Zeta, Mon 28.1.13, Morning
Zeita women’s club – there and back
This is the fourth week we’ve come to the club in Zeita. It’s located in the center of the village, next to the mosque, on the second floor of the municipal building. The building has many wings, its windows are closed, its spaces difficult to ventilate. The infrastructure is new and attractive, but neglected. A bird flies in through a hole in the wall when no one’s there and defecates from a light fixture in the center of the ceiling, its feces accumulating in the middle of the pale floor tile. We’re pleased to see that the women who gather in the morning pay no attention to trivialities. The second time we came I managed to open two windows and sweep the accumulation into the garbage. The next time one of the participants took the broom from me and cleaned it up herself.
I’d unintentionally begun with the little things. The fact that we meet is what’s important. The same group of women starts coming regularly, willing to participate, to be present, to learn.
The initial tension, language problems, cultural differences, our uncertainty about our teaching ability, and everything else were replaced by a very good feeling of things flowing, enjoying the meetings, the start of new relationships.
Rikki is teaching Hebrew, I’m teaching yoga – an hour of each. In our free hour each of us sees what’s happening in the world outside the club. Children on vacation or out of school because teachers are on strike wander around and look for ways to pass the time. They’re curious, happy to talk with us. Women coming to or from a Koran lesson in the women’s section of the mosque sit with me on the cold railing. A woman who’d more than 80 sits next to me, repeating over and over in Arabic, “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his Prophet,” while another talks to a girl next to me about her sick grandmother and the girl translates what she says into an Arabic that’s intelligible to me. A group of boys (aged 10-14) gathers around us. I ask what they like doing. I draw a hopscotch course on the ground; they know the game… One of them starts playing tic-tac-toe with me; with another I play “Follow the numbers” – and HE wins…. One of them wants to learn Hebrew this summer, after he explains that Israelis are only guns shooting, forcefully making shooting motions with his hand, his thumb raised. I told him that others want to learn Hebrew also; we agreed to start a class in the summer. When there’s time; with a male teacher; someone else.
Nadim invites us to the municipal offices downstairs. The head of the council isn’t there; he’s not salaried and apparently he doesn’t have that much to do. A young, pleasant female council member is sitting there instead, speaking Arabic with superhighway speed; we ask her to turn off onto a slow, bumpy road so we’ll be able to understand.
Strong coffee in little cups; we understand there’s no budget for anything. They have trouble paying for water. They pay the electric bills to ensure they have power. They don’t get help from any outside sources. Nothing. Now the teachers are on strike because Israel didn’t transfer funds as required, etc. A familiar story. Yesterday I read in the paper that the money may be transferred.
Two men sit outside with a narghila. Matez, aged 14, is already my friend (he’s the one who wants to learn Hebrew), invites me to smoke with his friends and I don’t know how to avoid it.
I keep imagining myself sweeping, mopping the floor, the streets, the sidewalks, planting shrubs and flowers, watering them, cleaning the dust from windows and blinds. But until we’re transformed into Tuscany I’m trying to figure out how to obtain yoga mats instead of the worn mats which have apparently been crammed into a suitcase downstairs for too long a time.
On the way to and from Zeita we try to get Nadim to teach us new words in Arabic. We’re also looking for suspicious activity, but don’t see any. No soldiers. Streets are usually deserted in the morning. Shops are closed. On the way back, the village is back to normal. Children return from school, the vegetable store is open, as are others.
We’ll report from time to time about what’s good and what’s bad.