Thursday, July 5, 2012

When the Evening Comes

Its a little past midnight and I'm sitting on the roof of the dorm building at the college. I tried to go to bed, but I couldn't fall asleep. Sleeping would mean wasting some of the precious few moments I have left here in Palestine, so instead, I'm up here enjoying the beautiful view of Beit Jala. I tried to take a picture so that you could enjoy it with me, but this is the best I could do:

I know it doesn't look like much, but trust me when I say that in person, it is absolutely breathtaking. There's a party going on off in the distance somewhere, and I can hear singing and clapping. Its probably a wedding. I heard a huge bang a moment ago; either a lone firecracker or a soldier's gun shot. It sounded so near, but I didn't see an explosion in the sky... maybe the firecracker was defective. The kids in the refugee camp across the street didn't even flinch. They're used to the noise.

Out of all the things that I've experienced this past year, the distinct scent of Palestine is one that is seared in my brain forevermore. During the day, the smell is a heated concoction of Arabic coffee, dust, rich spices, garbage, roasting shwarmah meat, car exhaust, and whatever fruit is in season.

But once the sun goes down and the blistering heat of the day is replaced by the gentle cool of the night, the smell transforms. In the breezy darkness, you can truly smell Palestine. It is earth - olive wood, soil, and a hint of the smell that comes before a thunder storm even though we won't have rain again until the Fall, along with the bit of argeela smoke that wafts from the open windows in the restaurant across the street, and the smell of the freshly washed and sun-dried laundry that the women in the refugee camp are just now finding time to take off the clothes-lines. I'm absolutely sure that this is what heaven smells like. I wish I could bottle it up and take it with me, because I know that my hurting, homesick-for-Palestine heart will soon be craving the familiarity of this evening scent.

With eleven more scalding, sunny days and cool, windy nights in Palestine, I am trying to soak in everything about this confusing, wonderful place that has, at my very core, become a part of me. The sights, the smells, the conversations with beautiful people, the long walks around Bethlehem, the newfound friendship I have with the grocer next-door, the beauty of the Adhan echoing over the hills five times each day, the special spot where I always sit on this rooftop, the way the moon looks so much closer here, the tears I've cried over the conflict in this precious town, the apartheid, the oppression, the pain, the hope, the resilience, and the longing for peace; I want to remember it all. 

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