I arrived yesterday around 5 pm after a full day of border crossing into Israel. They gave me much less trouble than a lot of the others here, but they started asking me about my father’s side of the family after I said I wanted a stamp on a separate sheet. And then I got my grandfather’s names mixed up. So instead of “Nathan Harms,” I said “Leopold Harms.” The woman then went away from her post (presumably to do a family check) and I started worrying. She came back rather quickly and before she could accuse me of my lie, I said “It’s my mother’s side that is Jewish.” Al humdidillah she had no problem letting me through after that. The other girls here on the project had to go through several interviews to get through due to their Arabic last names. I can’t even imagine how nerve-wracking that is, especially since we were under strict instructions not to mention the project here in Nablus as the Israeli government doesn’t tend to let people in who are going to the West Bank.
After I arrived here, I was immediately taken off by Nazar, a local Palestinian who works for Project Hope, for a tour of the city. The Old City is much like Jerusalem’s without all the crowds. Nablus has a great charm about it. The people are all very friendly and the architecture of all the houses is beautiful. They all live in very old stone houses. Nazar dropped me off in a spice factory while he went to get the other volunteer that arrived that day. She turned out to be the Irish Iraqi I had met at the border crossing! She had come a very different way to Nablus though, so we didn’t figure it out until we were here. So I spent the day with the two of them. We had knafeh and wandered around the town. For the record, Nablus does indeed have the best knafeh.
We ran into a man named Ameen who told me he and several other Palestinians had started a theater in Nablus in the 1970’s and they were able to stage two plays before the Israeli Intelligence Agency shut them down and took everyone involved to prison. This really struck a nerve with me. How can someone be arrested for their art? The plays had been about the life of Palestinians under occupation. Theatre at its truest form: as a form of expression staged for the aim of social change. And they were put in prison for it. People were put in prison for art in several centuries past, but apparently some have not moved past this to modern standards.