Nablus: A Hidden Paradise

One of my favorite new Arabic words that I’ve learned in Nablus is bejannan. A local staff member at TYO translated this word to me as a descriptor for something so overwhelmingly beautiful that it incites madness in onlookers. When I think of Nablus, I think, “Bejannan.” There is so much beauty in this city— in its people, in its landscape, in the rich culture of Palestinians—and TYO will always hold a special place in my heart for giving me the opportunity to be here. Haya poses with the Palestinian flag on a sunny day in Sebastia, a village on the outskirts of Nablus

As I enter into my last week at TYO, my eyes well up with tears at the thought of leaving Nablus, and I feel myself trying to savor and grasp every moment I have here, like someone fumbling in the dark, trying to find her way. The majestic Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal. The iconic olive trees. Glowing minarets. The obedient calls to prayer. The birds singing outside all day. And this is of the place alone, so what of the people who live here? Perhaps poet and Palestinian national icon Mahmoud Darwish said it best when he stated, “Palestinian people are in love with life.” Dignified and resilient, passionately open and generous, Palestinians are a joy to be with. As I’ve joked with fellow interns and volunteers, Palestinians can turn any occasion into a party with by simply turning on some music and dancing along.

Haya and her Core AM students and volunteers smile for a photo together

Here in Nablus, everyone has been my teacher, teaching me Arabic and about Palestinian culture and daily life. My students— 4 to 5 year-olds and the future of Nablus— have been my greatest teachers for showing me how to cultivate joy in the mundane. As I mentioned in my earlier blog post, I struggled with easing into the flow of teaching during my first few weeks of their internship program, because I’d get so stuck in my head while lesson-planning that I’d unknowingly over-complicate my lessons and activities. After being around kids for long enough, you start to be a kid again, re-calibrating one’s ability to view life through a lens of simplicity. Sure enough, as I simplified my lesson plans, I learned that it was the most easy and straight-forward activities that lit up my students the most. Life in Nablus has been like this: simple, yet full of unimaginable joy.

Haya's favorite view from her room in Nablus

Each morning I try to etch the beauty of Nablus into my memory by opening my window and gazing at the beautiful view from my room that includes the tree-covered mountains and a lone olive tree. American poet E.E. Cummings famously wrote the line, “I carry you in my heart,” and this is how I feel about Nablus. Nablus is a place I will always remember and carry in my heart for all that that this beautiful city and its people have taught me.


- Haya, Spring 2017 International Intern