Thursday, September 06, 2007

School starts in Gaza

A team member living in Jerusalem shared these observations:

We had the privilege of being in Gaza last Saturday for the first day of school. We watched as first through fourth graders lined up outside the school building at the Christian School in the middle of town. One of the teachers noticed that the first boy in line had some spots. They decided that it was chicken pox. They sat him down to one side and told him he’d have to go home. He started sobbing; I thought his heart would break. He had looked forward all summer to returning to school. I thought it was a real testimony to the love these children feel at this school.
Last year one of the parents told me that his son who was in kindergarten got up every morning at 5:30, put on his school uniform and waited by the door until it was time for school. He told his dad, “If you try to make me go to that other school, I’ll run away and go to live with Auntie Samira( his teacher).” Most of the 110 children in the school are from very poor families.

There were demonstrations while we were in Gaza. The situation between the political parties has been relatively quiet this summer – by Gaza standards, but the conflict seems to be heating up. The economic situation seems to only get worse. The problems with electricity made the news, but a related, unreported and more serious problem is water. People depend on pumps to get water to tanks in their homes. When there is no electricity, water doesn’t flow and people run out.

Thinking about Bread

A team member in Jordan shared this insight with us:

The other day as I was walking through the neighbourhood, I observed something I had never seen before. A man stopped in the middle of a busy street, picked something up and placed the object on the top of the cinder block fence. As I walked past, I noticed what he had picked up. It was a couple of pieces of old bread (dirty and driven over).

When I asked my language tutor about this, he went on to explain the importance of bread in this culture. He told me that if a piece of bread falls on the ground, it is to be kissed, brought up to the forehead and then returned to the table. I have also seen bags of bread hanging on the outside of the garbage bins. My tutor said that people don't just throw away bread, instead it is placed in a bag and people will come and pick it up to feed their livestock.

"Bread" in Arabic is "Khobz" or as the Egyptians say it "Ayish" which means "life or living". In a typical Arab home rarely does a meal go by without bread on the table. While they do have sliced bread (its often dry and crumbly), the typical bread is pita bread. And it melts in your mouth when it is served hot!

As I contemplated this scene and understood more fully the significance of bread in this culture, I can't help but be reminded of the one who said "I am the bread of life ... no one who comes to me will ever be hungry..." Later on, he says "I am the living bread..."

So the next time you sit down to have a sandwich, or enjoy bread with your meal, take a moment to remember those for whom bread is a part of their daily living and ask that they would encounter the one who is "the bread of life ... the living bread".