Marhaba min il-Quds, friends and family, w-qul sane w-intu salmin! Greetings from Jerusalem*, and wishes for health and happiness this year and beyond!
Now, over four months into my year as a Young Adult in Global Mission** in Jerusalem, I find myself feeling at home here, no longer a stranger in a new country. I can navigate the bus system, haggle with vendors and taxi drivers, hold myself to basic cultural norms for behavior, and conduct the most basic of conversations in Arabic. Still, I find it jarring to see a group of soldiers, mostly younger than I am, wielding machine guns, or to find a looming concrete wall interrupting my travel between short distances, but these realities are part of “home” for all who live here. Maintaining hope is part of the everyday struggle here, for Palestinians and me.
Thankfully, I encounter sources of joy and beauty every day that make that struggle possible and worthwhile. The sweet, loving faces of my kindergarteners, the humble sense of mutual care and hospitality among my Palestinian neighbors, the sight of a sunset beyond the Jerusalem skyline, the sense of a history that is at once ancient and living: all of these help me remember why I am here, why anybody would choose to be here, really, in this troubled place.
* Michelle Steiner sent this news update on January 22, 2012, describing her experience with the ELCA Young Adults in Global Mission (YAGM) program. Steiner’s home congregation is Good Samaritan Lutheran Church in Lanham, Md.