Amused in Ramallah

I bet that was not the West Bank image you were expecting.

Today we took the girls to Ramallah to visit Mindy, a college friend of Terence’s who lives here and directs a grant to develop Palestinian civil society. She also knows the most kid-friendly spots in the city. This amusement park was adjacent to the spot where we had drinks, and our lunch restaurant literally had a play structure two feet from our table. I heard the mayor of Ramallah is a mom…makes sense to me…

I’m trying to grasp what it means that my first West Bank experience was mostly about keeping the kids entertained. (Parents all over the world do that, it turns out). At this point, it’s an accurate snapshot of my priorities. The political situation here is so complicated. To be honest, for an overall well-educated person, I had a horrendous understanding of the Israel/Palestine conflict and its history. Once we decided we were moving here, I did a lot of reading to play catch-up. But every time I started to form ideas or questions, I would think to myself: “but I am sure I’ll see this differently in a few months, when I am there.” And then I would think: “that is, if I have any energy left after putting the kids to bed.”

I’m not sure how long my apolitical, just-a-mom-in-Jerusalem identity is going to last. To be sure, it’s a cop out and a defense mechanism. But it’s also how I am spending most of my time and energy. I am sure aspects of the political situation will anger, depress and — probably most of all — confuse me this year.  I hope I can continue to see things through multiple perspectives — including those of a certain five and three year old I know.

I resolved to answer the girls’ questions as honestly as possible but not plant them in the kids’ heads prematurely. So for example Hannah asked, “did we just go to a different country?” and Mindy’s good answer was, “this is trying to become a country.” But overall, the girls were pretty clueless, even when we went through the infamous Qalandia Checkpoint. Terence and I noticed the tone of these instructions

the barbed wire, the concrete “fence”, the traffic, the stony moonscape-like terrain and the settlements in the distance. But the girls think of Qalandia as the place where we played “What Time is it, Mr. Fox?” while we waited for our friend to pick us up and take us on a bouncy castle.

About hilarymead

Taking two young kids, a great husband, and a whole lot of questions to Jerusalem for a year's sabbatical.
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4 Responses to Amused in Ramallah

  1. Margaret says:

    As a grown-up, I have trouble being told to “obey,” though I have no trouble obeying reasonable orders/laws/signs. I think it is a good thing I do not live somewhere that is trying to become a country. Also, being “just a mom” in Jerusalem sounds like hard work in and of itself–I have a friend doing the same in Egypt–and also plenty enlightening as this blog post demonstrates. I admire you tremendously. Hugs from Georgia.

  2. ayearoflivingwisely says:

    It sounds like you’re up for a very interesting and informative time even if that information leads you to no more conclusions than you had before. I think in many ways the situation there is so complicated that there really is no black and white yes/ no answer to conclude. The most that can be hoped for is increased tolerance and peace. I’m very interested to read more as you write this year and to hear your thoughts/ conclusions. Thanks to your sister for plugging your blog! 🙂 Take care over there!

  3. Launa says:

    Very interesting questions, Hillary. I see the way you understand “just a Mom” as the apolitical cop out — but then again, what else can or should you be just now? I love it that you got to see Mindy and that she had such great stuff to do with and tell the girls… I may have to include in the next class of 91 notes. Missing you, but grateful for the blog updates.

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