Provided by: Osie Adelfang

It was our first day, with a very packed schedule. Three of us began with a 30-minute yoga practice to set a tone for our day, but the day ended up allowing little time for breathing or reflection. Our first activity was a trip to the suk, the downtown market full of smells, from the amazing cardamom coffee and kanafe to the not-so-appetizing to a vegetarian, meat, including, sheep’s heads, goat’s heads, live poultry).

In addition, an incredible array of gorgeous, modest fashions (and sexy underwear).

Along our walk, we saw an Ottoman-era palace, wound our way through tiny alleys and cave-like paths (imagine hallways BETWEEN, rather than IN, homes). Somehow people, cars, and carts pass safely through the narrow streets. We saw ancient buildings rebuilt with new materials after being bulldozed during invasions, and buildings in rubble that have not been rebuilt. There is a lot of rubble all around the city, and a lack of green spaces.

We walked into an ancient stone-oven bakery and watched pita being made. The owner gave us all very hot pita out of the oven. The generosity shown here is indescribable. I know this because it had been described to me, but I didn’t “get it” until experiencing it first hand.

In every doorway and from every shop, people greet us, often in English: hello, welcome. They very much want to talk about their lives and to see they are just people, and they are, despite their suffering, amazing people, warm and joyful. Beautiful children ride bikes through the cobblestone streets and play soccer in courtyards.

Our next stop was the mayor’s office. We were welcomed and heard from the vice mayor, a tall man who reminds me of actor Jeff Goldblum. We went over our itinerary, then were off to the governor’s office, where we spoke with him for almost an hour, learning about the government and its issues.

It was afternoon and jet lag hit full force, so several of us went to the hotel to rest while the rest of the group continued to a women’s day celebration. Obviously I can’t describe that, as I wasn’t there, but the group came back awed by a young 12-year old girl who had read a powerful poem.

We were invited to dinner at the home of “Palestine’s last storyteller” and his family. We were again generously fed, were taught a lot about Palestinian culture, and heard stories artfully told and beautifully translated by our guide.

Our hosts live in a beautifully situated and elegantly furnished home in the Nablus hills. They took us up on the roof and showed us an exquisite view stretching through the hills and all the way to the Mediterranean Sea. We returned to the hotel and I’m pretty sure we all passed out and slept deeply, I know my roommates and I did.

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