The Sleeping Soldier

On the bus back from a trip to the Galilee this weekend, I sat across the aisle from a solider (its not uncommon to see many soldiers taking public transportation all over Israel) and watched as he fell asleep under the warm rays of sun shining through the window. Uniforms here are a highly contested, politicized representation of the Israeli military force. 2 and a half years of military service are required of almost all Israeli men, and many women take up the uniform as well.  Many people have differing views and approaches to their military service, just as varied as the political spectrum, and although viewing someone by their uniform as soldier makes them a symbol of war, it has been important to me to remember that each one is a human being. As I watched this particular young man (I would guess that we are very close in age), I couldn’t help but observe the tranquility and vulnerability of a sleeping soldier. As the landscape of this anger-filled “Holy” land blurred outside of my window, these words poured into my consciousness as I struggled to comprehend the conflicts that plague this land.

Sweet Dreams, you sleeping soldier,

On this cold bus where you lay.

You’ve let your guard down

But everything is okay.

I wonder, did you bow your head to sleep

Or did you bow your head to pray?

Did you pray for the ones you love,

Your family and that sweet girl you date?

Did you pray for your fellow countrymen,

And the leaders of your powerful State?

Did you pray for your faceless enemies,

The ones you’ve sworn to hate?

Or did you pray that the Wall you help defend

Would one day become a gate?

With these hope-filled, heavy prayers,

Did you fall asleep under their weight?

I don’t blame you for sleeping,

War has an exhausting gait.

I just can’t help but wonder

About the chance of what I call fate.

And if you had been born on the other side,

Who you would be destined to hate?

And I’m not saying that I blame you,

For answering your nation’s call.

I don’t even know you,

That’s not my place at all.

All I’m asking is that when you next have gun in hand,

Defending this place they call the Holy land,

You take a look at your neighbor

And you treat him as a friend.

Brains, Beauty, and a Bella Voce — Eva Hoenigess

Last weekend, we had the opportunity to travel to Nablus, a Palestinian town in the Northern West Bank. While we were there, we met Ohood, a wonderful singer and inspiring person. Eva, who is interning with Julianna and me, wrote this music review. Feel free to read and share. A link to Ohood’s music is included below.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………While adventuring through Nablus, I had the fortune to listen to Ohood Abu Hamad sing “Daret El Ayam” in a way that would amaze Om Kolthom herself. Ohood is a twenty-four year old Palestinian singer and pharmacist. She b11692801_929299223794709_2544798797381759170_negan singing at the age of eight, but paused her musical aspirations in order to study pharmacy at An-Najah University. Now that she has completed her studies, Ohood sings in a band called Lemana. Lemana plays classical songs of artists such as Om Kolthom, Fairuz, and Asmahan. In addition to her prowess in both music and pharmacy, Ohood is a talented designer and seamstress of traditional Palestinian clothing and aims to one day wear her own dresses on stage. She also hopes to follow in her grandmother’s footsteps and pursue music professionally. Her father encourages this dream, as he believes she has talent. Yet everyone is not as encouraging as her father. Ohood tells me that most people in Palestine don’t encourage singers. Despite this, she is determined to follow her dream. She states that although it may be impractical, music is her passion. She sings because “Music means life. Life without music means no love.”

A sample of Ohood’s music can be found at

Blest be the Food that Binds

There is something about food that acts as a social lubricant. Maybe it’s the fact that conversation is more easily started when choruses of “mmmmm’s ”and “This is so good’s” ring from around the table. Maybe it’s because food provides something to do with your hands, something to look at, something to reach for when conversation runs dry.

I don’t know. But, whatever the cause, I was thankful for food today, both for its sustenance and for the conversation started.

When Julianna, Eva, and I finally sat down to lunch after an impromptu excursion across town, most of our colleagues had already finished eating. As they cleaned their plates, we filled ours, perfectly content to eat alone. Lucky for us, however, Hind, another colleague of ours, walked in as the others left, and sat down with us.


 “This is so good.”

The conversation began.

I have found, here, that if you talk long enough, the conversation will hit a decision-making point where it will either turn to the Occupation or come to an end, and so it was with our conversation with Hind: clear our plates and go back to work, or get into the sticky reality of life behind the Wall.

I got a second serving.

At the conversation’s start, we spoke of Hind’s children. She told us stories from their childhoods and recounted memorable trips her family had taken across the country. As her children grew older in her stories, however, traveling became less prominent in her memories. “Checkpoints” started entering the conversation along with the words “Wall,” “hard,” and “painful.”

As Hind pointed out, anger breeds under occupation, like mosquitos on a muggy swamp in June. There is little room for positivity in an open-air jail cell.

“I was angry for four years,” Hind said, shuttering as the words hit the air. “It was horrible.”

Never in my life have I been able to say the amount of time, exactly, that I have been angry.Never in my life have I shuddered at the thought of my own anger.The “anger” I have felt is not the same thing Hind felt, and not the same thing many Palestinians still feel everyday.

“I was angry,” she said, “until I finally realized that anger does nothing but destroy you from the inside out. I have figured that out, but I am 63 years old, and it took me a long time. What about the children and the youth?”

Her eyebrows furrowed as she thought about what life would be like now as a twenty year-old, living at an age, in an age, where it is hard to get an education and harder still to find a job, where you are literally stuck in one place, unable to leave. “It’s more than a lack of opportunity here. It’s a suffocation of society.”

How do you live peacefully if you can’t feel hope?

That is the question I have been pondering as I stroll the streets of Bethlehem and wave back at the friendly faces that greet us with smiles. In the midst of the anger, poverty, and despair, there is still peace and, I think, there is still hope.

I witnessed this, especially, this evening, which began with a loud knock on the door that jolted us awake from our after-work nap. We opened it to see Abu Afif, a receptionist at the Center, standing there panting.

“Taxi! Taxi!” he shouted, speaking very little English.

We had not ordered a taxi?

“Did George send it,” I asked?

“Taxi! Taxi!”


“Ahhhh yes, yes! George! George, taxi! Downstairs.”

So we got in the taxi that George had apparently sent us, and the driver took us to Beit Jala where George lives with his family. Immediately upon arrival, we were welcomed with insurmountable hospitality. His parents wrapped us in warm hugs. His nieces and nephews, shy at first, were soon passing soccer balls to us and asking us questions and telling us stories. His sister took us into the garden and insisted that we take “some” of their fruit (“some” in Palestine means “all,” we’ve learned.)

After an hour or so of visiting on their quiet porch and cherishing the feeling of family, I turned to George and said, “George, your family feels like family.”

“That’s why I brought you here,” he said, “so you would know you have a family in Palestine.”

As our time with George’s family came to a close, George’s friend Hassam, another colleague at the Center, showed up with his car, and he and George took us to dinner.

Again, food was a social lubricant, but instead of opening a heavy conversation, this time it brought laughter. So we laughed. And laughed. And laughed. We drank. We ate, and they wouldn’t let us stop, so we ate more.

After six Arab salads, chicken, potatoes, a plate of watermelon, and a few rounds of drinks, Hassam asked for the bill. As we reached for our purses to contribute to the cost, Hassam said, “No, not tonight. Someday you will pay, but not tonight. Welcome.”

Food here is not cheap.

Between our conversation with Hind and our emotional release with George, his family, and Hassam, today has been a good day filled with inquiry, challenge, love, and laughter. And, already, I have seen how it is possible to live in peace and find hope, all while enduring the unending hell of occupation.

In this Holy Land, I have found something that feels like home, and for the first time of what I’m sure will be followed by many more, I got a lump in my throat at the thought of leaving four weeks from now.

Blest be the food that binds.

Virtual Tour

Our lounge  in the Center
Our lounge in the Center
Trees! Looking at you, Dad.
Trees! Looking at you, Dad.

DSC_1628 DSC_1627 DSC_1625 DSC_1618 DSC_1619

Cool Light fixtures in the stairwell
Cool Light fixtures in the stairwell
This is where we work and fellowship with colleagues and friends
This is where we work and fellowship with colleagues and friends
The door to the offices
The door to the offices

DSC_1617 DSC_1616

Dining room at the Center
Dining room at the Center
The kitchen at the center were Ba'sam, the lovely chef, cooks us lunch.
The kitchen at the center where Bas’am, the lovely chef, cooks us lunch.


This is our humble kitchen. It serves us quite nicely.
This is our humble kitchen. It serves us quite nicely.
Eva's room!
Eva’s room!
Still Eva's room!
Eva’s room!
Hannah and Julianna's room
Hannah and Julianna’s room
The view from our window, except add a couple hundred people and ten more cars for it to be more representative of what it usually looks like!
The view from our window–visualize it with a couple hundred people and ten more cars. 


Our pesky little shower.
Our pesky little shower.
Our bathroom!
Our bathroom!
Julianna and Eva working on some editing/proof reading for Diyar Consortium's publishing services.
Julianna and Eva working on some editing/proof reading for Diyar Consortium’s publishing services in our common room.

Bubbles and Blondie: Behind the Name

Not so long ago in a bedroom far, far away there were two best friends determined to change the universe through entrepreneurship (cough, cough making fBubbles and Blondieriendship bracelets). Sitting on the bed in the late hours of the night, popcorn and candy gone hours ago, pens in hands, the two decided to spend their summer selling handmade goods that would fund their adventures. At the age of eight, neither one being particularly practiced in craftsmanship nor entrepreneurship, their joint business of Bubbles and Blondie was fueled more by sugar-high excitement, camaraderie, and enthusiasm than business know-how. Their adventures, however, were sustained by the same ingredients, which proved much more successful and enabled their hopes of changing the universe.

Together since childhood, we have traveled far and now find ourselves sitting in a different bedroom, bag of candy open beside us. Our glitter gel pens have transformed into the keys of a laptop, and our dreams of change have not changed at all.

Two days ago, we left Wilkes County for a month-long internship in Bethlehem where our main job description goes something like “you’ll be an intern.” In these two short days, we have already met beautiful souls with amazing stories to tell. We have been joined by a third intern who has quickly caught on to our nonsense and goofery (coined by Hannah for forever. We expect royalties; our entrepreneurship savvy has obviously improved).

After walking in circles around the little town of Bethlehem with our cheery guide, George, it is safe to say we are starting to feel at home, recognizing streets and friendly faces. We have also befriended our neighbors when they came to our aid after Hannah broke the key inside the lock to our gated apartment with her impeccable might.

We are living in a cozy little apartment connected to the center where we work. The three of us share two bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchen, and a common area which has already witnessed much laughter.

The coming month will be both inspiring and challenging as we begin to comprehend the reality Palestinians in Bethlehem face daily and struggle to find the words to communicate it to you. Through this blog, we hope to share some of the stories we hear and the lessons we learn through our internship, traveling, and daily interactions with these beautiful people.

This has been Bubbles and Blondie reporting from Bethlehem. Until next time, groupies (shout out to you, moms!).

Ten-four, ten-four—

Bubbles and Blondie Out.

(P.S. We are still jet-lagged. Hopefully we are as funny as we think we are.)