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What does it mean to thrive?

Knowing your children attend a good school.  Earning a salary that allows you to save money for the future.  Going on a summer vacation, maybe traveling abroad.  Making dinner in a cozy home with abundant choices from the grocery store, choices that allow you to be vegetarian or vegan if you wish.  Being able to go out to eat once in awhile.  Joining a club in your town where you can swim and golf.  Being able to buy organic carrots.  Being surrounded by family.  Driving to your brother’s house for a weekend visit.  Having independence.  Building a new home for your family and imagining your grandkids enjoying the living room as much as your kids do.

We each have our own definition of what it means to thrive and, in my own country, people are still working to achieve it.  Everyone’s list is different.

While in Nablus, I became close to a group of teachers who were practicing their already excellent English.  They taught me a lot.  They talked about their families, their teaching jobs and their students.  They also talked about politics and the occupation.  It’s impossible not to.

One of my students said, “I think negotiations will take decades.”

He went on to say, “I don’t think we will achieve peace in our lifetime.  From 1993-2000 we experienced a type of peace.  We had hope that we would thrive.

He continued, “Maybe we will have control of a small percent of land, but not the Jordan Valley, not Jerusalem and not the sea.”

“We have containers, we don’t have cities.  Qualqila is a container with only two exits,” he said.

One of the students, along with being a teacher, is a farmer.  Some of his family land was taken by Israeli settlers.  His family had lived on that land for years before the settlers came to take it.

Another student travels often.  Once, while crossing a checkpoint, he was held for two hours under the hot sun with other Arabs.  He watched a little boy with a broken leg cry for relief from the sun while he waited to be allowed to pass.  The boy’s father was trying to take him to a hospital.

These stories are, unfortunately, characteristic of daily life for Palestinians.  This group of teachers were my English students, but I learned much more than I taught.

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