Rawan was one of the exchange students that my son met last year at Chadron State College. She is an Arab Israeli that became a family friend, ‘daughter’ after she spent a couple of weekends at our home. She invited us to Chadron for her talk on Israel and the International Food Festival. She became very close to our youngest daughter and wanted us to visit her someday in her beautiful land of Israel.
This day was the day. First, however, we had to stop at a supermarket. We needed water and a few other items of food. As we entered the store, a man standing at the door stopped us speaking in very fast Hebrew. We said that we do not speak Hebrew and he pointed us to a girl who said that the credit card machines were not working. We would need to pay in cash. No problem. We had cash.
We wandered around the store looking at everything for the experience. While walking we heard this loud shrill sound that sounded like a firework falling to the ground. Everyone stopped and looked up. When the sounded ended, everyone went back to their shopping. I have no idea what the sound was, but it was shrill and like nothing I have ever heard before in my life. I’ll leave the speculation up to those reading.
We were going to meet Rawan at the Golani Junction near Tiberias and follow her father’s car into her village. The Golani is the Golan Heights though they live in the lower Golan that is beautiful agricultural land and not the higher mountains where the news happens. They do at times have to prepare for bombs/missiles and they practice and prepare their bomb shelter, but generally nothing happens.
Rawan’s father is an administrator at a bank. Her mother is a old-school mother who stayed home to raise her 11 children – 1 son and 10 daughters. Yes, Rawan is one of 9 other girls in the family. They range in age from 30 to 15 and two are married; one just had a baby last week and the other is expecting in two weeks. Because we were visiting from the United States, the whole family assembled together: Amani (with the baby), Asala, Hala, Maisaa, (her brother who we didn’t meet), Reham (who is very pregnant), Maryam, Latefa, Reem, and Rasha.
We arrived at their house, one of the largest in the village. It was beautiful inside. The colors were extraordinary in the sala where we met her mother and one of her sisters. Her father speaks a little English. He said that because he has no practice he forgets words, but he did very well. Her mother knows “Welcome” and several of her sisters know English. One is a doctor, one works in a bank, another works in a research lab researching cancer. There is a set of twins and a couple of brother-in-laws and one sister-in-law. The sister-in-law is an English teacher and had an iPad which allowed us to finally talk to our children at home.
We arrived and visited for a short time until we were invited into the kitchen/sitting area heated by a wonderfully warm wood stove. Rawan’s mother prepared every sort of Arab/Israeli food for us to eat. We began eating about 1:00 p.m. and we were still eating at 9:00 p.m. The noon meal consisted of stuffed potato and zucchini and kafta (meat with potato), grilled chicken and rice with meat (ta’im – so delicious), pickles of all sorts, eggplants, hummus, pita, Arab salad, cabbage salad, yogurt made from goat’s milk and olives. After that we were served dessert pastries and the only two I can remember are baklava and bird’s nest. The baklava was the best. There were chocolate and fruit filled pastries as well. I had the best tea with peppermint leaves and juices.
By the middle of the afternoon we had the choice to fall asleep from all the food or take a walk around the village. Rawan thought it was funny that everyone stopped to say “Shalom” to us. She said they think we are Jewish, but from the U.S., too. The view of the valley was so beautiful that she suggested we drive our car to her sister’s house on top of the hill.
Her sister’s house was so beautiful inside and out. The view was so beautiful and we could see all the way to the higher Golan and the village of Tzfad – where Elijah raised the widow’s son from the dead. We even got a glimpse at the baby, Rashed. There is a tradition that when people visit the baby (and bring gifts, which we did not), a gift is given. Jemima and I each received a beautiful blue glass figurines. Jemima’s was a teddy bear and mine is a baby carriage.
We drove back to Rawan’s house because the rest of the family had yet to arrive. Some were coming from Haifa and others from Tel Aviv. Food, food, and more food was always available and being presented to us. We couldn’t refuse such delicious food so we kept eating.
My daughter and Rawan always danced when they were together in the states. Tonight was no different. They put on music and began their entertainment for the evening. The sisters were shocked to see this part of Rawan, but for us, it was the Rawan we knew and loved so much. It was such a blessing to spend time with her and her very generous family. Her father even jumped up and danced while more family, cousins and nieces and nephews kept arriving. I do not know how many people were there, but I’m guessing 20-25 in and out.
Everyone loved to test their English, but Rawan’s uncle was hilarious. Because he works in Haifa, he speaks better Hebrew than English so I tried talking Hebrew and he tried talking English. One of Rawan’s sisters sat at the table trying to translate everything so everyone could understand.
About 9:30 we decided to leave so we could get home early and sleep. Our daughter was going to spend the night with Rawan. Her mother was born in Cana and is of Algerian descent. Her father has Bedouin heritage. So, Rawan wanted to take Jemima into Nazareth and Cana and show her around. We followed her brother-in-law back to the Junction and head back to Tiberias.
Truly a memorable day of culture. Rawan, you have an amazing family and we were blessed to meet them all.
©2014 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved. No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing.