My talk went well, maybe not as I hoped, but relatively well. I basically taught the first discussion, which may seem strange for a homecoming talk, but that is what I felt I needed to do especially since half the attendants were non-members. My Sister Suhair came with me for the first time and really enjoyed my talk.
I have been enjoying doing nothing. I am spending time with my family and resting (well, now I can rest after the cleaning is mostly done!). I think I may have to eventually start doing something productive like deciding what I am going to do with the rest of my life. But, I am very good at avoiding any form of decision-making (for those that know me).
My brother Mazin took me with him on a tour the other day to Al-walaja. It is a Palestinian village north of Bethlehem. The Israelis are building a wall across the village and confiscating more of the land that belongs to the villagers there. The wall is not complete yet, but it will eventually prevent people for having access to their land.
Here is a picture of the Wall (there is currently a door in the wall, strange huh? It will probably be closed when the wall is complete):
These are all the lands of Al-Walaja that they have lost or will lose with no compensation:
And this is the spring that the villagers won't have access to when the wall is complete:
Not only did they lose their lands, but some of the houses in Al-Walaja were demolished by the Israeli soldiers. As you can notice on this hill (I marked them in red):
This is the sad reality some Palestinians have to live with. My family in Beit Sahour are very blessed to live in an area where none of this has happened to us.
Yesterday, my kind cousin Sameer happened to be at the church of nativity and discovered that I had a permit issued by the Israelis for me. A permit to enter Jerusalem which is valid only until Monday, Jan 20th. (these are permits that are often given to some Palestinian Christians over the holidays--Christmas and Easter). I was thrilled to be able to go to Jerusalem one last time. This amazing city of my birth that has become so diverse and seems so different than any other city in the world.
There was something different today as I crossed the checkpoint to enter Jerusalem. The gate was open! (see below)
They only open this gate 3 times a year or so (for Christmas celebrations). Palestinians can't walk through the gate of course, we need to cross through the main checkpoint (similar to an airport terminal).
You see in the picture the wall that cuts across the main road (Hebron Road) which leads from Jerusalem to Bethlehem and Hebron. The wall now blocks the road and this iron gate is always closed. It is only open for important people who come to Bethlehem, like the patriarchs of some churches (as it was today). There were armed soldiers all over the Bethlehem side. They were inspecting garbage and anything that looked suspicious (for bombs?). Anyway, it was strange...I parked far and walked between the soldiers and up this walkway that leads to the checkpoint.
I crossed the checkpoint one last time...I don't know when I will be able to go to Jerusalem again...
Church at the Jerusalem Center was interesting. I didn't know anyone (well, only 3 people) since everyone was new, but almost everyone knew me or of me. It was weird, everyone thought I was this amazing person even without ever meeting me. I felt like this celebrity that was meeting all these fans. In Relief Society, they said that they wanted to hear my story sometime and I told them that this 'sometime' may not come since I will not be able to come again. So, they had me speak right there before the lesson. I shared my experiences with the sisters and some of them even said they had heard of me from the book 'Women and the Priesthood'.
Anyway, I finally decided that since everyone 'thinks' I am wonderful, I am going to have to try to be wonderful. I am really working hard to improve the way I act and the way I treat others. I hope that someday I will be as wonderful as all these people think I am.
Since our Bethlehem group meets on Saturday at 4:30, I went to church AGAIN in Bethlehem. Elder Price, our new area authority was here. He gave a great talk. Actually, we had almost everyone come to church today which was pretty unique.