Kamal knew we wanted to see the glass blowing in Hebron, and he is always up for visiting friends so we made a day trip of it this past Saturday. He graciously took us to two glass factories, chatting with friends (old and new) while we admired the work.
After that we hung out in Hebron - Kamal style. We drove to another side of town, he yelling out the window at fellow drivers when traffic stalled, catching up on local news around town, the price of cauliflower on the street corner, etc. He took us to see the ancient oak at the "traditional" site of the Oaks of Mamre. These were mentioned in Genesis 18:1 "The LORD appeared to Abraham near the great tree of Mamre..."
When we arrived the gate was closed; Kamal called his friend and spoke in another language to tease him, as if he was just with tourists wanting in on the day they were closed...he started laughing when he was rejected and switched to their native Arabic tongue, revealing his true identity. His friend rushed to unlock the gate and we got a private tour, complete with a chunk of dead wood from the ancient tree. I don't know the strength of this tradition, or how old this particular oak is, but it was OLD. And dead. Kamal's friend, the gentle older man who guards the tree also gave us a postcard with a picture of himself as a 3 year old or so with a herd of goats grazing by the tree when it was still partially alive.
While he and Kamal gathered with others to talk for a while, 16 year old Zaheer was eager to practice the English he studied in school. He led us to the nearby goat pen and proudly showed off all the goats, pointing them out by name and calling them over for us to meet.
Kamal had previously taught us our favorite Arabic phrase which loosely translates to: There will always be work, but there will not always be life. Which in this culture means - always remember the greater of work is relationship and taking time for each other; work there will always be, but your life will end. He is one of the hardest workers we know, but Kamal lived this priority out for us through every interaction we had that day.
In true hospitality the two brothers who owned the shop (and were of course friends with Kamal), took time to answer many of my questions about several unfamiliar spices and legumes I had been curious about. I left with my share of red lentils, sumac, turmeric, loose leaf tea, and of course walnuts - from California. Go figure.
Next stop, more friends. We arrived at a mechanics garage where several men and children were working, talking, and enjoying their midday break. Kamal got out, and they greeted each other with the customary "holy kiss." They kiss three times, usually touching cheeks and actually kissing air, first on side, then the other, then back to the first before grasping each others shoulders, locking eyes, and smiling warmly in welcome.
As the only girl in the group, I was at slightly wary but it was all in vain. I was treated with the same respect and manner as Geoff (that of incredibly honored guest) and forgot all about my inhibition until reflecting later in the day. Immediately upon our arrival they told Kamal their good news that 3 baby goats had just been born. He knows I love animals, so we got a full escort to see the babies. Delight.
We've yet to be around Palestinians very long, either in shop or homes, without almost immediately being offered "tea or coffee." Their hospitality is genuine and inspiring. Two young men carried their families nice bench seat outside from the house for us to sit on in the warm sun, and we were all served tea in the nicest of glasses. Everyone relaxed with their tea to enjoy the company and conversation.
And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is Love. (1 Cor 13:13)
Here are a few more pics from the day: