Thursday, 7 June 2012

Home sweet home

I'm writing this early on Thursday morning because Wednesday was just sooo busy!

We started the day at Pater Noster - the very first people in there - gosh! - and ended it at the church of the Holy Sepulchre having down Holy Week in a day... exhausting in every sense of the word, physically, emotionally, spiritually.

However, (hopefully) more of that later. Because the biggest privilege we had yesterday was to visit our guide Khalil's family home.  He took us into the old city and down the usual little 'streets' and then he told us he would show us where the 'most important' person had been born. Of course, it was his family home.  It had been in his family since the 14th century and from the outside was approximately 8feet wide.  It had a single door and through it you could just glimpse the white ceiling daubed with bright coloured spots of paint.  The traditional way to celebrate returning from a Haj.

Khalil told us about the deeds that his ancestors had established and how they are opened up every five years for new names to be added (and I assume others to be removed... on death?).  He told us how he has a room in the house and that others, his uncles, his brothers, his cousins also have rooms there.  He spoke about the work that had been done over the centuries to increase the living space, how a first floor 'yard' area had been developed to add a washroom and how his father had mourned the lost space for sitting together in the afternoon to drink tea.

Then he took us into his home.  That's why it was such a privilege. It was currently 'empty' as they were adding more rooms.  Behind the small exterior the building opened up backwards and upwards into an amazing living area. He showed us the room where he had been born.  He explained that as he now has a wife and four children it is too small for all of them to live there so they live about ten minutes drive away. But due to the checkpoints it takes about an hour and a half to get into the city in the morning.

There is something rather special about showing people your home.  It can define who you are.  It is quite clear that Khalil is unbelievably proud to be born in and a resident of Jerusalem.  He has great pride in the city of his birth.  And we were all the more aware of how close he was born to the centre of the Old City when he took us a very short walk to Ecce Homo where we were to lunch and then afterwards start the stations of the cross...

Oh, and I mustn't forget his introduction to Uncle Moustache who runs the best falafel stall in Jerusalem!

What a wonderful day and an incredible, unexpected experience.

Have to stop!  The bus leaves soon for the orphanage, Lazarus' cave and then an afternoon with a Rabbi for Human Rights! Another 'quiet' day!

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