The 2nd part of our day in Bethlehem:
We split the group after Mass. Most of the group went back to the hotel for dinner, but some of us opted to stay behind in Bethlehem for dinner with host families and to visit an orphanage. This was an incredible experience and I felt like it deserved its own post!
First, we went to the orphanage. This is a home for special needs children who were abandoned by their families due to an inability to care for them. The feeling of being there was overwhelming. These poor children need love and compassion. The nuns who run the house are incredible women, but they need support. If you feel a calling to help the special needs children of Bethlehem, you can support them here.
After spending time with the children, we were loaded into cars of our host families and taken to their homes. Our small group had 10 people in it. Our host’s name was Sammi. He brought us to the apartment where he lives with his wife, Jumana, and 4 children.
They had an amazing spread of food prepared for us. Jumana has made a chicken and spinach(like) soup, two types of rice, stuffed pita, hummus, lamb spleen, roasted chicken with potatoes and sweet potatoes… it was AMAZING!
I felt a kinship to Jumana. It may have been that she and I are the same age. Or that I know what it is like to invite people into your home and worry about what they think of you, your home, and your family. But, I immediately felt drawn to her.
Her story has been a difficult one. Jumana was born in Bethlehem and is therefore a Palestinian. Her husband, Sammi and she met at Church during Peace in Israel. They fell in love and got engaged. Then, war broke out between Israel and Palestine. Her husband is Israeli and during the war people were not allowed to cross back and forth. Sammi snuck over by riding a donkey to be with the woman he loved. They married and have lived in Bethlehem while he works for the US Embassy in Jerusalem. She is restricted on her travel since she is Palestinian even thought her husband and children are Israeli. I am praying for them and hope that one day there will be peace in the world and she will be able to travel easily with her husband and angel children.
She and I exchanged contact information and I pray that one day I will be able to host her in my home!
On the way back at the end of the night we were caught in an Ice Storm in the desert… go figure! 🤪