You may very well ask after last week’s rather depressing message how could anyone possibly find anything good to pass along. Perhaps it was with this goal in mind of finding some positive aspects to the circumstances that exist in Palestine that allowed me through the week to truly appreciate many things that I otherwise might have overlooked or dismissed.
Regardless of the situation, regardless of the location, nature and all her glory was always there to offer up all of her elements for us to enjoy and admire. This is indeed a very rugged country, a country where Jesus and his disciples once walked but also where Abraham and Mohammed also once walked. Walking over the hills, stepping around and between boulders on the rocky and steep slopes you watch for any signs of life including being on the look-out for poisonous snakes and spiders. Often you are treated to a gazelle bounding away quickly and silently. More often it is the vegetation, the prickly cactus that grab your ankles and footwear as you step through it, the many kinds of cactus, the barely which not only feed the wild animals, serve as the fodder for the shepherds’ sheep and goats and provide the main ingredient for their homemade bread.
Having walked the various hills and valley’s for the over two months now I have come to appreciate what nature has to offer, reminding me of the lessons I learned while attending the Moosehide Gathering of First Nations back in my home Yukon Territory. The First Nations have much to teach us about respecting all of nature. Walking the hills of South Hebron Hills, not only has helped in shedding some of the weight I must find a way to lose, but has also reminded me of the incredible opportunities that abound in the Yukon to enjoy nature that I have been taking for granted and not enjoying. Here which I am sure no matter where one lives or travels nature offers up many incredible portraits that can be saved digitally or in ones memory to enjoy for many years to come.
On Thursday night we again visited a small community located in the Masafer Yatta, the Firing Zone where virtually every village is under siege, threatened with all of the challenges I mentioned in prior message yet they are forever welcoming, opening up their homes to complete strangers from around the world. As I lie on the mat on the floor of this cave that provides this family room for sleeping, eating and entertainment I couldn’t help but reminded of igloos I have slept in the past. The rounded walls tapering to the peak where a small vent is cut to allow for ventilation. The walls are much rougher than that of an igloo, the uneven surface both the result of nature and many years of being inhabited by man. One can look out the open doorway to see the facing hills and glimpse of sky standing on top of the hills. The resident’s two guard dogs are doing their job all night, forever chasing predators far away from the penned livestock of sheep and a variety of domestic birds.
I went outside around three in the morning to take in the serenity, to enjoy the full moon and many stars. The sound of wild dogs and possibly hyenas could be heard in the distance in every direction offset by also far away shepherd’s dogs chasing away these animals looking for an easy meal. Occasionally the un-named guard dogs, referred to by their owners as just “the dogs” return. One of the dogs has remained quite distant and cautious of me even after the numerous visits and overnight stays. One however, almost pure golden Labrador retriever has made friends and stands beside me, leaning into my legs wanting a head rub, as I sit on a rock taking in the night, reminding me very much of my dog waiting for me at home.
Overhead the sky was almost clear, only the occasional wispy cloud being moved along quickly and out of sight over the horizon of the night sky. Off to the east and south however, towards Jordon, Syria and Egypt the skies were much more foreboding, with a constant lighting display that stretched for many miles and offering some much needed rain. On the 8th of October we had received a light shower, the first rain of any form that I have experienced since arrival in Palestine. This rain serves as the only source of water for several of the villages we visited, collecting the water in cisterns to use for domestic use, water their livestock, water their crops.
As I enjoyed perhaps not all, but much of what nature has to offer in Palestine I could not help but reflect on the spirit and generosity of everyone we have met. Reminded how much these people, regardless of their day to day struggles, and perhaps some by necessity, but nonetheless how much they also truly admire the beautiful sunset, how they know which cactus offers a cure for muscle pain, how they can maximize the barren terrain not only to feed their livestock but to feed themselves by for example making bred out of the wild barley. It has reminded me of the Inuit who live in the most extreme of climates in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories in Canada and who have been able to survive for centuries by respecting and using what nature has to offer.
Visiting one small community early in the week we were sitting in another cave that serve as the main residence for this family. I should mention at this time that the individual we were talking to has three wives currently and I say currently because he had two others but things didn’t quite work out. During the meeting he got into a conversation with Abet, our driver and interpreter about religion, which were translated as he went on to us. He was telling the various stories as he has been taught as a Muslim, which corresponded to what we as Christians have read as part of the Old Testament. I made me wonder why, when all the main religions, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam have so much t share why there has been so much blood shed in struggles between them over the past centuries.
This has all re-awakened my awareness in what nature has to offer when I return home and that I absolutely have to commit to enjoying and appreciating what I truly have been taking for granted.
It was about mid-week before I also realized in Canada that they will be celebrating Thanksgiving this coming Sunday. It has reminded me of all that I have to be thankful for including the love of my family, friends and of course my dog and cat. I know in reading this my family will not be convinced that I am anxious to return to enjoy the many physical assets I am fortunate to have, like a large screen TV and a great truck, but surprisingly that even though I indeed enjoy these luxuries again, it is the love of my family and friends, the enjoyment of nature, the strive to get in better shape to enjoy nature that I count as my blessings. I also count what we don’t have as blessings, the many forms of oppression and occupations that I have addressed before, the wide spread poverty, the freedom to move and enjoy life away from constant surveillance.
They don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in Palestine which perhaps explains why I am sure every time saw a turkey wandering around a villager’s yard this week it seemed to be quite content and confident. I can appreciate the feeling.
May God bless all nature and the inhabitants that enjoy the endless beauty offered for our enjoyment and amazement.
A very special Thanksgiving to all Canadians, particularly my wife, children and grandchildren.