Sunday, December 31, 2017

The good and the bad...

I wish you all a Happy New Year. We use this expression often 'Happy'. What does that really mean? Does that mean you are happy all year and have no difficulties, I think not.

2017 has been a good year, I say this even though 2017 brought some hardships to my family. We suddenly lost my beloved cousin Wisam at a young age last March and we also just lost my uncle yesterday. In 2016 I lost an aunt and an uncle. Death seems to happen often in my family. But, there is still reason to rejoice. Even for those that passed away, I rejoice in their amazing life and remember them with gratitude.  

Life is beautiful despite the challenges. My aunt Areej just fell down the stairs and needs surgery. I pray for her and for her family.  The hardest thing for me is to be far from family at this time. 

I just returned from a visit to Texas where I spent Christmas with uncles, aunts, cousins and others. It was an amazing trip and I am so grateful for the family members I have here in the US.  

I still have not heard back about my PERM application (the first step in obtaining a green card). I hope to hear back next month and after that there are two steps that hopefully we can file together. If all goes well, I hope I will have my green card next summer. Sadly, there are no guarantees here and you just have to apply and hope that they don't take two years to process your application because they used to take that long in the past. 

President Uchtdorf talks about the nice feeling of ascending in a plane and going through a storm with dark clouds then rising above to a bright blue sky with the sun shining.  We have to always remember that the sun is shining above the clouds even when the dark clouds block it from our views. I took the below picture from the plane. It was fun to look below throughout my trip from Las Vegas to Idaho and watch as the desert with it's brown mountains and hills becomes more and more white until you get to Idaho and it is all white.

My hip has not healed completely. It felt a lot better after the first two weeks of physical therapy, but has not improved since even though I kept going to physical therapy week after week. I decided to stop paying money for physical therapy especially after I felt sharp pain in my back after one of the sessions.  I gave up and decided to accept the fact that I will live in pain the rest of my life. Luckily the pain is not bad and as long as I can avoid sitting, standing, and lying on my back. Ya, I need to live most of my life sleeping on my left hip which is now causing that one to hurt.  

Actually, the pain isn't bad at all. It is painful, but nowhere as bad as it was before I did physical therapy.  I am living without taking any pain medication and I think that is my greatest accomplishment in 2017! Yay!

Well of course my book getting published in 2017 (well technically the official release is new year's day), but I still got to hold the book in my hand this year and I am grateful for that. I never thought this day would come.

I told everyone I would also post a link to my radio interview last Sunday for those that missed it. Here is a link to watch it.
Click Here to listen to "In Good Faith"


Sunday, December 24, 2017

Visit to Texas

I arrived in Houston last week. I visited with my uncle Bisher and Aunt Areej. My brother Walid came the next day. My aunt and uncle fed us all sorts of good stuff. The best Malfoof I have had in ages, and she made falafel and also burbara. We ate and ate...
The picture below is my uncle's neighbor who had nice decorations.

We took a walk around the lake. A lake that was formed because of the hurricane. The weather was amazing! 80 degrees. I didn't think I would sleep with the windows open and the fan on during winter! 

We then drove to Lake Jackson and visited my aunt Hayah and uncle Salim.  They made stuffed grape leaves and stuffed egg plant for us. This seems like an eating vacation. My brother Walid and I probably gained a few pounds this holiday!

It was nice to visit with cousins and family. My cousin Haifa happened to be in Houston visiting her sons and I got to see her. I also got to spend time with my cousins Sam and Jihad.

And of course we went to the beach! It was actually warm enough to swim, but we didn't.

With uncle Salim at the mall..

 I had my radio interview today. I hope it helps with my book sales because we have not sold many yet. I will post my interview once I get the archive recording of it for those who missed it.

It has been nice to spend Christmas with family. That is what it is all about-families. It has been so good to see my aunts and uncles.  I also love the warmth found here and to be able to go sit outside in the sun and enjoy the nice weather. There is something special about a white Christmas, but it is nice to have a warm one for a change.

My cousins and their families are coming over to my aunt's for Christmas and we are having a big party. We will see how we are going to fit 25 people in here, but it is going to be fun. Some of my cousins' kids I have not seen in years. I am looking forward to that.

I will be in Utah the first week of January to do a couple of interviews for book promotions. I'd be happy to give a fireside or any talks that people want to organize. Please contact me by phone or email if you would like to organize something. 

I wish you all a Merry Christmas. May we all remember the greatest gift of all, the gift of our Father's beloved Son, Jesus Christ. He came to earth for us and gave His life for us. I am so grateful for Him, for His love, for His life, for His patience and infinite mercy. May the peace offered by the Prince of Peace be with you this Christmas season and always.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Merry Christmas!

The semester ended well and my students actually did really good on their final exams. I really enjoyed teaching my engineering statistics class. I was a little scared about teaching the class at the beginning, but it actually turned out to be a fun class. I had them build a catapult from Popsicle sticks, and then use ANOVA and statistics to improve their design. They did a great job for the most part and got those tiny things to shoot balls over 400 inches away. 

I still have not seen my book in any stores, but I am hoping we will start to see it soon. They told me that they finally shipped it to stores after it sat in the warehouse for days! 

I am looking forward to spending Christmas with family. I had a fun Christmas last year and the Romrells really made me feel like family. I am going to miss that this year, but I look forward to seeing my aunts and uncles and my brother. And I look forward to some warm weather and seeing something other than white.

We actually did not have a lot of snow. It snowed yesterday and I was not too happy about it because I could not get my snow blower to work so I shoveled the old fashioned way. Which gave me a little bit of an exercise so it was not all bad. But, the bad part was that it snowed after I shoveled so it was like I did nothing! I love the fluffy new snow and it is actually easy to shovel. 

I planned to do a good deed every day in my effort to "Light the world"...I really thought I could do better this year. But, I failed. I did so good the first few days, but then got busy with finals and everything else and kept forgetting. I tried to make up for it today. I guess it still counts if you do 5 good deeds in one day instead of one every day, right?  I think the shock I saw on one strange woman's face today was totally worth it! I definitely need to serve others more often and take time for others.

I hope that as we celebrate Christmas with our families that we will look outside the walls of our homes and serve a total stranger who maybe lives alone and does not get a lot of visitors. 

I have had a bit of a challenge with my hip this week. I started having slight back pains and told my physical therapist. He put me on a traction machine to help my back. The first two times on the machine I felt no change. The third time, however, I think something must have gone wrong because I had a lot of pain in my lower back. For the last few days I feel my back has been hurting a lot. And my hip seems to have gone back to the original pain. 

I don't know what is going on, but I really hope nothing is seriously wrong. If I didn't know any better I would say my hip was dislocated, but I think if it was I would be in much more pain. It seems to be a little better today, so I hope it does improve.

We had a lunch for the women at the university and I got to meet some new people. I liked their table decorations:

Sadly we had to miss our ward Christmas party because it was on the same day as graduation. Graduation is not something I wanted to miss even though this one was hard for me because the convocation was in the hart building and we were sitting on hard chairs. My hip did not do very well. I did a lot better in the BYU-I center on the soft chairs. I think I may have to go the convocation of another college if ours does it in the hart again ;-)

BYU Radio did an interview with me and it will be aired on Sunday, December 24th at 10 am and repeated at 4 pm Mountain time. The program is called "In Good Faith". If you want to tune in, here is the BYU radio link:
Otherwise, I will probably post a recording of the interview in my next blog post or on Facebook. I have an interview with Fox 13 on Jan 2nd. Just publicity for the book mainly which I think is exciting.  I will be in Utah the first week of January. I'd be happy to take on any speaking assignments if any of my friends in Utah wants to set something up.
I wish you all a great Holiday Season and a super Merry Christmas. Snow just makes Christmas nicer I think, so here are some pictures.
I loved how pretty the frost makes our trees, so in case you didn't see these on Facebook, here they are:


Sunday, December 10, 2017

Don't give up on peace yet...

I appreciate all the support I have seen from many. Thank you all for your kindness. I am so blessed to know so many amazing people.

A friend of mine shared a video with me the other day that got me thinking. It was a documentary about Palestinian and Israeli children. It is called "Promises". I was saddened by what this whole conflict is doing to the children on both sides of the conflict. They are either taught to hate or develop hate based on some tragic event in their life. A Palestinian kid in the movie was so angry after his 12-year old brother was shot by an Israeli soldier. He often talks about his anger and how he hates the Israelis and how he would kill that soldier in revenge if he could. 

The Palestinian child in the movie is a refugee.  He is given a key from his grandmother. She tells him it is the key to their home up north that the Israelis took from them during the war.  She asks him to pass the key to his children in hope that they will return home one day. The Israeli children in the movie often refer to the Torah and say: "It says here that the land is ours." Then they say that they understand why the Palestinians are angry, "We took their land, of course they would be angry" they say "but, God promised it to us."

This claim indicates that the Jews are God's chosen people which they are not. God did give them the land when they were obedient and it was a conditional covenant. He told them that they had no promise if they disobey His laws. God made a covenant with Abraham. A covenant is a two sided promise. God promised that land to Abraham's seed IF they continued in His paths.

“And if ye will not for all this hearken unto me, but walk contrary unto me; Then I will walk contrary unto you also in fury; and I, even I, will chastise you seven times for your sins. . . . And I will scatter you among the heathen, and will draw out a sword after you: and your land shall be desolate, and your cities waste” (Leviticus 26:27–28, 33) 

We know what happened. The Israelites did not keep their promise to God and they rejected His Son and so He caused them to be scattered. That does not give them any right to come and re-claim their land and kick the current residents out. I wonder what an American family would do if some Indians came and simply kicked them out and took their home saying "I used to live here many years ago and this is my home and you have no right to live here even if you built this house and lived in it for generations." 

We have to remember also that Abraham's seed are the covenant people of the Lord, those who believe in Him and His son, Jesus Christ and those who make covenants with Him. They are NOT the Jews.

“For behold, I say unto you that as many of the Gentiles as will repent are the covenant people of the Lord; and as many of the Jews as will not repent shall be cast off; for the Lord covenanteth with none save it be with them that repent and believe in his Son, who is the Holy One of Israel” (2 Nephi 30:2)

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is about freedom, dignity and respect. I hope we can learn from South Africa and to not repeat mistakes of the past. I loved this comment on my blog last time. Thank you to whoever posted it:

"I had the opportunity to interview in a small group setting a member of the Israeli Supreme Court. He referred to Jewish citizens of Israel as 'us' and Palestinian citizens of Israel as "them." I asked him what he thought about a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court using the same language of 'us' and 'them' when talking about White Americans and Black Americans. He could not answer. Israel is a democracy the way Apartheid South Africa was a democracy. And it makes me sad."

The movie shows that Palestinians and Israelis are real people. Each having hopes and dreams. Solving the conflict will not only help Palestinians, it will also help Israelis.

The children in the movie reluctantly agree to meet and talk to each other. Before meeting each has in mind an enemy that they can't ever understand or get along with. But, when they meet something remarkable happens. All barriers melt away, they play and laugh together. A friendship forms.  

Those children gave me hope. Hope that one day barriers will melt away and there won't be hate and anger. That one day we will live together in peace with our neighbors. This can't happen by leaders sitting at a negotiation tables. It must start by the Israeli government giving equal rights to the Palestinians. Taking down checkpoints and walls and allowing Palestinians to travel freely in their own country.  It comes when they look at 'us' the way they look at 'them'.

I would share the movie here, but I don't know if there are copyright issues. I am going to check on that. But, here is a cute picture from the movie of the two children (the Palestinian boy and the Israeli boy). Their smiles give me hope.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

In Response to President Trump

As many of you know, President Trump today recognized Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel. 
I feel many of the people in the US may not understand why Palestinians are upset about this decision, or may not know what this may lead to. I wanted to write a post to clarify.  I specifically wanted to address the lies claimed by President Trump. More than the actual recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, it upsets me more that a president of a great nation can stand up on national TV and tell lies. So, I am writing this blog in response to him and to those that think this was a good action.

Here are some of his words, I am not re-phrasing, but I am abbreviating. 
1. Trump called Israel the most "successful democracies in the world."
2. Trump said that in Israel, "Jews, Muslims and Christians aond people of other faiths are free to live and worship according to their belief."
3. Trump said that this course of action is for the "best interest of the United States of America and for the pursuit of peace between Israel and the Palestinians. This is a step to advance the peace process and to work towards a lasting agreement."

First point: Israel is a democracy. 
Some may look at the democracy just for Israelis. Well, if you do, then what about the Palestinians who have Israeli citizenship who get treated different than other Israelis. But I think we should also consider everyone who lives in the Holy Land. Half of the population consists of Palestinians who live on less than 10% of the land and who have no say on what goes on.  Israel controls their movement, their water, and their lives.  There are even roads on which Palestinians are NOT allowed to drive. These are roads only for Jews! How is that a democracy? You can call it what you want, but I call it racism.

When Palestinians go out to the street to protest, they are shot at using tear gas bombs and live ammunition. I know since I was one of those people demonstrating against the injustices done to my people many times. I smelled tear gas often and have seen people get shot simply because they were protesting. You can call this a democracy, but I call it terrorism.
If you are a Jew, you can build a house anywhere in Israel and live anywhere. If you are a Palestinian, you can only live in designated areas surrounded by 25-foot concrete walls (we call them concentration camps).  If you are one of the very few lucky Palestinians who live in Jerusalem and have an Israeli ID, then none of the rules that apply to Jews apply to you.

If you are a Palestinian and have a house in Jerusalem, you risk evacuation or your house being demolished simply for fixing your leaking roof.  You also risk losing your home if a Jewish family supported by the Israeli government decides they want to live in your home. 

Here is an example of a Palestinian man who lost his house in Jerusalem. One night, the Israeli soldiers came to his home and dragged him and his family out by force. He lost his family home. A home that has been in his family for generations. His childhood home and his father's childhood home. He was devastated and he was now homeless. He was not compensated for the house and was not even allowed to take many of his belongings.
Years later, this man saw his house in an auction. He went and made the highest bid to buy his own house back. When the committee found out he was Palestinian they disqualified him. They said that even if he made the highest bid, he still could not buy his house because he was not Jewish. 

Second point: People of all faiths can worship freely in Israel.
All Jews can get to their places of worship, but the Christians and Muslims cannot. There are over 4 million Muslims who are not allowed to enter Jerusalem to worship in their holy sites there. The few Muslims who are allowed to worship in Jerusalem, do so surrounded by Israeli soldiers holding M16 rifles. 

The majority of the Christians like me and my family are not allowed into Jerusalem to visit the places where the Savior was crucified, where He was buried and resurrected. We are not allowed to go the Galilee or Nazareth.
After I joined the LDS church in 1996, the only LDS church meeting place was in Jerusalem. I was turned back many times by the Israeli soldiers and was forbidden from entering Jerusalem and worshiping with fellow members of the church. I was even chased, shot at, humiliated and almost arrested countless times by Israeli soldiers just for the simple reason that I was trying to go and worship God.   

Third Point: This decision is good for the pursuit of peace between Palestinians and Israelis and will advance the peace process. 
I am not sure how you see that President. We need clarification on this one because my people are outraged and are already demonstrating in the streets and by the end of this week many of them would get killed or arrested. 
Here is a metaphor for you. Say we have two kids David and Ali. They don't particularly get along and are always fighting. David had 9 pieces of candy and Ali had one piece. Ali has never had any candy and he was always an oppressed child. The piece he had in his hand was a precious possession of his.  You go into the room, slap Ali in the face, take his candy and give it to David. And then you tell Ali that the candy was David's right all along and you are just doing what others should have done a long time ago.  After you leave the room, what do you think Ali will do? 
Now you go out of the room smiling and tell the kids' parents that you took Ali's candy in order to advance the peace process between the two kids. 

I want to end by saying it is not Jerusalem that is the main issue here. The reason everyone is so upset is that Jerusalem was the last straw...My people have lost their land and have been oppressed for over 60 years. We don't want Jerusalem only, we want our whole country back. We want our freedom, our identity, our dignity, and our voices to be heard.  This picture shows our loss of land over the years:
Gray areas: Places where Jews live.
White areas: Places where Palestinians are allowed to live.

 Lines at the Bethlehem checkpoint showing the separation wall:


Sunday, December 3, 2017

Information about My Book

I have had many ask me about my book, when it will be out and when they can buy it. I wanted to write a post to hopefully answer some of your questions.

First of all, NO it is not on the shelves at Deseret Book yet. It is supposed to ship out to the stores this week, but I have no idea how long shipping takes. I am really hoping it will make it to Utah/Idaho bookstores before Christmas, and most likely it will, but I can't be sure.

The official Deseret Book release date is January 1st. So, you will for sure see it in DB stores then. 

There is an audio book that Deseret Book is putting out as well. I recorded it by my own voice so that would be fun. The audio book (CD version) has been delayed because of a problem with the CD cover which is being re-done. So, it may be later than the paperback book actually.

I think I saw an electronic version on Barnes&Noble and I think the electronic version may be out before the actual paper book is out, but the physical book is way better especially if they don't include the pictures in the electronic one.

If you have any other questions, please contact me on Facebook.

On a side note, my friend  Mahsin came to visit me yesterday and today. We went to the Christmas Concert at BYU-I and that was amazing! 

Our semester is almost over. I can't wait to be done and have a break. I am guessing that with my book and our marketing campaign with Deseret Book that I will do a little bit of traveling next semester. But, I am looking forward to that.

Needless to say, life is good. It always is. My hip is getting better. The pain is not gone and I still can't sit for long periods of time, but I have been able to survive one whole week without medication which is pretty amazing!!

A couple from our ward brought me baqlava today. Which was such a surprise. They are so sweet. 

I am trying to participate in the 'Light the World' campaign. I think some of the things on there don't work for me, but I am trying to do something nice for someone every day from December 1 - 25. It has been amazing how many ideas came to my mind of things to do that I never thought of doing! I am excited about it. I encourage you all to participate as well if you have not done so already. Here is a link: click here to light the world

It was touching to see the Choir sing and hold lights yesterday. What came to my mind is how bright the world would be if EVERYONE held a small dim light. I hope we all can shine and share our light with others as we celebrate the birth of the Savior, the Light of the World.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

I had a great Thanksgiving break. I didn't do much, which was the best part. I spent Thanksgiving with my friend Danae and her family. They have been so nice to adopt me every holiday. The food was amazing and I'm still eating pie that was left over from that day. 

We played games, went to a kids' movie to celebrate Owen's (Owen is Danae's nephew) birthday, watched a play that the kids put together and the best part was watching the kids get toilet papered and have so much fun playing in the toilet paper. 

I put up my Christmas decorations...I won't be in Rexburg for Christmas but it is still fun to have those...The nativity blocks in front of the fireplace was a relief society activity. We had fun making those. They are not olive wood, but they are wood. I think they turned out really cute.

On Saturday we made a craft project and I made the 'Believe' blocks. I painted them and glued the paper on. I believe the letter "L" with Santa on it turned out to be really cute. Everyone else made stockings and I got to be different.

The painting in the back is last year's project. I fixed it slightly this time. I guess doing a craft of some sort has become a tradition!

It was nice to have a break that I don't want to go back to work. But, we have almost two weeks left of classes and then we are done. I can't wait for this semester to be over. 

I tried to not take my hip medicine and it did not go well. I am not a person who can manage to live with pain apparently. I am now taking it every now and then and living with the pain the rest of the time. I think the physical therapy is helping which gives me hope that one day all the pain will be gone.  

I did some blood tests and other than high cholesterol everything seems fine. That is even strange...I've never had high cholesterol. Where does that even come from when I try to eat healthy stuff. Fruits and vegetables are always part of what I eat.  I had a hamburger the other day, but that was the first one I have had since the summer I think. Anyway, I guess I just need to watch what I eat...


Sunday, November 19, 2017

May we remember to be thankful

I had a very busy week. After I started having stomach issues, I decided to stop taking my pain medication for my hip.  I am going to go do a physical exam next week just to make sure everything is ok. Because I even feel my heart beats weird. It may all be in my head though! It does not hurt to check I guess.

Needless to say, I have been in a lot of pain. I have given up two days and taken something for the pain because I simply could not take it anymore. The physical therapist I started seeing said he is sure that he can cure me. So, I am trusting that this will actually work and I will be healed of my hip issues for good. 

I would have to say that I am grateful for pain killers because without them I would not be able to function. I really could not do anything on Tuesday at work because I could not sit for more than 5 minutes. I even called someone on campus and he is coming to evaluate and may get me a stand-up desk. Which may help until this issue is resolved.

I can't believe November is about to end! After this we will have only two weeks left of classes. I still have so much to do before the end of the semester and still have to write final exams.  I hope I can get some work done during the Thanksgiving break.

Sometimes holidays make me sad. I can't help but look at everyone who has their family close by and wish mine was too. I am so grateful for my family and I miss them so much. Christmas just does not feel like Christmas when you spend it away from family. I am grateful for friends who take me in and allow me to celebrate with their families. 

However, I have been counting my blessings...and lately I have been feeling that I have more blessings that I ever deserve. I don't know why my loving Father in Heaven feels that I am worthy to receive all these amazing blessings. I can't thank Him enough. Words can't describe the amount of gratitude in my heart.

Today we went to the dedication of the Meridian, Idaho temple. It was great...We often forget how blessed we are to have a temple close by.  I love going to the temple and shutting off the noisy world and feeling peace in the house of the Lord. 

Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends and family that are celebrating this week. I hope we all can count our blessings because we are all blessed no matter where we are. Heavenly Father loves you and is eager to bless you even more if you would simply cling to his arm that is stretched towards you.  I hope you will take time away from cooking and cleaning during thanksgiving and remember what this holiday is for. Be thankful for all that you have: hot water, electricity, food, clothing, warmth...etc. Especially, remember to thank Heavenly Father for the sacrifice of His Son, our Savior and Redeemer.

Sunday, November 12, 2017


It was a busy week. I actually had fun doing early Christmas shopping and wrapping gifts so can get a package sent to Palestine soon. People are already putting up Christmas decorations around here! It feels too soon for Christmas. 

I had a nice visit with a friend of mine from Utah today. She invited me to their trailer for lunch today and cooked an amazing meal. I ate so much that I can hardly move now and have been sitting doing nothing all day. Thank you Jeanette and Kent for your hospitality. I can't wait until you move her permanently!

 My doctor refused to renew my hip medication saying that it may have bad effects in the future. I am going to go see him this week and see what we can do instead. I am worried though because I really don't want to live in pain. My medication ran out today, so I guess we will see how this week goes. Online it said that ginger and turmeric work as natural anti-inflammatory supplements. So, I am going to try them and see. I really don't want to take medication for the rest of my life anyway. There must be a solution out there.

We had an activity at church yesterday where we made nativity blocks. We sanded the wooden blocks, painted them, then put the pictures on top.  I thought mine turned out very cute.

Today at church the person blessing the sacrament messed up 5 times and the bishop had him repeat the prayer 5 times (or was it 6?). I don't think I have ever had that happen. It made me realize how important those sacred words were. I am also grateful for a bishop who was strong enough and patient enough to keep asking the young man to repeat it.

I am trying to help my friend who is a refugee in Malaysia. His family is torn and their visa expires and they need to leave Malaysia. If anyone out there has ideas on where he could go, please contact me. His visa expires next month and we have no idea what to do. Going back to his home country is not an option as it is very dangerous there.  I tried to apply for a visa to Canada for him, but that was denied. Prayers for him and his family would be appreciated.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Short entry

I don't really have anything profound to say. We finally changed the clocks which should make it a little better at least for a while. I Leave home in the dark and come home in the dark which is really depressing...but it will soon stop making a difference as the days will get even shorter and it will be dark all the time.

I have been trying to work on my family history. I guess all those lessons I teach about how important it is finally made me do something about it. I guess you can't teach something you are not doing. So, I am adding to my family tree, at least names of cousins, nephews...etc. 

The other day I had a dream where I saw my father (he passed away in 2003) and he was showing me pictures of my ancestors. The pictures were part of a tape of slides that went around and around this field, probably thousands of miles long. Picture after picture of people...I specifically remember him mentioning his grandmother, my great grandmother, and showing me her picture. I don't know if he told me her name and I forgot, but I still remember her picture in my mind. She was pretty and actually looked a lot like my sister Suhair.

I had a good week. Last week was Halloween, but I didn't have many come to my house. So, I have a lot of candy left over. It is not candy that I would like or want to eat. So, I have to either give that away or throw it away. I am thinking of giving out something other than candy...I wonder how the kids will respond ha ha. Who says the treat has to be candy? I'll be the Palestinian who changes the Halloween tradition. This way if I don't give away all the toys, I can use them for next year. Who would not prefer a toy or a balloon to candy?

My classes are going well. My students are great. I am actually enjoying teaching non-freshmen for a change. I need to do that more often. I was afraid of teaching Math 330 for the engineering students but I think it has been my favorite class. It has been a lot of work, but I think once I finish and refine it, it will be a lot more fun next time I teach it.

I can't believe it is November already! time flew by so fast this semester. We will have Thanksgiving soon, then it will be time for Christmas.  The stores are already full of Christmas stuff and there were so many doing Christmas shopping. I am looking forward to spending Christmas with my family in Texas instead of staying here alone as I did last year.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Healing Power of the Master

Exactly 30 years had passed since that day at Bethlehem University.  Events of that day are engraved upon my memory...every detail, every image.

It was October 29th, 1987. I had been attending Bethlehem University as a new freshman for almost two months.  I was 16 years old and didn't know where my life would take me. I remember the students preparing for the demonstration that day, and remember wondering why they were demonstrating. I was still not aware of the political turmoil that surrounded me.

The university gates were closed, and the fence that surrounded the university prevented anyone from leaving except at the entrance. But, the Israeli soldiers came and stood by the entrance and started firing tear gas inside the campus to stop the demonstrating students inside.  The smell of tear gas filled the campus. Luckily, we smelled only a little of it in the science department where we were. 

A few minutes later, injured students started to be carried in. Some had passed out from tear gas and some had gun shot wounds. I remember all the blood and sadness that filled the halls. Our little clinic of our small campus could do nothing for those wounds.

Then he was brought in...Unlike the others, he was not moving...Suddenly everything changed. Isaac had been shot in the head by an Israeli soldier. Sadly the soldiers would not allow him to be taken to a hospital. For two hours we all stood there in silence as Isaac fought for his life. Then, finally, after the mayor intervened the soldiers allowed him to be transported to a hospital. 

When they rolled him out and I saw the bullet wound in his head, I was able to see and understand. I felt that I had matured 10 years and my eyes were opened. As the students sang "It is alright if we die, if we will but root death from among us..." I realized why they were demonstrating. I realized why my people started the first uprising later that year. It was to protest against these very injustices. That demonstration held that day at Bethlehem University was to commemorate the slaughter of the Palestinian people in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in 1982. 

When the soldiers took Isaac from the hospital shortly after and desecrate his body, I too, wanted to demonstrate. When I found out that Isaac, who was in his senior year at the university, was from a poor family and his family was waiting for him to graduate so he can work and support his family as his father was unable to find work. When I learned all this, I too wanted to demand justice. My heart was filled with darkness and hate. 

The more injustices I saw, the more depressed and sad I became. 
I got so depressed that I wanted to die. I went to demonstrations and stood in the front hoping to be shot, but I was not. 

When I think of that person (me), that teenager who was angry and depressed, I feel she has gone a long way.  The light of the Gospel and the peace of the Savior has filled her life and she has found healing and hope through the atonement of Jesus Christ. This change is possible for all of us.  Elder Holland said: "I testify that you have not traveled beyond the reach of divine love. It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ’s Atonement shines."

I am giving a fireside today to the youth in our stake. I am talking about conversion and using the analogy about how olives turn into oil. One of the quotes I plan to use is this one from Elder Oaks:
"The purpose of the Gospel is to transform common creatures into celestial citizens, and that requires change."
Olives and oil look different. In order for olives to turn into oil they must literally be crushed. Unless we are willing to change our very core, we will never make it to the celestial kingdom of God.

The main reason I am no longer that depressed sad teenager, is mostly due to the trials I faced and to the Savior's healing power. His touch healed many sick people in Palestine over two thousand years ago. But, His healing touch still heals many hearts today. He has healed mine. 

I testify that as you hold on to His hand that is stretched towards you, He will heal your heart. He will bring into your life a kind of peace and joy you have never experienced. He is the king of king, Lord of Lords, He is the light of the world, a light that shines in the darkness and the darkness comprehendeth it not, He is the Prince of Peace. I testify the He loves you and that, to Him, you are of infinite worth. I testify that He still reaches out to you with love. May we all grab hold of His stretched arm and let Him lead us back to His mansion above.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

My beloved Homeland

I want to pay tribute to my country and to my people...
Palestine, a small country in the Middle East, was chosen by the Savior Jesus Christ as His birthplace. He, the creator of the world, picked my country to be born and raised in.  In Bethlehem he was born in a stable and placed in a manger. He, the king of kings, made his bed with the animals in a stable. In Nazareth He grew up and walked on the waters of the Sea of Galilee. In Jerusalem He suffered, bled and died for me and for you. In a dark tomb he lay for 3 days, then rose to break the bands of death and bring hope to all. Jesus Christ traveled the dusty roads of Palestine blessing the people, healing the sick, raising the dead, and changing hearts.

My heart aches as I see the suffering of my people in Palestine. They lack all human rights and have been suffering under Israeli occupation for 70 years now and counting.

Item 13 (Human rights) Freedom to move. My people are denied that right as they are living behind walls and checkpoints.
Item 15: Right to a Nationality...I am Palestinian, what does that even mean when Palestine is a country that does not exist on maps. I google it and it says Palestine is a state which consists of the West Bank and Gaza and has it's capital as East Jerusalem!!?? What? Maybe if Google says we have an official country then maybe we do. Yet what shows on the map is Israel. This is the illusion some people are led to believe: that we have a state and are enjoying the freedom we have never tasted.

Item 17: the right to your own things...what of the hundreds whose lands have been taken and homes demolished?
Items 5,10: the right to trial, innocent until proven guilty and no torture...Don't even know where to begin on those. My late brother in-law was arrested many times, held in jail for 6 months each time with no trial, tortured each time.  Many Palestinian prisoners are now in Israeli jails for no obvious reason.

Those amazing Palestinians who have suffered much still stand strong, still have faith in God and still move forward. 

I miss my country...I miss the beautiful hills (well maybe not those with settlements on them), the seas, the rivers and flowers. I miss hiking those hills, picking wild flowers, exploring caves and running up and down the old streets of my town. I miss every shop, every rock, every tree and every person. I miss the olive trees we used to pick this time of year. It is hard work but it brought me close to my land and to nature...

Sometimes I feel I sold my country for a taste of freedom and a taste of peace. I could not handle being captive, being humiliated, being persecuted, being oppressed anymore so I left and came to the United States. This country is not home, it will never be home. As much as I love its people, the Americans, they are not my people. The food does not taste the same, the streets are different, the culture is different and I feel like an outsider sometimes. But, the alternative is too difficult. My heart can't handle living in Palestine anymore and watching the pain and suffering of my people. I can't bare to look at this ugly concrete wall that has torn my country to pieces...

I don't know if you can watch this movie about my town. Thanks Akram for posting it on Facebook. You do need to log on Facebook to watch it. It reminds me how homesick I am...
Beit Sahour Movie 

It was said: "Every people have a country to live in...but we have a country that lives within us." Palestine will always live in my heart, my little town of Beit Sahour and its people will always be part of me.  I hope to visit my beloved land soon...

I am in the process of doing my papers to become a US citizen and won't be able to go home until the paper work is complete. I am sacrificing a lot to have a nationality, not the one I want (I would like my Palestinian identity). I, and the university where I work, have spent so much time and effort to make this happen. Hoping that one day I will have an American passport. A passport many countries will respect and honor.  How sad... It makes me sad that I have to be far from my country, to go through all this process just to gain a little bit of freedom and dignity and obtain a few of the human rights that I never had as a Palestinian. It is sad that I have to be someone I am not, just to get people to respect me and not label me as a 'terrorist'.  I wish there was another way, but there isn't.