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...


Sunday, October 4, 2015

If the Savior is on board, our ship will NOT sink...

I have mixed emotions and I'm not really sure what to write about.
As I sat and watched general conference today and yesterday I was amazed by the peace I felt and the renewed hope and strength. Yet on the other hand, part of me was looking at the situation in the world and especially in my home country thinking "where are we heading?"

It aches to watch all the suffering and pain around me. Children who are being robbed of their childhood...I just listened to a child in Gaza who through tears streaming down his eyes said: "We want to live, I turn on the TV and all I see is killings, tanks and bloodshed. I can't even find cartoons to watch. Why is this happening to us?"

People's hearts are filled with anger and hate and they are willing to kill someone without thinking twice (even rejoicing in someone's death-which is what those Israeli settlers did). What has humanity come to? 

There is nothing to do except to hold tight to our faith. As president Monson said: "As we make Christ the center of our lives, our fears will be replaced by the courage of our convictions." In a dark world nothing lights the way except the light of the world, even Jesus Christ.  Things will get worse everywhere in the world, these are the last days. But, all is well, because Heavenly Father and the Savior are in charge. 

My favorite story in the scriptures is when the savior calmed the storm and asked His disciples why they were afraid and why they lacked faith. If the Savior is on board of our ship, no storm, no adversity, no waves, and no disaster can sink it. "No waters can swallow the ship where lies the master of ocean and earth and skies..They all shall sweetly obey His will...peace, peace be still," says the hymn.  Here is a video of that story...

 Translation for conference has been stressful, but some of the talks I translated sunk deep into my heart. Especially those where the speakers kept changing their talks over and over. I loved all three versions of Sister Stephens talk ;-) When I ran into her on temple square, I told her I am working on translating her talk, and she said: "Oh, I am changing it." But, I didn't do even close to what some of my friends did as far as translation goes. I am impressed at the devotion and service of other Arab members of the church.

I was thrilled to hear the names of the three new apostles that were called.  I got to know Elder Rasband well ever since he came with his family to visit our small Bethlehem group years ago. I visited with him in his office just last year.  At the conclusion of our meeting, Elder Kacher, of the seventy, leaned towards me and said: "Wow, did you feel that!?" He was right, I had felt it...I felt the magnitude of love and concern Elder Rasband had for me. 

 I am blessed with many people in my life that love me and care about me, but I had never felt that love as much as I had felt it from an apostle of the Lord. The love that the Savior has for us, and the Love our Heavenly Father has for us is even more. Knowing we are loved and watched over, will help us survive these difficult times that the world is going through.

May we continue to pray for peace and for justice. And may we stand for what is right even if the whole world is confused and thinks we are wrong or insane. God's laws are always right, they are always valid. If I got anything out of conference it would be the importance of keeping God's commandments during these difficult times. Obedience brings us safety and peace no matter what is going on around us in the world.