4 essentials for driving n the West Bank: 1. take your time, be creative, learn to drive by the sun, because there are no signs 2. Ask directions often, as the last person you may have asked had a personal “short cut” 3. Use both Israeli and Palestinian maps, since they deny the existence of the towns and roads of the other 4. Simply navigate around the smoldering tires left over from last night’s protest.
My new priest friend advised I not walk alone today and the Catholic sisters here at the hostel are very concerned about me. So I only drove as Nablus and Jenin, are areas of great passion and occasional violence against the occupation. Nablus, the 2nd largest Palestinian city next to Ramallah, along with Jenin, have a vast majority of Muslim population. While there are settlements and outposts (soon to be settlements) on almost every hill around and north of Ramallah, they disappear between Nablus and Jenin. Jenin is where in 2002, more than 150 Israeli tanks, armored personnel carriers, artillery and F-16 fighter jets, attacked Jenin’s refugee camp, home to 15,000 Palestinian refugees, living in 1 square kilometer, killing an estimated 500 men, women and children.
Near to Jenin, in the small village of Burqin (a town of 7,000 muslims and 60 Christians), is the Greek Orthodox church that celebrates Jesus’ healing of the 10 lepers, during one of his travels between Nazareth and Jerusalem. It was built in the 4th century and is the 3rd oldest church. The 1st church was a cave, tradition says, where the lepers had lived and were healed – simple and impressive.
My other stop was to shop. St. John’s may remember enjoying some of Canaan’s olive oil products. They produce products such as oil, soap, almond oil for cosmetics, couscous, vegetable spreads and more, selling some they package and some which they ship “raw” overseas to be packaged there to suit the market. It is a 50 village cooperative, inviting 1700 farm families to sell their olives at a good, fair-trade market price, teaching them how to grow a high quality olive organically, the way it was done before chemicals. The problem for farmers is that Israel makes it illegal to touch their trees or use any ground water in areas B or C (see map) under occupation control. A Palestinian American founded Canaan, giving women and men opportunity to be productive and learn, suppling 1,000’s of tree saplings and 10 university scholarships to children of farmers.