Bethlehem

Lifeguarding Dreams

by Rozana, 20 from Bethlehem

I will go back in time five years ago, when I took my identity card and was open up to this world. My dream at that age was to become a great swimmer and have my lifeguard license. Being a life guard is not easy we had to do hard exercise and take a test. My coach was tough and strict and we had to practice exercises that were so hard for me since I was one of the weakest in the team. Being one of the weakest put me down sometimes, it gave me a feeling that I should give up and that I do not have to exhaust myself in something that I would not manage to achieve. Therefore, I stopped going to exercise and even if I went, I would not practice as I am supposed to. Then, the test day had come. I had to do it because I have already paid for its fees.  Experts came to judge our performance and decide whether be lifeguards or not. However, my performance was bad and of course, I failed. This moment was one of the most desperate moments in my life because I did not achieve something I had been dreaming of since childhood. Seeing others celebrating their success while losing my dream made my eyes tear up. No, I did not want to cry because I am jealous of them but because I made a mistake. My coach came and looked into my eyes and said, “I know you want it and that you can do it but sometimes you have to lose!” I looked away and did not reply. Then, he held my hand and said, “Do you want to have a second chance?” I replied with a happy yes! He walked out of the room and went to talk to the experts to ask them for a second chance. Fortunately, they accepted and my second chance was going to be one month later.

So, there I was with a second chance and a month where I would be doing nothing but swimming and swimming and swimming. I worked hard to make my dream come true. Then, that month was over and the moment had come. It was the time of my second chance. My family, my best friend and my coach were all there to support me. They were cheering and screaming very loudly, which gave me energy and pushed me forward to do it and not let them down. So, with every beat I did in the pool and with every move I made forward, I did it. I made that thing which was impossible for me become possible. Finally, Rozana became a lifeguard.

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Aunt for the First Time

The happiest moment of my life was when I became an aunt.

My mom woke me up in the morning.

“Wake up, guys! Your sister gave birth!”

I woke up fast, put on my clothes and we went quickly to the hospital. When I finally reached, I saw my nephew, Hanna. He is the cutest ever. I held him tightly and gave him the biggest kiss ever. I really can’t explain the way I felt that day. It was awesome.

Still, he is the reason of my smile. Everyone who sees him says that he looks like me and this makes me proud.

Now, he is nine months old. What I love the most about him is that the first thing he said when he started to talk was “Nana”, which means Jiana. Goodness, it melted my heart. I see in this baby boy a very successful man, a loving and friendly person and of course, an incredibly cute person because he looks like me.

Seeing him growing up with no danger around him and with a perfect family makes my life happier. Seeing him sticks a smile on my face. All I want is to know that he is safe and happy. I give him much attention and spoil him. Every time I play with him I turn into a baby. It makes me feel special; he changes my whole mood.

My happiness will be completed when I see him a big, successful man with his wife and children.

God bless you my sweet Hanna. I love you so so much!

International Women’s Day

The participants of the Just Sharing Fellowship in Bethlehem celebrated International Women’s Day on Thursday, March 5th. We talked about the history of International Women’s Day, gender inequality around the world, and what it means to be a women in Palestine. We shared our visions for gender equality in 2015 and each participant wrote their hopes of justice on a sign along with #Makeithappen, the official theme of International Women’s Day 2015.

Look at the photos and visions of gender equality below and let us all work towards gender justice in 2015!Help Each Other Freedom Independence and Access to Water Peace #RighttoMovement
#Makeithappen

Just Discussions

Since November 2014, participants have gathered several times to discuss the power of sharing our stories with each other and methods of telling engaging stories.

Here are some of the ways we have engaged in dialogue with each other about how to share with others so that we may offer glimpses of the realities of our lives and learn from the realities of the lives of others as well as empower each other’s voices.

 Word Association Ice Breaker

Participants stood in a circle and each individual said their name and one word they think of when they hear the word, “story”.

Some of the responses given included, “personal”, “adventure”, “mine”, and “emotional.”

We discussed the patterns in the words we gave as responses and talked about the very personal nature of story-telling. What do our stories reveal about us? What do they say about who we have been? What do they say about who we want to be?

Drawing Perceptions

Each participant had a piece of paper. On one side of the blank sheet, we drew our vision of the other culture. What do we see when we think of that place and society? On the other side of the sheet, we drew a picture of our own culture. We discussed what our pictures of the other culture revealed about prejudices and preconceived ideas. The pictures of our own culture can show what we value most about where and how we live, and therefore, the story and image we want to share with others about the realities of our lives.

Illustrated Life Timeline

In order to help workshop engaging stories to share, participants each created an illustrated timeline of their life, from birth to present day. Everyone was encouraged to include at least 5 events from their life that they felt were the most important or formative. For example, we thought about what moments had made us most afraid? What moment did we feel most proud of ourselves, our culture, or our identity?

Example Memoir Excerpts

An important aim of the blog is empowering female voices. What better way to do this to learn from other female voices? Participants are encouraged to read memoirs written by women from around the world. We also read over excerpts to aid our discussions of what makes an engaging story. Specifically, we looked at excerpts from Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, and Tasting the Sky by Ibtisam Barakat.

Facebook

Facebook has enabled us to continue the conversation after our workshops end and across the geographical distance. We have a shared group on which we can share interesting videos and interviews. Here are two things we have shared on Facebook and discussed outside of our time together:

StoryCorps Interview – A powerful interview between Yusor Abu-Salha –one of the victims of the recent murders of three Muslim students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina –  with her 3rd grade teacher, Mussarut Jabeen. Mussarut Jabeen also returned to StoryCorps recently to talk about Yusor’s death.

“Breaking out of Prison” by Honey Thaljieh

Please, carry on the conversation in your lives and circles as well. What can we learn from the stories of others? How do we tell meaningful, powerful stories? How can we share with each other in ways that empower and affirm rather than discourage and create distance.

An Adventure that Turned Out Well

by Tamara, 20 from Bethlehem

When you find yourself in a bad and scary situation, fear and doubt will not help you. If you can relax and think for a minute, it might not turn out as badly as you first thought. This story starts when I came to the USA to visit my sister who lives in Michigan.

I had one month left. I did not have any good pictures of the neighborhood, and so, I wanted to go around and take pictures, as photography is my hobby. So I asked my sister to go for a walk to take pictures, but she said, “No, you cannot. It is not safe outside.”

I replied quickly, “Do not worry, I will not go far.”

After a long argument, she wrote her address on a piece of paper and gave it to me. As I was closing the door, she hollered at me, “Tamar, be back in an hour!”

I started walking down the street with camera in hand. My eyes were searching for a picture to take. As I was thinking about the weather and the amazing sunset, two dogs jumped in front of me – they were huge and scary. I stood still as a stone. I was terrified, but I tried to be calm and confident, hoping they might leave me alone. But they started barking and chasing me. I started running and screaming loudly without knowing which way to go. Afterwards, the owner started hollering at them. Then he asked, “Are you okay ma’am? I am really sorry.” I answered with a low voice, “It is okay, I am fine.

After struggling to remember the way, I felt sure I was back to the same place I was before the dogs appeared. I looked at the sky and it was getting dark so I had to hurry up to get back home. I started walking until I reached the courtyard. I searched for apartment number 3. I found it and felt really relieved to be back home safe after this adventure. The door was open, so I entered and then realized I had entered the wrong apartment! The lady of the house said to me, “Excuse me, can I help you?” I started crying, thinking that I am lost. So she called 911.

Then the police officer arrived to her house. The moment I saw him I was shocked, he was sooo cute. He came close to me and said “What’s your name, honey?” As I looked at him my mouth dropped open and could not answer for a moment. The other time my answer was “Aha.” This silent moment made me feel safe. He started questioning me: What’s my name, Where am I from, Where am I staying. Of course my first answer was to tell the cute office my name. Then I told him the whole story. “All houses look the same and I thought this was my sister’s house…” He laughed because he knew it was true. When he asked me what my sister’s address was, I remembered I had her address with me. So I handed the paper to him.

When we arrived at my sister’s house, he knocked on the door. My sister came out stunned by the scene of me standing next to a police officer. She asked me “What have you done, what happened?”

Then the police officer explained to her everything. My sister and I thanked him for bringing me back home safe. Then she baked a cake and we took it to the neighbor who helped me and until now my sister and the neighbors have a good relationship.

My Working Life

by Gina, 19 from Bethlehem

This is Gina talking. I’m a normal girl with a small, happy family and a good life. I’m nineteen years old and I have one sister and two brothers. I finished high school at the Fréres School but I did not go to university .

I did not go to university because I started working.

One day my father was going to the church to pray when he saw his friend, George. He told my father that he needed someone to work in his souvenir shop and could not find anyone.

“I will look,” My father said to him. “If I find one I will tell you.”

At night, my parents and I were talking as usual. My father said, “Gina, do you want to work?”

“Why not?” I said. “But let me think about it.”

After one week, I told my dad, “Let me see the man and his shop. I need to ask him some questions.”

The next day, early in the morning at 7:30, we went to the shop and I told George that I will try.

“Maybe I will stay, maybe I will leave,” I said.

The first day of work was fantastic! I saw many people and heard many languages. It was a different day for me – I liked it.

That night, I told my dad that I liked the work and that I will stay.

Every day, George tells me a story about his life. He introduced me to his wife and his son. He tells everyone who visits the shop that I am his daughter.

I work from 8:30 am in the morning till 4:00 pm. Sometimes, when groups of tourists come late, George calls me or I will stay till 6:00 pm or later.

I like my work but want to study. I hope to study in the university and continue to work at George’s shop.