My friend, Estephan Salameh, picked me up in Jerusalem Tuesday morning to drive me to the Ramallah bus station where, if it had not been for Estephan, I would still be wandering around the three level station asking "Which bus to Zababdeh?" With no one understanding me. With six other Palestinian passengers we left for Jenin sometime after 9:00. Less than two hours and 400 speed bumps later (Palestinians don't want anyone to drive fast for very long), we were in Jenin where the very kind driver pointed in the direction of some minibuses and said "Zababdeh". When I approached the driver, he asked "Catholic"? I replied "No, Anglican. I'm going to see my friend, Fadi Diab". "Oh, Abuna Fadi!" The road to Zababdeh is not long, but it makes up for that in potholes which my driver carefully maneuvered around. We went right to Fadi's house where Ruba with two year old Andrew welcomed me. Fadi went to pick up Philip ( 6 years) at school and after tea and some catching up we sat down for dinner.
Fadi told me that the last six to nine months have been easier in the northern West Bank. IDF have not been seen in several months and checkpoints between Zababdeh and Nablus have been removed. Ruba, who had not been allowed to leave Zababdeh for three years for lack of identity papers received her papers in July. Her reunion with family in Amman was a joyous event. On the other hand, Fadi has not been able to get a permit to go to Jerusalem since Israel gives out only so many to clergy at any one time. He has to wait in line and that may take months. Translated to life at St. Luke's, it's as though Jeannette (much less the rest of us) would not be allowed to cross Howard Street into Chicago until someone gave up their permit.
I had a wonderful visit with Fadi. He was delighted at the cameras and the profiles of Chloe, MacKenzie, Kaethe and Eleanor and will get to work finding matches for them. St. Matthew's has purchased a building next door to the church and is preparing it to house a guest room, small library and meeting room for young people. Last summer's program in Ireland went splendidly and he's planning an (American) woman-to-(Palestinian) woman program for next fall.
That evening we visited with a Methodist group from West Virginia helping build a new meeting room for the Greek Melkite Church (where Fadi's brother is priest), went on a pastoral call to a mentally ill woman in his parish and witnessed the birth of a lamb at Fadi's next-door neighbor.
The gift of knowing Fadi is that he knows the Israeli commander overseeing the check point at Jalameh where I was "detained" in 2006. A call to Moshe Iva did wonders for the security process when they learned I had been to Jenin ("a military closed area") and was carrying a "zuchini tool" which closely resembles a dangerous weapon. The tool was a gift from Ruba so that I can replicate her wonderful recipe for stuffed zuchini. Fadi waved to me from the West Bank side when I emerged back into Israeli territory on my way to Nazareth.
As in earlier visits with Fadi and Ruba, I'm impressed with their hospitality, generosity and kindness. Before we left Zababdeh for Jalameh, we went by his brother's parish where he loaded me up with herbs, bottles of virgin olive oil and olive oil soap Abuna Fira's Melkite parishioners are producing. We have much to learn from these "living stones".