How are you? Keef halick? It's a simple and common inquiry. It can be as deep or as shallow as we like. Thus far, the response here has been "mopseuda," or "mopseude" 100% of the time. seriously. At least when i've asked the people around me. Mopseuda means happy in Arabic (the feminine version anyway), and i feel like cheating each other of honest answers and authenticity may just be more universal than i had perceived. Maybe people are just trying to be polite, and that's fair... but i'm interning in the hospital psychiatric ward. I'm just not that easily appeased by pat answers from stretched and troubled patients. We've been observing life on the hospital grounds for a couple weeks, and it's very clear that no one has it breezy.
This city (Nazareth) is broken and segregated beyond what we can even understand. Religion (by birth - not so much as practice) and formal citizenship determines an astronomically large portion of your identity. Naz is the largest Arab city in Israel, yet it still retains a Jewish section. The Jewish area is in an entirely different neighborhood, far out on a separate hill. It's even called by a different name: Nazareth Illit. "Illit" is pronounced like "elite" and the name definitely led to some preliminary embarrassment at my expense. My good friend Kat (27 year old, nominal Muslim, psych patient) has lived in Nazareth her entire life and never had a Jewish friend. Nothing against Jews or Arabs here: they just don't seem to associate with one another. They VERY rarely attend the same schools.
There are also obvious divisions between the Arabs themselves. I was aware that there were hardships for Arab Christians in other countries. I had heard about the shrinking Church in Coptic Egypt, the dissipating Maronites in Syria, the persecution of Iraqi believers... but i was ignorant in thinking that Israel would be different. Christianity is an identity that you're born into here, and converting from Islam is a nearly unheard of familial/societal disgrace. Culturally, conversion just isn't something that you easily "do." in fact, i would compare the apparent difficulty of coming to know Christ to someone trying to change their race or skin color. It happens, but it certainly comes with incredible consequences. Naturally, i feel like Philippians 3:8 offers great encouragement for this. But I've found that this verse is not to be taken lightly, and especially not here.
For further segregating features of Israel, let's also mention the difficulty of language. Not our personal difficulties (which are understandably more numerous than the stars in the sky), but the difficulties among the native people. Arabic is a language with almost countless dialects. The accent changes from town to town, and even between Bedouin communities. Kat was trying to help translate what another woman was attempting to convey to me, but she simply could not understand her unique accent. And these are both Israeli Arab Muslim women from around the Galilee region! How is it then feasible to expect unified and coherent opinions to come from all the 1.3 million scattered Arab people all over Israel?...including those in the West Bank refugee camps where standardized education is non-existent.
These past couple weeks have been an incredible overdoes of information. Getting professional opinions on the education systems, foreign aid, political regimes, religious movements, globalization, human services, and cultural taboos has left my head reeling and heart feeling at just a little bit lost. Thankfully, a busy head can also make busy hands. The entire team has been working heartily at their placements and enjoying the numerous opportunities for ministry and practical contribution. Fun and genuine relationships have been established, and are continuing to be sought. I can't believe that we're already leaving here (and going to Bethlehem) next week. We're looking forward to more learning and helping in another town - one that promises to have a lot of different challenges and charms. Frankly, I think we're just all itching to settle in on the other side of the wall.
I hope you don't mind some of this rambling. I could probably continue on for days, maybe even years... In fact, i guess i have been going off for the past two years already - ever since i first heard the Islamic call to prayer in July 2010, in East Jerusalem. The passion in the country is both contagious and overwhelming.
Welp, I have to go back to "work." We're visiting the children's ward this afternoon, and later i'll go back to check on Kat (who was thoroughly beaten by a manic patient recently - please pray that she recovers asap). I'm aware that I can't, we can't, and you can't piece together all of Israel's fragments. But i know that Jesus wants to. Please continue to pray that He will administer a greater peace and wholeness, beginning in the high hills of Nazareth . While you do that, we're going to try to keep bringing Him into this place through our continued efforts to love and serve. Thank you for your support, we truly could not do it without your intercession.
We love you (ba habek) and hope that you have a genuinely mopseude day.
-C (and team).