You Are Welcome Here

The people in Gaza roll out a huge “Welcome Mat” from Erez to Rafah and everywhere in between. The folks here are curious, since there are few Internationals in Gaza these days and they are quite helpful. From taxi drivers to the average person on the street or in a ‘Serveece’, if they can speak English or even understand a little, they will walk with you to where you want to go (if it’s close) or explain to a driver in Arabic where to take you.

The Hospitality of Home is like nothing I have ever experienced. I used to refer to it as Arab Hospitality but I am told by people who have traveled to many Arab countries, GAZA Hospitality is different than any other place. “Come to my home for a meal” is a common invitation here regardless of whether they heard you speaking English in the market or you are a friend of a friend.

Lunch is the main meal of the day, commonly served sometime between 2 and 3 PM (give or take a half hour). Here is how the typical visit progresses. Almost immediately one of the ladies of the home brings a beautiful tray of matching glasses filled with a cold drink. It can be a fresh squeezed juice, a homemade juice from fruit in season or a carbonated beverage. Depending on how soon the meal will be served, the next tray will be tea and maybe another tray of seeds, nuts and snacks. When you are an expected guest, it seems these women choose the most labor intensive dish they can make for you, which I will speak about in some future blogs.

In our home, once the food was served, it was everyone for themselves, but not here. The guest is still the center of concern and service. They bring you a personal small plate (in case you are not comfortable with the family style way of eating) and continue to encourage you to eat the chicken or fish by taking the meat off the bones for you. It’s been over 50 years since Mama took the meat off the bones for me. Now that was a ‘flashback’ I can’t begin to describe! After it is not possible to eat any more, one of the ladies of the home brings a towel. It is wet and soapy on one end and dry on the other—for your hands. You guessed it. I wondered if I was going to get my face washed next. I know that sounds like a wisecrack but I have NEVER had my needs and desires anticipated (as an adult) like this and it just boggled my mind.

The fruit can either be brought out as an appetizer before the meal or as a desert after the meal. When you are served the fruit, it’s not a bowl of fruit for everyone to eat from. It is an individual plate for each person, with a variety of fruit and a knife. This plate comes with someone who uses the knife to cut the fruit for you and hand it to you. After a short time when you are ready to leave this 3-5 hour ‘hospitality treat’—you can’t leave until you have coffee—Turkish coffee.

If you accept the overnight invitation, the hospitality can range from your host offering you a new toothbrush, ship ships (plastic house shoes), water beside your sleeping area, a personal candle and lighter, many blankets in cold weather or a fan in hot weather (for use as long as the electric is on). The morning will bring unique surprises of being a most honored guest in any home in which you are privileged to stay. This is the GAZA Way!

Helpful Hints:

  • Go without preconceived ideas of what should be communal and what should be individual—like the water glass.
  • Watch, learn, share and have fun. Just be real. Gazans are real—Real Special People!
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Categories: Life in Gaza | 1 Comment

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One thought on “You Are Welcome Here

  1. Pingback: Missionary – No, Visionary – Yes « Donna's Spice of Life

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