list includes the fuel pump, the water pump, the ignition, the distributer, the lights, the breaks, and oh yeah - rebuilding the engine.

so since we have a car that likes to visit the garage every other week or so, we have to have a mechanic. enter ziad. now, ziad is the second bain of my existnence. on the one hand, he is great. he is so nice, he will come resuce us wherever we happen to be stranded, he will let us borrow his car when ours is being fixed, he lets us pay him whenever we can. on the other hand, he sucks. the main problem with ziad is that he's our friend now, so we can't dump him. you just don't do that kind of thing here - you stick with whatever mechanic, gas guy, plumber, or other guy that you start with, espcially if you become friends. his other problems include that he's at least an hour later than he says he will be to resuce us, he takes at least two hours longer to fix our car than he says he will, and we always, always, ALWAYS have to take it back to him to tweek something.

we think we've figured out why this is. ziad has some chickens in his garage. they just run around while he works on the cars and they're always covered in motor oil, much like the mechanics are. the chickens are very important to ziad. he's told us this. our newest theory is that when we take our car to his garage, ziad sticks the chickens under the hood, closes it, lets them peck around for a few minutes, opens the hood and calls it fixed. then he drives our car around for a while to see if it works, and when it sort of does, he brings it back to us. then the next day when it won't work for us, he comes to our house and actually does the work here.

and if he doesn't let the chickens fix it, he has very, shall we say...unconvential ways of fixing things. for example, the water from our ratiator leaks. this is after the chickens pecking at it at least five times. so the other day, which he was working on the distributor, i mentioned that the water was still leaking. then i went inside becuase hiba was taking a nap and i figured she would wake up soon. a few minutes later, andrew (our neighbor who works with jason) shows up at the door holding a cap to a water bottle and says: "ziad needs you to fill this with black pepper". yes, that is right. apparently, if your water leaks you can pour a cap full of black pepper in the radiator and it works as a plug. i think the chickens were hungry.

Friday, October 10

the palestinian sonic

so there is an ice cream place right near our house, flavors. when we first moved in here i was really excited about it because i was pregnant and could eat ice cream all the time (you know, cravings and all that fun stuff) and it wasn't too expensive. it was 4 shekels for a cone and the cones were a good size. and they always gave me extra. but then it closed for the winter (because eating ice cream in the winter makes you sick...) and when it opened this last spring, it had a new owner. they changed the menu and added a bunch of stuff like sandwiches and pizza and slushies, which i was very excited about. but then we realized that it is way more expensive than last year and the cones are smaller, so we stopped going. if i wanted ice cream, i just got it from the grocery store and i didn't think of trying the slushies because i figured they were way overpriced. i was kind of boycotting it, not so much actively, but i just never went to flavors. all summer - like when it was really hot and a cold treat would have been really nice. especially a slushie.

last week, my friend jessie came over and she brought slushies from flavors. they were sooooooo good. kind of like a palestinian sonic slushie. and they are only 5 shekels and come in medium subway cups. they have four flavors and you can mix them if you want. my favorite is berry-lemon. it's delicious.

last night after going for a walk with hiba, i stopped and got one. when i got home, i was very hot from pushing her huge stroller, but she was really hungry and ready to go to bed, so i stuck the slushie in the freezer, fed hiba, and put her to bed. i was still quite warm, so i was excited about my berry-lemon slushie. i ate it really fast. when i was done, i was freezing. so i put on a big sweatshirt and closed all the windows. i was about to light up the heater, but i thought might be a little dramatic. but even though it made me freeze, i still loved it and am glad i discovered them.

it's too bad that i discovered this in OCTOBER, now that it's getting cold. it is especially cold at night, which is when i like to go for walks, and therefore the most likely time that i will buy one. but, unlike most people around here, i don't mind eating cold treats in the winter. i'll go buy a slushie and then come back home and eat it in front of a heater. or put on lots of warm clothes and climb under my down comforter. i just hope that flavors stays open this winter so i can enjoy my new found favorite treat.

Tuesday, September 23

Ramadan Kareem

Ramadan Kareem! That's the traditional Ramadan greeting here. Well, things have slowed down a bit for us. Here is a quick update on life as we know it:

-The settlers haven't come back too many times since the prayer service. I don't know what their new plan of attack is, but I'm sure they aren't gone for good. Praise God that they haven't interfered with any more of Paidia's work, but please continue to pray for the whole situation.

- Paidia is taking a break from most of the programs because it is Ramadan. It's a good time to take a breath and plan a little.

-Jason is playing rugby with the Beit Jala Lions. He leaves Friday for a 10 day trip to Cyprus. He loves it, Sarah tolerates it (with a smile, of course).

-Sarah is still working part time and being a mom full time. It's quite a fun job.

-Hiba is still very cute and growing every day. She is officially a US citizen, as we finally had an appointment to get her passport.

-Ramadan = time change, so it gets dark at 6ish. The good news is it starts getting cool around 3 or 3:30, which is making the days much more pleasant. The bad news is Jason and I want to go to bed at like 7:30 every night because it's dark and Hiba's in bed...and then we realize it's 7:30.

-And now - here is Hiba in all of her cuteness. You can see more pictures of her here, here, here, here, and here. Or become my friend on Facebook (if you're lucky...)

At the beach in Tel Aviv

Pretty in Pink

She eats real food now...well, sort of.

Thursday, August 28

two years...

two years ago yesterday was our first trip to jericho. you can read about it on our blog in the archives. i hated it. in fact, i was pretty sure i hated being in palestine and would never stay here. i've come a long way.

our first trip to jericho was miserable. jason says it was an adventure - i say it was a disaster. it was soooo hot. we rode on a bus with no air conditioning, bad breaks, and a bus driver with no sense of time. we went with people who we didn't know. it took two hours to get there and like four hours to get back. we knew about four words of arabic. we had no plan, no food, no schedule, and by the end i had no intention of ever visiting jericho again.

today we went to jericho. it was still hot, but not miserable. we went in our own car with air conditioning on our own time. we went with one really good friend and three newer friends who will be really good friend. we left from our house with our child and came back when we wanted to. we went because we wanted to, not because we felt we had to. we could speak the language, or at least sort of. it was a really fun day.

if you had told me this is what my life would be like two years ago, i would never have believed you. when you finally got me to believe you, i probably would have cried. but we are really happy now. we have a good house. we have a church. we have a wonderful community of friends, both internationals and palestinians. we have jobs that we like. we have a butcher and a supermarket. it's amazing to look back and see how God has placed us here over the last two years and all that He has done for us. and it makes me wonder what in the world He has for us next...

Monday, August 25


One of Jesus of Nazareth's most famous statements was recorded by the Apostle Matthew in the 5th chapter of his gospel. "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven."

The 'Love Your Enemy" ethic is one of the most revolutionary and striking things about Jesus' teachings while he was walking around in 1st century Palestine. Now, 2000 or so years later, it is one of the most difficult to apply. For many people, it is difficult to apply because it doesn't feel like we really have enemies. Sure, my neighbor might be really loud late at night, and that guy at the work really annoys the hell out of me when he takes credit for my work, but those aren't enemies. It doesn't cost me a lot to pray for them (of course that doesn't mean I always do it).

For the first time in my life, I actually have enemies. The 200-300 Israeli Jewish Settlers who are trying to take over the land that is bordering Paidia's Adventure Gardens consider me their enemy, and I suppose that I consider them my enemies as well, as they are trying to destroy the work to which I have devoted the last year of my life. They harass me and others in our group over e-mail and phone, they try to get us deported, and a couple weeks ago, they physically assaulted us. When they speak with us, they have hate in their eyes and their voices, and they say things that are supposed to hurt as much as possible.

In the aftermath of our most recent interaction with the settlers, me and a couple others sat together and talked about the idea of praying for our enemies. We decided we wanted to try and get together and pray for the individual settlers with whom we have interacted. We haven't done it yet.

Busyness is one possible excuse, we all have jobs, families, and other responsibilities, but I have think that they idea is not as exciting in practice as it is in theory. To actually look at a picture of someone who hates me, and ask God to bless that person, to fill them with His love, and to do it without an agenda, is a tall, tall order. To respond to taunts of "Jew-Hater," "Euro-Trash," and "Nazi" with blessings seems downright unreasonable. In fact, I have found that I usually end up day-dreaming about ways to "get" the settlers when I sit down to pray for them, and before I know it, I'm angrier than when I started.

I'm not entirely sure what my conclusions is on this topic. I have to do what I have been commanded to do regardless of the discomfort involved, and, to be honest, it hasn't gotten any easier as I have tried to start praying for them on my own. Maybe the solution is our first idea, praying together, supporting one another in this audacious and unreasonable command that Jesus has given us may be the first step to actually doing it.

Friday, August 8

Pray-ers for Peace

Wednesday evening, at about 6:30pm, a group of internationals and Palestinians gathered at Oush Ghrab for an ecumenical service. The Army base is actually built next to ruins of a Byzantine church, so it seemed an appropriate location. We knew in advance that the settlers who were trying to establish a settlement on that site would be holding an event that evening, and we thought we might get kicked out early in the night. We decided, however, that some prayer is better than none, and we went ahead with our plans for the service.

The group praying near the end of the evening

When the first settlers arrived, they questioned us and what we were doing there. Some of them told us to leave, that this was land only for Jews, but we continued with the service. Gradually, more and more settlers showed up with more and more equipment. We hadn't realized this was going to be such a big event, but we carried on singing songs, praying, and listening to some heartfelt sermons.

Our group is to the right of this shot

As the evening got later, some of the children of the settler group started to come over to us. Actually, they climbed on the roof of the building next to us. They began to wave their flags in our faces and mock our words and actions. We moved away from them, more toward the center of the site, and made a prayer circle. As a group, we discussed the things that made us thankful and then began to pray for peace. The praying was followed by singing.

Sometime in the middle of our singing, the settlers decided that they did not want us there anymore. A dozen or so kids put themselves in the middle of our group and started chanting nationalist slogans. The soldiers sensed trouble was brewing and lined themselves up between our group and the main group of settlers. Their "efforts" to keep the settlers away from us proved futile, and we were overrun by 100 or so angry settlers who pushed, hit, kicked and prodded us back into a corner. The English speaking settlers (most of them) shouted at us to "go back to Europe" and "get off Jewish land." One man taunted our minister for his belief in Jesus, saying "if he comes back, we'll kill him again."
All the while, we hear a woman screaming Hebrew into the microphone. Later on, a friend translated for us. She was shouting, "push them back! Get them out of here!"

The minister leading our service just ducked a flag pole (right side)

One we were in the corner, the soldiers decided to keep us back, rather than punishing the people who provoked the violence. In fact, both groups simply carried on doing what we were doing, although we spent a good hour searching for lost glasses, backpacks, etc that had been knocked off during the fracas. I was incredibly proud of the group of people I was with that day, as they showed great restraint in the face of insults and violence.

As the settler event came to a close, the men and women rose to pray. In contrast to the disrespect that the settlers showed to us, we grew quiet and prayed along with them.

Lord, we ask that you bring peace to this land.

Monday, August 4

Life Takes Over

Who knew that running an NGO, having a child, and being unwillingly drafted into a political showdown in the Middle East could be this time-consuming? In order to catch people up on what has been going on (all both of you who still check this blog, thanks mom and Steph) I'd like to fill you in on the above mentioned items: Hiba, Paidia, and the settlers.

Hiba: I'm going to start with her, because I like her the most of the three. I never imagined that I could get so much enjoyment from spending time with someone who never talks to me, only occasionally recognizes me, and constantly pukes on me. I often find myself trying to leave the office early, skip out on social obligations, etc just so I can spend time with Hiba, and she doesn't even know the difference! I know that a lot of parents feel this way about their children, but I really think that she is the most beautiful, strong, and intelligent 3.5 month old that has ever occupied the planet. Seriously, check out these pictures.

Look at that personality! Those beautiful blue eyes! Her smile! Sorry moms and dads of other children, it's been decided . . . mine is the best.

Paidia: We've just completed summer camps, and while this is technically the second summer that we have held camps, this is the first summer that we have done independent summer camps, without going through another organization. Let me tell you, that is very different. The most importance difference was recruiting kids to be a part of camp, which is more work than you might think. Simply getting our name out there for the community to be aware of was more effort than I imagined. But, after all is said and done, we did give about 60 kids the chance to be a part of one of the coolest camps that Palestine has seen. A number of people from here and from the states contributed money to the camp effort, and for that we are very thankful. There are some kids who got to attend camp that would have spent the week waiting for their parents to get home from work if y'all hadn't stepped up. Thank you very, very much.

Settlers: Now this is where this update really gets long. On May 15, a group of right-wing Israeli's descended upon an abandoned army base that directly borders Paidia's Jack Forrest Adventure Gardens. The group's stated purpose was to start a new Jewish settlement on the land, because they wanted to prevent the Palestinians from building a hospital for children with disabilities (the land is under the jurisdiction of the Israeli Army, but is owned by the Municipality of Beit Sahour, the town we live in). A number of Palestinians and internationals (including the Piston family and Paidia employees and volunteers) gathered in the are to see what the Israeli Army would do. After all, there were signs posted on the road leading to the area that inform Israeli citizens that their presence is illegal in the area (since it is a Palestinian town). Eventually, the settlers left that day, but they promised to come back.

Who wouldn't want this guy as a neighbor?

They have come back over a dozen times since that initial foray into our lives, and they show no signs of stopping. They have stated their intentions to start a settlement in a number of right-wing websites and newspapers, and thus far, little has been done to stop them. Each time they come, the settlers spray paint the base with racist and nationalist graffiti, hang some Israeli and right-wing flags, and leave. Each time, we paint over the graffiti with pictures and sometimes silly things, remove the flags, and we leave.

So far, we have been unable to discern the intentions of the authorities in the midst of all this. The military that shows up to the site every time the settlers come are basically just there to protect the settlers (even though they are the ones carrying guns anyway) and regularly give us conflicting answers to lie to us outright when we ask them about what they are going to do. The army and the Israeli civil authority continue to say that they are not going to allow the settlement to be built, but that is something that can easily change if the political winds change.

The last encounter we had with settlers was particularly disturbing. Some of us were painting over graffiti from the week before when a group of about 70 teenagers came onto the site, they started shouting at us to leave, that the land was only for Jews, and threw at least one paintbrush and a rock at some people who ignored them and continued to paint. The soldiers watched. Rather than risking confrontation or injury, we decided to abandon our painting project. The group of settlers spent the night at the site, despite the fact that the soldiers present told us the teenagers were not allowed to be there.

A settler shouting at a Paidia volunteer.

If the settlers succeed in establishing a settlement at this location, Paidia's Adventure Gardens, the Municipal park, and the children's hospital that Cure International wants to build here are all finished. Even now, we have noticed fewer families coming to our free climb because they are afraid of settlers and soldiers. I really don't know what will happen next. I wish I could have faith in the Israeli government and army to do the right thing, but I am far from convinced that they will.

God Bless,

P.S. If you are interested in learning more about the issue of settlements in the West Bank, the links below contain useful information.

Monday, June 23

we're still here

so this update is a little overdue. sorry about that. we'll try to post more often now that we have something to post about.

hiba is growing every day. she is now a little over two months. she is a very happy baby - always smiling, hardly ever crying, loves being around people, and in the last few days has become very vocal. it's like she's just discovered she can make loud noises, not just "coos". so cute. we are having tons of fun with her. her latest accomplishments include sleeping through the night (that's actually not so new, thanks to the miracle blanket), holding her head steady when we hold her up up on our shoulders, lifting her head while on her stomach (although she hates tummy time...but if she's laying on jason, she'll hold her head up), saying "gaa" when she's not actually just swallowing spit-up while trying to talk, and yesterday jason heard her say "ba". basically, she's a genius.

other than hiba, our lives are more of the same as ever. i (sarah) go back to work on monday. i'm only working part time and i'll take hiba with me, so it will be interesting to see how that goes. paidia has been pretty busy this summer, between planning for summer camps (which start next month), finishing up the spring programs, trying to keep settlers away, and planning for next fall. we're both taking arabic lessons, which are going well. i realized i need to get serious about learning arabic, because otherwise hiba and jason will be able to talk and plot together without me understanding.

well, that's a brief update on our lives. here are the links to some photo albums of hiba. i hope you enjoy them!

Some more of Hiba

More Hiba

Hiba Michelle

Sunday, April 20

4 days old

today hiba is 4 days old. i think that she is the best baby in the entire world. i guess most new moms probably think that, but i'm pretty sure that i'm right about her.

the last few days have been wonderful. i stayed overnight in the hospital for two nights, which was a good slow start, but i am so glad to be home now. i've been getting plenty of sleep between kathy's help (jason's mom) and hiba's wonderfulness. hiba is so adorable and just sleeps and eats and makes really cute faces. she is not a fan of getting changed, but even then she is easily calmed down and goes back to being pretty chilled out.

hiba's name is an arabic name that means "gift from God". there is a girl who lives at the house of hope who she is named after. i have told big hiba that our baby would have the same name as her and she's very excited. we are going tomorrow to see the kids and people at the house of hope, so i am sure big hiba will be very excited to meet little hiba. michelle is my best friend's middle name. we decided a while ago that we would give our first daughters each other's middle names. she had a girl in november who has my middle name. so that's where her name comes from.

we (me, kathy, and hiba) ventured out of the house yesterday afternoon to visit jason while he was working at the climbing tower. hiba was not so impressed with her first outing - she slept through the entire thing. we got a few dirty looks and "haram"s (which literally means "forbidden", but is used in everyday speech to refer to anything that is bad or people disagree with) because she is so little and out of the house. i'm pretty sure that people here don't take their babies out of the house before they are about a month old, but they definitely wait more than three days. so we were definitely going against cultural norms. luckily, we all survived.

so, life is going and we are loving it. it's still very surreal that we have a child, but it's wonderful.

Saturday, April 19

And so it goes

I am sitting on my sofa as I type this blog. My parents in the next room resting from last night (none of us slept much) and my beautiful daughter in my arms. She is sleeping, which is apparently in her top five favorite activities along with eating, burping, spitting up, and waste elimination. I assume that none of you are all that interested in my words, and you would rather see pictures, so here are a few.

I forgot Hiba's 6th favorite pastime, sticking her tongue out at everything she sees.

Momma, right after we got home with Hiba for the first time.

All three of us together. Hiba's not really down with the whole picture thing yet.

This was in the hospital. She is trying to nurse my finger.

So, we are now parents. I am trying to start Hiba off on the right foot by watching some Spurs highlights and listening to good music (Bob Dylan is playing right now). So far she is not impressed, but I guess we'll have plenty of time to get her pointed in the right direction.

Thursday, March 27

things that don't surprise me

-hearing rustling outside my window and looking out to see a heard of sheep and a couple of shepherds just hanging out.
-cars driving the wrong way down one-way streets
-cars driving backwards the wrong way down one-way streets (but facing the correct direction)
-hearing arabic all around me
-traffic jams that are caused by someone getting out to talk to a friend while leaving his or her car in the middle of the road
-driving down the main road in bethlehem and passing a guy riding a donkey
-having (at least) three different grocery stores that i go to to get my weekly grocery shopping done
-not having ice cream in the winter
-things that should take five minutes taking an afternoon

i wish that i had pictures to go with these. but blogger is being a pain in the butt with uploading pictures, plus our camera batteries aren't working so great. but i'll post pictures when i can. because these are the things that are now my everyday life. and it's not strange anymore, it's just life. and i've learned that if i really think of us living here, nothing i see or hear really surprises me anymore.

Thursday, February 28

days like these...

sometimes i wish that we lived back in the states. or actually in town. or in a smaller apartment so it would stay warm. but then, there are days like yesterday and today when i love our house so much and never want to live anywhere else.

last night, we cooked out for dinner and then hung out on our balcony with munther, salim, and rachel playing settlers of catan while having a bonfire. and it's february. and i wasn't even cold. (granted, i was by the fire the whole time, but no one else was complaining either. except muther, but he always complains).

today it is sunny and about 70 degrees. and our view is amazing. we ate dinner outside because it was way warmer on our balcony than in our house.

in other news, i am 34 weeks pregnant and ready for 40 weeks to be here. i think every day i wake up and my belly is huger than the day before. she is kicking and stretching and moving a ton, which is fun and everything, but i'm ready to see her kick and stretch outside of my body.

Monday, February 18

Israel News

I know that I tend to refrain from posting anything political on this blog. For one thing, the political opinions I held when I moved here have shifted considerably up to this day, I don't want to put something in writing that I may disagree with down the line. However, I believe this article from Haaretz is worth reading. The settler problem is one of the big issues that is preventing Israeli-Palestinian peace, and for that reason, any significant developments are worth noting. Furthermore, the fact that the Civil Administration was willing to release this information is a promising sign (I hope). The rationale for keeping this information a secret (it will damage the state's security and foreign relations) shows how far Israel still has to go. Anyway, please read the article and if you have questions or comments, post away.

Thursday, February 14

Happy Valentines Day

I am, by my own admission, a mushy sap. I don't try to deny it, and I think it is fairly public information at this point, so why fight it.

I was remembering this morning how hectic February the 14th used to be for me. When I was in college, the entire day was often spent setting up some sort of romantic scene, making dinner, or some heartfelt gift. For some reason, neither Sarah nor I feel the same need to work so hard to express our love this valentines day, but don't worry, I think that's a good thing.

Right now, I'm marveling at the fact that I happen to be married to a person who I love to hang out with. I always hoped that this would be the case, but it still seems to be the exception to the rule that a husband is happier with his wife than without her. I would rather do almost anything with Sarah than do that same thing without her. I try to get off work as soon as I can in the afternoon because I know she is home. I think that's a good sign, even if we don't make collaged cards or buy chocolate hearts for each other.

Either that, or I'm just making excuses.

Wednesday, February 13

Wasting my life away

For quite a while now, probably since my Sophomore year of college, I (jason) have been worried about how much time I spend (watching, playing, reading about, etc) sports. Well, good news everyone, all that wasted time is now starting to pay off.

My closest friend in the area was made through sports. Last year, during the NBA playoffs, I would go over to his house at 3 or 4 in the morning 2 or 3 times a week to watch the Spurs play, we are also in a Fantasy Basketball league and still watch a lot of sports at his place. Our friendship has also given us the opportunity to work together on ministry opportunities and he has been a good source of encouragement and challenge to me during my time here.

For the last four months, I have been playing basketball for Thaqafee Beit Sahour sports club. I'm on a team of about 10 other guys, mostly younger than me. We practice twice a week and play games every once in a long while. It's been quite an experience, and an opportunity to make friends, learn Arabic, and get some exercise.

As of last week, I am the head coach for a brand-new basketball team at the Hope School in Beit Jala. The school used to have a basketball program, but it has not existed for a least a few years. We have had about 3 practices now, and I know that I am in for quite an experience. Between their inexperience and my very rough Arabic, each practice is like a new episode in a slapstick comedy. Seriously, I think I could post videos of the entire two-hour practice and people would watch just for the laughs. But I’m not going to do that. I do, however, expect big things out of these guys, and I think coaching this team will help me grow in a lot of ways as well.

I guess I didn’t waste all that time after all . . .

Wednesday, January 23


last weekend was quite a busy one. we went to jericho on friday to celebrate the epiphany and then had a huge bbq at a place called banana land. a seriously huge bbq. there were 3 kilos of meat for 8 people.

but the highlight of my weekend was definitely saturday. we were invited to visit hebron with haithem, who works at the house of hope. fida, one of the house parents, came with us as well. we went to visit baraa, who is no longer attending the house of hope, and to pick up hiba because her parents hadn't brought her back from vacation yet. then we went to haithems house and ate more food, even though both jason and i were still full from friday. we got a taxi back to bethlehem and then jason and i got to hang out at the house of hope for a little while before heading home.

the best part about it for me was getting to hang out with hiba. she is awesome. i want everyone to meet her, because she is the sweetest little girl. i loved seeing her at her house, because she is so "normal". she was playing with her sisters, showed me her room, pointed out the fifty posters she has of some arabic singer guy on her wall, danced around, acted very sassy, and gave me lots of hugs. she attends the house of hope because she has hearing problems and at one point her family though she had brain damage, but as she's grown it looks like she only had post-traumatic stress and she is fine now. except she can't hear.

hiba was born with no problems. well, no physical problems. she comes from a family of 11, six girls and three boys, and her parents are both unemployed. her two oldest brothers work some, but only when they can find work. their family lives in the old city of hebron, which is quite a political hot spot. her house is about five rooftops away from the ibrahim mosque. on her roof is an outpost for israeli soldiers.

when hiba was about three, she fell and hit her head. she was either running away from seeing the soldiers or scared in her bed from the soldiers. both would make a lot of sense, as her bedroom has a clear view of the roof and their house is built with on about three different levels. whatever happened, the fall caused damage to hiba's hearing, as well as traumatic stress. for years, she was very reclusive, terrified of the soldiers, not talking to people, and not thriving at all. after a few years at the house of hope, hiba has found her smile again. she is a beautiful, fun, laughing nine-year-old who loves life and has even learned to not be terrified of the soldiers on her roof.

so back to saturday. i loved it. hiba loved it. she got to be a normal kid, hanging out with grownups. she went with us to visit baraa and helped to take care of her. she was served coffee and tea and cookies wherever we went, which is huge because kids never get coffee or tea. at haithem's, she ate lunch with me and jason, fida, and haithem. then she got to sit out on the balcony with us and drink more tea. hiba had a great time because she got to hang out with the grownups. i had a great time because i had someone to talk to and entertain me. after spending a day with her, i want her to hear more than almost anything in the world, because i know she can have a full life. she is so bright, such a quick learner, such a people person. if she got her hearing fixed, i really think she will thrive. it was wonderful to see this while we were hanging out.

jason and i are in the process of trying to raise money to get her hearing aids. they will cost NIS 3500, or around $950, which is more than her family could ever think of affording. we have $700 so far. if you are interested in helping with this, email jason or i and we'll tell you how you can help out. in the meantime, pray for hiba. pray that she will continue to grow into a beautiful, confident young lady. pray that the fear that crippled the beginning of her life will not return. pray that she will continue to smile and laugh every day.

Thursday, January 17

beautiful day

yesterday, it was about 65* outside in the sun. unfortunately, it was still like 20* inside thanks to our stone walls and floors. so jason and i spent the afternoon on our balcony playing "ticket to ride" and drinking tea. it was so nice. we have a beautiful view and it was warm and relaxing and just an all around great afternoon.

i am 28 weeks along, which means that there are only 12 weeks until the baby comes (hopefully). that's not very long. i have a feeling that when she does arrive, relaxing afternoons of playing games and drinking tea will be few and far between. but that's ok, because we'll have a child, which is better than those afternoons. at least in the long run, or that's what they say. :-)

Friday, January 4

Christmas Break

this break has been good. especially for me, since i have nothing to do so it's a real vacation. here's a little rundown on how the break has gone so far.

-lots of christmas parties. i think that in some ways we try to overcompensate for the lack of family and old friends around at christmas time, so we ended up doing a lot. we had a party at our house with a gift exchange that was tons of fun. rachel had a party at her house on christmas eve. we had some volunteers from the bible college and other friends over on christmas morning to have breakfast. i had two parties to go to for the bible college and we went to one dinner for the churches in bethlehem.

-christmas eve at manger square. there were tons of people there. we stayed to watch the bible college choir sing and then left because it was so crowded. it was good to see so many tourists. jason and i thought that there were a lot of people last year, just because there were the most people we had seen in once place since we had come to bethlehem, but this year was insane.

-two christmas dinners. one was on christmas day at alex and jamie's (friends from our church in jerusalem). i made scalloped potatoes and found my calling for what to make when for potlucks or dinners where we bring a side dish. they were really good. the day after christmas, we had a dinner at our church in jerusalem. it was a lot of fun. and my scalloped potatoes were just as good as the first batch.

-new years eve party. we had our neighbors over, along with two other couples from bethlehem and played ticket to ride, settlers of catan and dance dance revolution all night.

-lots of games of settlers and ticket to ride. me, jason, rachel, salim, and munther have played more games than i can even begin to count.

-laying around and relaxing. it's been a good time to take a break, catch up on sleep, and do not much of anything.

so that's the short version of all the festivities. pictures will follow shortly.