Sunday, December 27, 2015

Happy new year from Utah

I didn't want to have a week with no post. But I am using my I-pad so it is hard to type, and I can't post pictures.
On Tuesday, my friends heather and Joseph and their family came over for dinner. It was SO good to see them. I have not seen them in over 14 years. It was good to catch up and meet their wonderful kids.
I had a nice quiet Christmas. My cousin Rana is still here. We went to my friend Danae's house on Christmas Eve. We brought musakhan and gato with us and had a good meal with the Romrells. (the below picture is of Danae's nephews and nieces opening the Christmas gifts we got them.
Christmas Day we stayed home and watched Christmas movies. 

We had planned to head south to Utah on the 23rd, but it just snowed and snowed and snowed for two days straight.
We finally drove down to Utah today (Sunday). This morning was the coldest we have had in rexburg so far (-13 F or -25 Celsius). My car did not work well and then I found out that all the fluids are frozen and I just needed to let it heat up.

We got to Utah and Emily prepared an amazing meal for us, and even made mutabaq. It was so so good. I am so full.

We stayed at a nice hotel in Utah and it was so nice to swim and sit in the Jacuzzi...very relaxing.
 My brother and his family are home in Palestine visiting. I am so sad I am not there to spend Christmas with my family. Sadly my visa and the complicated situation at home make that impossible.

My cousin Peter and his new wife Amanda went from Ohio to Jordan and wanted to enter the Holy Land through the bridge. The Israelis would not let Amanda through. When she asked them why they are not allowing her, an American, into Israel, they said if she pays them $20,000 they would let her in. Then they made up a lie and told Amanda that it was the Palestinians that were not allowing her in. My nephew insisted on going back to Jordan with his wife and they would not let him. Peter finally told them that they would have to shoot him before he lets his wife, who does not speak Arabic, go back to Jordan on her own.

After one day of staying in Jordan Peter and Amanda were finally allowed to enter. But Amanda was forbidden from going to Israeli areas. She can only visit Bethlehem and other Palestinian cities. Here is an American who has paid so much money to visit the holy land and she won't be allowed to go to Jerusalem or Nazareth or Galilee. I am not sure who gives Israel the right to do this to people!

I will post a few pictures once I get my hands on a laptop. I'll add them to this post.
Happy new Year.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Merry Christmas

2015 has been a great year for me. I can't thank Heavenly Father enough for all the blessings I received this year. 
In 2013, I felt I should quit my job and go on a mission.  After returning from my mission in January of 2014, I started looking for a job in Palestine.  I could not find one...

Last year, I came to the United States in order to take an exam and then get a job with the UN in New York. I was happy that I finally found work after being unemployed for almost 2 years.  I was sad that I failed the exam and therefore was not given the job. I complained and did not understand why Heavenly Father would let that happen to me. I paid a lot of money for the ticket and my savings were quickly running out.

After staying in the US for a few months and trying to find a job, I gave up hope. I got discouraged and booked a ticket to return home to Palestine.  A few days before my departure date, I had a job interview at BYU-Idaho.  Acting in faith, I cancelled my ticket (losing all the money) and stayed in the United States hoping that this job would work out.

I was offered the job and my papers were done only days before my tourist visa expired. 

This year taught me an important lesson. Heavenly Father has a magnificent plan for me, and I should not ever doubt that. He has an amazing plan for all of us and when He closes a door, he opens another (leading to a better place). When I was trying to decide if I should quit my job in 2013, Elder Porter of the seventy laid his hands on my head and gave me a blessing. I was told that I should trust Heavenly Father and that doors will be opened to me and I will be blessed. During those long months of searching for jobs, I doubted what I had been told and did not see how it was going to work out.

I started teaching at BYU-Idaho as a visiting faculty in April. It has been a wonderful adventure to say the least. The students and faculty at this university are amazing. I have been welcomed and loved by everyone in the department and feel right at home. I applied for a permanent position last month and have been selected for an interview (I'm one of 5 candidates). I think I have a big chance of being selected especially since I have the home court advantage (since I already teach here)...we will see how that goes. I will have the interview in Jan/Feb and won't know the final decision until April or May. 

My mother's health has been good and even her liver tests show that the hepatitis she had is somehow gone or diminished. She is very lonely, but my sister Suhair goes out of her way to take care of her and visit her EVERY day. I feel bad being away and leaving my mom, but I do feel the Lord wants me here (for now at least).

Teaching has been hard, and I continue to struggle, as I give my all to help my students. I didn't think I would be so busy, yet I am always busy.  However, some letters from my students make all the work I do worthwhile...Such as, "thank you for teaching me humility and love as well as math".

My cousin is visiting me and we are going to go down south for Christmas. We thought we would go to St. George for a few days and maybe to Vegas. Hopefully, we can have some warmth.

The weather here has been amazingly well...temperatures rarely dropping below freezing. It did snow a few times and we now have snow on the ground. So, I still have not seen the harsh Rexburg winters everyone tells me about. But, I am sure they will come.

At this time of the year, my heart turns to Heavenly Father in gratitude for all that He has given me. As I look at the snow, I am reminded of my Savior. The fresh white fluffy snow makes everything seem quiet and peaceful. This is the kind of peace that I felt in my heart as I decided to follow the Savior over 20 years ago by walking into the waters of baptism.  A kind of peace that I never knew existed.  A peace I was able to feel while living in Palestine, through turmoil, conflict, and hardships.  

The whiteness of the snow reminds me that my Savior gave His life for my sins, so I could be cleansed if I repent...if my sins are as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow...

I thank Him for coming to earth, for choosing Bethlehem (close to where I was raised) as the place of His birth.  He chose a troubled place to show us that real peace can come only through Him, the Prince of Peace...He said, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you, not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." (John 14: 27)

I thank a loving Heavenly Father who was willing to give His only begotten son, the best gift ever given on Christmas. As we each exchange gifts this Christmas, may we remember Him who is the greatest gift of all, our Lord and Savior, our Redeemer and our King. May we follow Him and, like the Wise Men, always seek Him. May we this Christmas give Him our hearts and lives as a gift.

Here is a nice video about the Savior: Click here for video

I wish you all a wonderful Christmas!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Let Him in...

As Christmas draws nigh, I see many rushing to do their shopping and get everything set up and ready for Christmas. I feel that sometimes we make ourselves too busy buying gifts during the  Christmas season and that distracts us from focusing on the real gift that was given during Christmas, God's only begotten son. 

Elder Maxwell is right, I hope that this Christmas we can focus on the real gift, our Savior. My friend gave a lesson last week and mentioned how when Adam and Eve made the choice to partake of the fruit, with that choice came the following hardships: Death, sickness, pain, sadness, difficulty, depression, sin...etc. So, without Christ, Adam and Eve's choice would sound like a bad choice. But, with Christ we can overcome all those things. He carried our burdens and our sins and broke the bands of death.

I hope that we all can have time to be still and contemplate the birth, life and atonement of our Savior. And to ponder the blessings that we each have because of Him and what He has done. 
The creator of the world, who had His choice of where to be born, chose a small town called Bethlehem and chose a stable to be born in. He is the actual lamb of God, there is no better place for a lamb to be born than at a stable. I testify that He is the Messiah that many prophesied will come to the earth. He is the lamb of God who left His throne above to come to earth as a babe born in a manger to fulfill His mission and give His life for us. 

On a personal note, my cousin Rana came to visit me. We have been doing some fun things, but not enough. I am so busy this time of year with grading, writing final exams, and doing grades. We still have one week left before school is out...

We went to a hamburger place (supposed to be the best in Rexburg) which turned out to be in an isolated area away from town. It was good though...really big burgers and huge drinks!

Yesterday we attempted to make spinach stuffed rolls. It did not go well to say the least, but we enjoyed doing it and laughed so hard.

We also went to a Japanese restaurant and had fun at the hibachi grill with our cook doing a demonstration for us..

My friend told me about some hot springs close to Rexburg. So, we took a drive to go there. The roads were covered in snow and we were driving in the mountains hoping we don't slip and end up going down hill. Rana opened the window to take a picture only to have the window button stick and the window refusing to go up. She was freezing and we could not get the window to close. We finally got to the hot springs only to find them packed with people and children and decided it was too cold to get wet anyway. We turned around to go back. Luckily after turning the car off and on the window went up!

We made it back safely, thank heavens for snow tires ;-)
I am mostly done with my classes, just doing a review next week. My students did not do well in their last test, so I hope they do well on the final. I had good students this semester...One of them gave me a Santa hat and wanted me to wear it in class, but I didn't.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Remember the good Shepherd

I had a good week, but it seemed too long. This semester has gone by so fast...however, the last two weeks are going by soooo slowly for some reason. 

I finished my 4th exam for one of my classes and still have two  exams for my other classes this coming week. I am trying to write my final exams and get them done, but I am having the hardest time making up test questions.

I love my students this semester, they are great! I am really going to miss them when the semester is over...
After thanksgiving I decided to put up the Christmas decorations. I bought a little tree and some decorations. It is not great, but it is better than the Christmas tree I had last year which was 5 inches long! Here is my new tree:

I have also been doing some Christmas shopping this past week. Here is a picture of me at the mall. I love the Christmas decorations.

We had our ward/church Christmas party on Friday and it was really fun. The food was amazing! And I took some left overs home because they had so much food left. The primary kids sang for us and we also sang some Christmas carols. 

Yesterday we had one of our Christmas concerts at the university. It was simply amazing. The Choir did such an amazing job and the setting and lights were perfect. 

I love Christmas time and all the decorations and lights. I love the spirit of Christmas and how many people focus on the Savior during this season. However, this is also a sad time for me as I would love to be home and in Bethlehem during this time of year. The celebrations in Bethlehem are unique and you won't find anything similar anywhere in the world. Christmas is also about family and it is very hard to be away from my family this time of year. I wish I could have gone home, but my current visa situation and also the short break between the semesters make that impossible at this time.

I am trying to post something about the Savior in each blog post this month.  I hope you all can know how grateful I am for the Savior and for what He has done for me. Sometimes I am not grateful enough and get too busy and forget to express my gratitude.

When I lived in northern Palestine, I had a neighbor who was a shepherd. He would take his sheep (about 40 sheep or so) to the fields every morning. On some mornings I would notice that the shepherd would forget something in his home and would need to go back to get it. He would leave his sheep in the street.  The sheep would line up on the side of the road (away from the cars) and they would stand there and wait for their shepherd to return. There was a field right next to the side of the road where they stood (only 3 feet away) that was full of tall green grass.  The hungry sheep would not go eat of that grass, but they would sit there and wait for their shepherd trusting that he would take them to a better place.

I hope we can also trust our good Shepherd, even Jesus Christ. We should trust in His love and know that if we follow Him, He will lead us to green pastures where we will find nourishment to our bodies and spirits. When you see a candy cane this Christmas, let this remind you of the Savior. Remember that He is willing to lead you to happiness, joy and peace if you only follow Him and be obedient to His commandments.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Holiday thoughts...

I hope you all had a great thanksgiving holiday. I spent most of the holiday working, writing exams and preparing some of my classes for next semester. I thought if I could get some stuff done I can have a 'less-crazy' semester end!
I woke up thanksgiving day to some snow...the first significant snow of the season:

I am glad I got new tires last Saturday.  But most roads were cleared except ours. I don't think our road will ever be clear until maybe May when the snow would melt.
The good thing about the wind in Rexburg is that it blows away all the snow from your car. I only had snow on one window in my car (don't ask me how that happened)! I spent the day with my friend Danae and her family. They were so nice to have me over. The food was great, I love thanksgiving food!
They also made 6 kinds of pie...mmmm.  I especially loved Danae's pie dish, you can see the 3.1459... on it

 And here are all the other pies...

I was listening to the news the other day...You may have heard about the incident in Chicago where a cop shot a 17-year old boy 16 times. The cop says it was in self defense because 'the boy had a knife'. Seriously? Does that justify shooting the boy 16 times? 

Well, apparently, if the boy is Palestinian it does. There were many Palestinians shot dead because they carried a knife and tried to stab an Israeli.  I think those Palestinians who carry knives and try to stab someone are insane and suicidal...but I still think killing them could be avoided. Shooting them in the legs or arm could stop any further injury, but shooting them multiple times killing them is barbaric. Shooting them for carrying a knife then watching them bleed in pain is not human!  I mean how can you justify shooting a woman for carrying scissors? Or justify running over a woman THEN getting out of the car and shooting her.

The cop who shot the boy in Chicago is facing first degree murder charges.  The soldiers and Israeli settlers who shot the Palestinians didn't even get questioned and were even praised for what they did sometimes. I hope we all can be is ok to defend yourself against danger, but human life is precious and we should not take the life of another if we can avoid doing that.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving and more...

I want to wish everyone in the US a happy and enjoyable Thanksgiving. But, even if we are not American, I hope all of us can take this time to be grateful for our many blessings. We have been blessed with much.

I especially feel grateful being here, living in a free country with no checkpoints, or conflict. Having a warm house with hot running water all day every day. I remember when I lived in Zababdeh near Jenin. I did not have a fridge, my apartment was so cold during the winter and I had no water heater. I had only one little pot that I used to heat water so I can bathe. It was an interesting process to shower.
I also had cockroaches all over the apartment and even a rat that would come into the place at night. After living there a few weeks, those things ceased to bother me and I was able to find little things to be grateful for. Sometimes our situation is so bad that we have to look hard to find out what our blessings are. But, if we look, we will find them.

When my cousin went to Gaza, she found the people to be happy and grateful for what little they have. Over 300,000 of them are homeless. They don't have clean water or electricity most of the time. They are poor and unable to leave Gaza or improve their situation.  Below is a picture of a mother bathing her girls outside the rebels of what used to be their home. Those girls are able to laugh and play in this destroyed neigborhood.

I hope we all can count our blessings and remember just how much we have compared to the many in the world who have very little.

My semester has been going well, just exceedingly busy. I have a group of amazing students this semester and I love them all. It makes a big difference to teach students who are eager to learn and who put in much effort in the learning process.

People told me that it always snows in October here, well not this year! It finally snowed a couple of days ago (if you can count this as snow). I think we had an inch if even. However, none of the roads were cleared that day and I was worried my car would not do well on the snow. It did Ok.
I went to Walmart yesterday and got snow tires (after a 4-hour wait because there were so many in line). The tires make a sound when I drive which is annoying, but I will get used to it.
Here is a picture on campus so you can see the snow.

It has not been cold at all. Well, everyone scared me about the harsh winters of Rexburg, and I still have not seen that. The lowest it got was -3 or so Celsius.
And I guess when there isn't enough snow to make a snowman, you are forced to make one out of socks. Which is what I did last week. Those turned out really cute considering the fact that it took me 5 minutes to make each one of them.

I have been eating out a lot just because I am too busy too cook. I was so happy to have some free time on the weekend and I made two meals. They lasted me a whole week.

We had an early thanksgiving dinner on Friday (with a group of friends) and it was So good.
Below is a picture of the food I was about to eat. With two types of desert and a cute hat made of chocolate and cookies.

I will have thanksgiving dinner on Thursday with a friend of mine here in Rexburg. I am looking forward to it. And looking forward to a break from classes so I can catch up and finish everything that I need to do.

Life is good, the weather is great...what more can I ask for?
"May we all not seek new landscape, but new eyes to see..."

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Love can drive away hate...

I was going to talk about what is going on my life...but that seems to be of little importance considering the events that are happening around the world. I was shaken and saddened by the attacks in Kenya, Lebanon and France this past week. I was impressed by how many people supported Paris and stood together with the French people during this hard time. I wish I saw that much support when similar events occurred in Ankara, Gaza, Kenya, Lebanon and other areas. 

I am often led to think that human beings have a different value depending on where they are from or the color of their skin. I grew up thinking that way because it seemed that the media made such a big deal when an Israeli was killed and would mention nothing about the many Palestinians killed. I grew up thinking that God liked other people more than He liked us.

I was very wrong. Heavenly Father loves everyone just the same, it is us humans that need to learn to love as He does.  

Growing up, I longed to have a country and a nationality. As I entered the United States for the first time as a 17-year old carrying with me a Jordanian Passport (I am not Jordanian), and an Israeli travel document (I am not Israeli), the airport officer looked at me and asked: "What is your nationality?" I stared at him, stunned, unsure what to say. He repeated the question, this time slower, thinking I did not understand his English: "What - is - your - nationality?" Do I say I am Palestinian when I knew that was not a valid answer? My country no longer existed on maps and my nationality, identity and flag have been taken away from me.

Not having an identity, a passport, or a nationality bothered me growing up.  I felt that somehow that meant I was not a human being.  The way my people were treated day after day reaffirmed that fact and made me believe that God cared less about Palestinians and that He did not love us as much as He loved those with a different nationality. 

After I joined the LDS church and developed faith in Christ, I came to understand and get a taste of God's love.  I still don't fully understand it, because I still stand amazed that He would love everyone equally regardless of what they have done.  

Charity is defined at the pure love of Christ.  And Paul tells us that unless we have charity then nothing we do matters (See 1 Corinthians 13).  We need to strive to have that kind of love towards everyone.  Such love, with His help, is possible. 

Everyone on this earth is a son or daughter of God. Everyone on this earth matters to Him. Palestinians, Israelis, Syrians, Iraqis, French, ISIS terrorists, EVERYONE...

I am often amazed at the atonement and what Christ was willing to suffer for us. What amazes me about it most is this simple fact...
The Savior, who has never experienced sin or guilt, knelt down in the garden of Gethsemane and took upon Him every sin in the world: murder, rape, deceit, robbery...In those short moments He saw what horrible sins humans are capable of committing.  

The amazing part is that after He saw all that, He got up and went willingly to be crucified and to give His life for those sinners, for you and me. This is what Charity is, this is the kind of love you and I need to strive to have.

 Here is the video that you may have seen from this little Iraqi refugee. This 10-year old girl teaches us about love, tolerance and forgiveness. When asked later why she shared these things she says: "the Holy Ghost told me to share these things..." 

Click to watch the video with Myriam's message 

Let us all learn from Myriam.  
Martin Luther King, Jr. Said: "Darkness cannot drive away darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive away hate; only love can do that." 

I hope that we all can respond with forgiveness and love towards any act of terrorism. What Martin Luther King says is so true. Hate will only destroy us. We must learn to love and forgive. Sometimes showing love is hard when others have taken away the lives of our loved ones or have destroyed our lives. But, the Savior promises He will help us and teach us to love...Mormon tells us that we can "pray unto the father with all the energy of heart to be filled with that love..." May each of us who have suffered because of the act of others pray for help to forgive them and love them.

The below video shows us the power of love. It is the only power on this earth that can scatter the hate and provide peace. 
Gary Ridgway is a serial killer who was convicted of the murder of 48 women. Gary stood there in court as if he had no emotion while relatives of these women told him how devastated they were because of what he had done. It was not until one of the relatives of the victims said to him: "I don't hate you, I love you and forgive you...", that Gary  broke in tears.

Video on Serial Killer: The power of love and forgiveness

I shared an experience about forgiveness in my ensign article, Sept 2012 issue...I share it again just because I keep feeling that the love of people is waxing cold. Even those who have faith in God tend to be wroth and let anger blind their sight.  Forgiving others to me is liberating and I often feel like a load is taken away from my shoulders every time I forgive someone.

My Article: Loving My Enemies 

I know that the Savior who knows how to love and forgive, can teach us to do the same. He is the source of all love and all hope and all peace. May we each follow Him and learn from His great example of Charity.

Elder Wirthlin said: “We should sow within our hearts the seed of charity, the pure love of Christ.  He is the perfect model of charity. His total life, particularly his atoning sacrifice, is a lesson in charity. His every act reflects absolute, unequivocal love for all mankind and for each one of us. His example teaches us that charity means subordinating personal interests willingly and gladly for the good of others. I believe our progress toward exaltation and eternal life depends upon how well we learn and live the principle of charity. Charity must become a fundamental state of mind and heart that guides us in all we do.”


Sunday, November 8, 2015

There is a brighter day ahead...

We had a little bit of snow. Too little you could hardly see it! I guess the weather is being extra nice to me and letting me enjoy good weather as long as I can. 

I love the purity and whiteness of snow and the quietness and peace that comes with it. Our lives get hectic and we forget sometimes to enjoy the beauties all around us. I hope each of us can take this month of November to count our blessings and notice things around us.

I had the opportunity to teach Institute last week. I had a crazy week and I was so busy that I felt I could barely keep my head above water. I didn't have time to prepare for the lesson as much as I would have hoped.
I told my friend to pray for me and honestly felt that the minute she did, I was fine. I have had prayers answered instantaneously many times. I testify that Heavenly Father hears our prayers and is ready to answer and bless us if the time is right. I have met many people recently who seem to have trials that are too difficult for them to bear. Some of them are my students who are struggling with trials and depression. Sometimes we stand helpless and all we could do is pray and hope the Lord will uplift and strengthen them.

Many around the world have united and sang the Palestinian patriotic song موطني (My homeland). My friends gathered in the streets of SLC and sang together. 

Click to listen to the Song "My Homeland" موطني 

As I sang the words of that song over and over I got more and more homesick. The words brought back memories of injustices done to my people and their longing for freedom. It brings tears to my eyes because the situation in my country makes life there very challenging and difficult for many. It breaks my heart that I felt I had to leave...and to leave everything behind...
The song brought back images of the start of winter in Palestine when the ground is fully watered and grass starts to grow, bare areas literally blossoming. Those beautiful hills I grew to love become so beautiful and the renewal of life gives joy to my soul. 

Winter here is nothing like that, quite the opposite, everything dies. As the weather grows colder plants, grass and other bushes tend to die. But, spring will come. Spring always comes...There is always a sunrise after every dark night. There is one for each of the lives of the people that seem depressed and burdened with trials and there is one for my people and my country. May Heavenly Father give us each the patience to survive the dark night until the light appears.

I am sad because of the comments some of my friends are making about our church. I am grateful to belong to an amazing church led by men who hold the priesthood of God. Men who would do nothing contrary to the will of God. 
I never have to think about any decision the church leaders make, I already know that God directs this church and it's leaders. I don't need to stop and think each time something happens.  My faith is centered in Jesus Christ who leads and directs this church and who loves each and every one of us equally. I testify that He always does things that are for our eternal good.

May we always have faith in Jesus Christ, and may we have faith in a better and brighter tomorrow when the sun would shine and the flowers would bloom. I know it will come if we put our hand in the hand of the Master and walk with Him.


Sunday, November 1, 2015

Boring Stuff

I don't have much to say...Winter seems to be here although we saw no snow yet. It does smell like winter though =)

I wanted to catch up with everything I had to do yesterday, but sadly it did not happen. I spent my day organizing my stuff. I bought a book shelf. It about killed me to carry it up to my apartment then it took me 2 hours to put it together. At least I have some extra storage for my books and stuff. I am not sure how someone can accumulate that much stuff after being here only a year.  I am keeping all my boxes, because if I end up moving it will be such a hard long process.

So, after working hard on organizing yesterday I was so tired that I couldn't do anything else. I feel bad that I missed the Halloween party! but I honestly was so tired I could not move.

I went shopping and forgot to get a few things, but was so tired to get myself out of the house and back to the store...I had three groups of kids come to my door for trick or treat. And after the third group (of 10) left I freaked out because I didn't have candy left. I really didn't think anyone would come to my door on Halloween. I later found some candy, but no one else came. Oh well...

I have been so busy with school that every time someone asks me how I am doing I complain about how busy I am. I have to remember to be grateful. I am using this month of November to remember to be grateful for what I have. I can't imagine how some people are living in other parts of the world having very little. I feel really blessed. I have the temple close by, and members of the church around me and I feel safe. Having a warm place and hot water available 24 hours a day is something I didn't have while living in Palestine. It is great!

Sometimes we should count our blessings to realize how many we truly have.

I do, however, need to organize my life and put the important things first so that I will have time to rest and do things that I want to do. I am hoping I could catch up soon and get ready for the end of the semester, which is coming by so quickly. I can't believe we just hit mid-point, this semester is going by so fast.

I better quit before I bore you all to death. I don't have anything interesting to say, obviously.
Have a great week!


Sunday, October 25, 2015

Happy Halloween

This semester has been crazy. I have never been so busy. I am doing my best to keep up and do what I need to do, but it is hard.I just gave a test to my students and they did so badly. I am really concerned and am not sure what went wrong because they did so well in the first exam. I have two other exams this week and I really hope my students do well in those.  

My mother picked one of the olive trees we have. She went to the olive press today and made some of them into oil. My brother said he will help her with the other trees when he returns from his trip. I feel bad that I am not there to help my mom pick the olives. Every year it was mostly my job to pick all the olives and clean them. It is such hard work and it took me the whole day to pick half a tree sometimes...I would end up with aches and pains and scratches all over my arms. But, the olives that mom made were amazing! I miss those so much. The olives and oil we had afterwards were worth every effort. 

I  applied to two open positions at BYU-I in the Mathematics department. The position I applied to earlier was a long shot because they were looking for a pure Math major and it was not me. Sadly, I won't get an answer from them until April or May.  So, it will be a LONG wait...Well, I will at least know if they will call me for an interview by January.  The sad thing is that with the situation at home I am afraid of going back. I am almost sure I won't be granted a visa if I try to apply for one with the current situation. I may decide to just stay here for a while...Anyway, I guess once I know in April, I can think about it and decide.

There was a dance for Halloween yesterday, but I did not go. I don't like dancing and didn't feel like dressing up! I am not too fond of Halloween...although I do have my Palestinian dress. I could have gone as a Palestinian (Ha ha). I guess it does not work to get dressed up as yourself huh?

We had a fun Halloween activity the other day. We went on a scavenger hunt. My friend had us go find a list of things and take pictures with them to prove we found them. So, we hopped in the car and we were off. For 30 minutes we drove around Rexburg finding these things, white fence, slide, trash can, hay, red leaves, ... We broke a few rules as we made Greg pull over each time we spotted something and jumped out to take a picture. We felt it was an impossible task to get every item on the list in such a short time...but when we got back we realized there was a group that was done early and got everything on the list!! Frustrating! But, it was so much fun.

A couple that served with me in England were just called to serve with the mid single adults. Elder Anderson taught institute on Thursday and he did a great job. They asked me to teach institute for two weeks in a row (Nov 5 and 12th). It should be fun, but I have no idea how to organize my lesson and teach. Hopefully it will go well. 

My friend tells me that it always snows on Halloween here. The weather has been so nice and warm, but these past few days it started to get a bit cooler. I guess we will see if she is right. I still have not prepared for winter. I need to buy a jacket and some boots, but I have not found any. I may just get them online.

I have been so busy that I was starting to get so tired. I decided to do nothing yesterday. I just made maftool which I have craved in a while...and went shopping then just watched TV most of the day. It was hard to ignore everything that I had to do, but I needed a break.

It gets too depressing to see the hate and anger back home and to know those I love are suffering. All we can do is pray and hope things improve soon. The world around us seems to be falling apart. It probably won't be long before hardships will be seen everywhere. May we all have the strength and faith to withstand them.



Sunday, October 18, 2015

Love One Another

It has been difficult for me to focus on my job as I heard about and saw videos of what is happening in Palestine.
Why would a Palestinian try to stab an Israeli soldier knowing that he or she will for sure be shot dead for trying? When people become this desperate then you know that they have nothing left to lose. 

Sadly, I know what it feels like to be so sad and miserable and to have nothing left to lose.  I went on many demonstrations during the first uprising in 1987. When others ran away, I stood in front of the Israeli soldiers hoping and wishing they would shoot me. I prayed to God every day that He would end my life. 

The current situation at home brought back old memories...of being awakened in the middle of the night to watch the soldiers demolish my neighbor's house...of my sister telling us that they again broke into her house at night and took her husband to jail while her young children screamed in fear...of injured Palestinians being brought into our science department their blood dripping on the floor...of smelling tear gas...of countless times where I visited mothers devastated by the loss of their children...of Iyad who died in the arms of my 10-year-old niece after being shot with a dum-dum bullet by an Israeli soldier...of Palestinian men humiliated and beaten in front of me by the Israeli soldiers..
One image has never left me and seems to be engraved in my memory. It is of Isaac, a student at Bethlehem University who was shot in the head by an Israeli soldier.  That day in October of 1987 was a day that changed my life forever. Watching Isaac with a bullet hole in his head for two hours because the soldiers did not allow us to take him to a hospital, and then hearing that the soldiers did not allow Isaac's family to give him a proper burial or even allow his siblings to come to his burial made my heart fill with hate. I still remember all of us standing together and singing as Isaac was finally rolled away: "It is Ok if we die as long as we root death out from among us." 

That year, 1987, my university was closed for 2 years. During those two years I allowed hate and anger to dwell in my heart as I looked for reasons why that happened to Issac and why all these things were happening to my people.  

I have come to realize that there is a better way. I found that better way when I joined the Church. I have come to realize that the Savior can teach me to love and forgive.  He even can help me have peace. Here is my story that was published in the Ensign in September of 2012.

 Click to Read my Article--Loving My Enemies

Loving and forgiving others does not mean we agree with what they do. It means we accept and love them as children of God, but still hate sin and stand firm against injustices and error.  The savior exemplified this when the woman, caught in adultery, was brought before Him. He was not angry, He forgave her and loved her, but that did not mean He was ok with her sin.

Elder Oaks said: "Even as we seek to be meek and to avoid contention, we must not compromise or dilute our commitment to the truths we understand. We must not surrender our positions or our values. The gospel of Jesus Christ and the covenants we have made inevitably cast us as combatants in the eternal contest between truth and error. There is no middle ground in that contest. ... We should be persons of goodwill toward all, rejecting persecution of any kind, including persecution based on race, ethnicity, religious belief or nonbelief."

My mother's friend was shot dead by the Israeli soldiers in Bethlehem the other day. My mother was very upset. It is one thing hearing on the news about people who are killed, but it is a completely different story when you actually know the person killed. My mother ran into her friend just a day or two before he was shot. She said she thought she would take a couple of her birds and give them to his two boys. Now he is gone. 

 I spoke with one of my friends who lives in Bethlehem but works in Jerusalem. She expressed to me her fear. She said she has never been this scared before and the situation has never been worse. She said that she leaves home each day not knowing if she will return alive. Settlers and Israeli soldiers are now so scared that a Palestinian will attempt a stabbing that they shoot first and ask questions later.  That is why some innocent Palestinians have been shot. My friend said that she is even afraid to reach into her purse and pull something out fearing that the soldiers would think she is reaching for a knife and shoot her.

Her son asked her for a napkin the other day as they walked home from Jerusalem, and she had to ask him to use his sleeve as she was afraid to reach for a napkin from her purse.  Settlers have attacked Palestinian homes in Hebron and my friend said she gets up at night many times to check if the doors are locked and if her children are safe.

May we exercise self control and seek for forgiveness towards those that have offended us. "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do," the Savior prayed to His Father in Heaven. He forgave those that crucified Him and humiliated Him. 

Corrie Ten Boom said:

“I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.”  

The love of men is definitely waxing cold and this means the second coming is getting closer and closer. May we learn from the Savior's example and have patience with those that hurt us or don't quite see things the way we do. This in no way implies that we ignore or justify their evil and harmful acts. But, have peace and trust that the Savior will one day make all things right.  


Sunday, October 11, 2015

Lord, open the eyes of the world...

I am not sure how to verbalize my feelings. Hopefully this will make sense to someone...

William Tyndale was an amazing person who dedicated his life to translating the bible and making it available to people in English. He was executed for doing that, and right before he was strangled and burned at the stake he shouted the words: "Lord, open the king of England's eyes!"
His payer was answered as all of us now have the bible in our hands, and what an amazing blessing. You may now wonder why someone (the king of England) who is Christian could oppose having the bible translated into English! That seems stupid. Why would someone oppose something so good? The answer is simple, he could not see clearly, and he only thought of himself and not of others...

Why do I relate that story? Well, I feel the world around us is blind in many ways and I often find myself having to shout, "Lord, please open the eyes of the world!" 

We all let hate, misconception, lies and other things blind our view of reality. We all need to stand for truth and righteousness and teach others charity. Forgiveness and love is possible even in a world full of hate and anger. 

With tears I observe what is going on in the world. In Ankara, Turkey, terrorists took the lives of 86 people. I went to the same place often when I was a student in Turkey. I love the Turkish people and am sad at the lives that were lost.

I also observe with sorrow the events happening in my country.  Fear and anger is causing the Israeli soldiers and settlers to shoot Palestinians for no reason.  Anger is also causing some Palestinians to use armed resistance.  Much of the media is twisting stories. I would like to urge you all not to believe what you hear in the media. Everything is twisted...

Here is one example. A defenseless woman from Nazareth who was at a bus station was surrounded by Israeli soldiers and police, then she was shot! Why? Well, the Israeli side of the story says she was holding a knife. The video and surveillance cameras show otherwise. One video shows a close up of what the woman was holding...her sunglasses, which this guy kicked away for her after she was shot. What a deadly weapon to hold! 
I'm not sure if you are able to view this video that was on facebook, but I will post it:

Click to see what the woman was holding

I took those two pictures from the surveillance camera video. After the woman was shot, it looked like a knife was added next to her head to show that shooting her was justified. Below are the before and after pictures...

The woman is a mother of three and was studying genetic engineering. Over the past few days many have been shot and killed in similar ways.

In Syria and other places thousands are being killed. In Palestine, not so many. But, the other day as I watched closely the stories of those killed and their families, my heart ached. As I looked at those they left behind, and at the devastation and sadness, I could not help but weep with them.

Israeli soldiers just raided my town in the middle of the night. They searched homes and tore them apart. The methods the occupation continues to use against my people are getting more violent. Somehow after 50 years of doing the same thing, they still believe that they can kill resistance with violence. They still think that a Palestinian boy whose brother has been shot by Israeli soldiers in cold blood will grow up and simply accept the fact that his brother is gone, and will just accept that he and his family have to put up with all the injustices and lack of human rights that result from living under occupation. 
Do they really expect a father who just said goodbye to his dead 4 year-old daughter who was shot by the Israeli soldiers could go home and do nothing about it? (his wife was shot dead too)

Both of those mentioned above will be out on the street demonstrating of course...
Is it even possible that they will become suicide bombers? I would not be surprised if someone who saw their child or sibling shot in front of them will be so blinded with hate and revenge that they will resort to extreme measures...

The solution to this whole Palestinian Israeli conflict is pretty simple. Give the Palestinians their rights, don't take their land, give them a nationality, allow them to have clean running water every day, allow them to raise their flag high, allow them to travel within their own country and from city to city, don't shoot them, treat them with respect. Why is that hard for the occupation to do? Are they too afraid that doing good will be rewarded with evil? 

I have always been taught to stand up for my rights and to stand against injustices. The world is so blind these days that you can't do that without risking your life. Maybe all we can do is pray, "Lord, open the eyes of the world, open the eyes of the Israeli government and the Israeli soldiers that they may see..."

I know the Savior can teach us to love and forgive others. He is our example. He forgave his enemies, loved and forgave those that crucified and tortured Him. Yet, He did not stand and watch as people defiled His father's house (the temple). He tossed their tables and confronted them. He had no tolerance for sin and injustices. May we be more like Him. May we learn to forgive and love others, but at the same time may we have no tolerance for sin and injustice. May we stand for righteousness...