Andreas and Matthias are design students in Jerusalem, and they spent one night in the guest house.
We arrived just before sundown, so we ran around and took pictures before meeting with Haj Sami for dinner. After dinner we hung out in the house and played guitar a little bit (they’d brought their own mini-guitar!) and then I proposed we go for a walk. We turned right on the big road and headed toward the demolished street. Then we veered left and started walking along the gravel road by some of the village barracks. I doubt the villagers had ever seen three ajaneb walking around in the night. It was windy, and cool and completely dark. I heard footsteps and saw two cigarettes bobbing up and down, and wondered who was on the other end.
It was one of the village drivers (or his brother) and they asked me where we were going. I said, bas nimshi, we’re just walking. Tfadal, he said. Come on inside.
As we made our way up the hill to his home, I thought to myself, maybe this is the beginning of an Al Aqaba night-life.
So we went into his home, two small rooms made of cement blocks. Four of his young children were sleeping on a mat under a big blanket. I thought again of the guest house fundraiser and made a note to set aside some funds to buy something for this and the other barracks-homes. Maybe someday this family would get a Rebuilding home, but it would take a while. I didn’t know if the priority was on returning families or the existing barracks, perhaps a combination.
So we were served coffee, then cake, then tea. The boys didn’t speak any Arabic, so I made conversation with our host and his wife and brothers/nephews/who knows, and translated into English. He said that in the past, if we were just walking around this area at night, we could be shot by soldiers. oh…jeez. I didn’t know how people responded when I told them my guests lived in Al Quds, Jerusalem. They were foreigners, and they could go to Jerusalem, but the villagers couldn’t, even though they considered it their country’s capital city.
After an hour or so, and after one of the guys had exhausted all the tea in the kettle (he kept refilling our glasses so we couldn’t leave, haha) we took off back towards the guest house. As we walked in the dark up towards the lights on the mosque, Andreas remarked that in Italy, people wouldn’t be that hospitable. Even if you hitch-hiked in your own town, people wouldn’t stop for you. I was glad we had the opportunity to sit inside a village house…
I fired up the projector at the house and showed the guys the film made by our last guest from the States, Melissa. The film is called I Stay Here, and it looks at different leaders and forms of non-violent resistance in Palestine. It’s great!
Afterwards the boys showed me a video of them spray-painting graffiti on the Wall, and it looked so funny because they had to sit on each others shoulders. Then Matthias drew a picture of a Palestinian flag crossed with the flag of his province on my white board, with the words “Resist to Exist.” They explained to me that they knew about occupation.
Without even connecting the dots, I suddenly asked, “why do you guys speak more German than Italian?” They looked at each other.
“We come from a province that was annexed from Austria.”
What? I went to Wikipedia and typed in the name of the province, and thus began my lesson on South Tyrol. The territory was annexed from Austria in 1919, and the fascist government, in various stages, has been Italianizing it ever since. Initially, German language and education was outlawed, towns and geographical features were assigned Italian names, and Italian citizens were given incentives to move into South Tyrol to tip the demographic scale.
There were people in South Tyrol who wanted a return to Austria, some who wanted complete autonomy, some who felt the facts on the grounds were irreversible. Today it’s still 70% German-speaking but the Italian government allows for a fair amount of fascist influence in the region. There were several points in which one of the guys was talking and the other would go, “whooooa, whoa, whoa…” and it was so interesting hearing their different opinions. I asked them what they’re vision for the future was…
Andreas replied, “I think there’s a lot of potential for the two people to come together, they could have a really interesting fusion of cultures.”
“Really, you think so?” replied Matthias. And they continued on.
Since their visit in Al Aqaba I’ve visited them twice in Jerusalem, I think this is the start of another beautiful friendship 🙂
Photos of and by Andreas and Matthias: