They had apparently met before or something. They were all taking pictures and I just stood there not really knowing how to interact. A beautiful female then looked at me from far and asked if I was with them – it appears that I looked lost; or shy- I answered with a yes and joined them. Taking pictures with people you don’t know isn’t really something I was comfortable with, but she would tell me to come closer or raise myself so that I appear in the picture. Good people.

That was my very first interaction, and from then on it got easier, strange faces all over are to become faces I’m accustomed to and will later miss. An unveiled female Bahraini face will teach me that I know nothing about other Arab countries. A Moroccan face will make me laugh and love. A Tunisian face will make me miss the intimacy of an intelligent close girl friend. A Syrian one will be the first to make me cry. A familiar Palestinian face will remind me to go back to my basics, to strengthen whatever ideology I carry. Faces, faces everywhere, each with a story, a different background, a different dialect, a different everything, an incredible amount of data to process that you can only control through one on one conversations (they were my favorite).

* I found out later that they had met and gone out the day before. The very next day, while standing with that same group taking pictures, I realized how one day can make a difference in your wanting to take a picture with someone. The very next day, we were all bundled together smiling, this time they weren’t strangers. *

We talked culture, heritage, religion, politics, even a tiny bit of personal philosophy with some. We walked the streets of Jericho, Jenin, Nablus, Ramallah, Bethlehem and Hebron. We laughed, some fought, and most of us shed a tear or two.

My first trip to Palestine last year was different. It was a discovery and I was focused on the physicality of the place, on buildings, walls, streets. Even the limited interactions with Jews I would define them as physical things, as if their faces were part of the space now, not faces of human beings. This time it felt more like I was home, I don’t know any of the places that we went to other than those in Bethlehem and Hebron but I felt like I knew it all. It was all too new to the Tunisians, Moroccans, Algerians, Bahraini and the rest, so I somehow convinced myself that I knew it the most.

My attention shifted to the people this time, both from Palestine itself and from the rest of the Arab world. Even the Jordanians themselves seemed much more interesting under the Palestinian sun. I tried to shed away all my preconceived convictions of people, getting to know them in Palestine meant that there was some sort of aura around their faces, every topic was infused, washed, rinsed and rewashed with something Palestinian.

I was getting close to interesting personalities, each with different content to share and remodel, all with a more than wonderful homey background of Palestine. At times the background would fade and the faces would be more focused, maybe because of the amount of time spent in buses and hotel lobbies, maybe because Palestine is a humane cause to me, maybe because I am simply interested in my own idea of human interaction (which I was fully in control of because I knew no one).

Amna, Mirna, Ons, Mola, Abdelbarie, Younes, Abdel Majeed, Riyad, Yazan, Tareq, Hamza, Alaa, Shaden, Maram, Ahmed, Maryam, Ragheb, Fatiha, Rana, Raneen, Hamed and many many others. I know that if I don’t see you again, in a couple of years I will be left with a few framed memories and a few first names. So I write this to remember you, to trigger whatever is needed to keep as many images in my head as possible. To remember discussions, camps, 5 different bedrooms, endless walks, newspapers, old souks, breakfasts, lunches and dinners, plans, complaints, and crossing the country in a bus that carried our love around for a week.

May we meet again..

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