Summer in Palestine
Any summer drive down a main street in a Palestinian town and you will find families sitting on balconies and in their gardens enjoying one another’s company, eating fresh fruit and sipping Arabic coffee. The branches of the fruit and olive trees cast the perfect shade from the sun, and conversation, laughter and music can be heard throughout the town.
Summer in Palestine is full of fun and excitement. School’s been let out, and concerts, festivals, BBQs and get-togethers are all in full-swing. As Palestine is a very communal culture, many of the activities are done with the family or friends. Many fruit harvests take place in the summertime, and families with gardens tend to their trees picking apricots, plums, peaches, and apples. In fact, there is even an Apricot Festival in the Palestinian town of Jifna that takes place in the summer!
Another festival, in Beit Sahour, is called the Fakkos Festival, which is a celebration about the vegetable called “snake cucumber.” The festival celebrates Palestinian culture with traditional dresses, dabke dancing and songs. You’ll find locals lining the old city streets enjoying the most popular traditional dances and songs led by the elderly women of the town.
One of the more popular festivals in Bethlehem is the annual Bet Lahem Live Festival. Originally this festival was set on Star Street, one of Bethlehem’s oldest and most traveled roads. As the city has modernized, the street no longer holds all of the shops, businesses and homes like it used to since new roads have been constructed to assist with the city traffic and urban planning. Bet Lahem Live encourages local businesses to open a smaller version of their shops for these few days along the old Star Street. So businesses from around the Bethlehem area open booths with delicious food and drinks, traditional Palestinian crafts and embroidery, clothing and much more! Local and international artists have made appearances over the past few years, and it is amazing to see the old city come to life again.
As a foreigner who has been living in the community for a few years, the summer months are when life seems to be teeming again. Evenings are spent with local families or with friends, and the town seems to regain its fullness. There is a richness of Palestinian culture that allows for time to pass by without realizing it. Late nights out with families where small children haven’t a care in the world knowing they don’t have school the next day aren’t just a weekend occurrence.
We tend to take more evening walks, stop for ice cream and get lost in conversation. In a world that often views this region, and specifically Palestine, in a negative or misunderstood way, there are very simple and normal ways of existing not so different than many other places around the world. Local establishments extend their operating hours for those coming to enjoy a meal and fellowship with their loved ones. Music echoes through the valleys, and the youth shout and laugh back and forth to one another on the streets happy that for a while they are free from studying.
And I sit and smile. I find myself feeling grateful and blessed to have been grafted into this society for the time being. Summer in Palestine brings back a sense of life and laughter again. As the winter months fade into the distance, we sit watching a brilliantly vibrant sunset from the comfort of our balcony, sipping fresh juice and planning our next adventure.
Kamila is volunteering full-time with Bethlehem Bible College in the Communications Department. In addition to her love for writing and sharing stories, her endeavors in Bethlehem and greater Palestine involve facilitating cultural immersion programs for young adults from North America to see first-hand the realities that those living here encounter. At times deemed the “eternal optimist,” Kamila holds fast to the future hope of restoration and reconciliation of all things back to God. When she’s not writing, or organizing trips, you’ll catch her training and competing with the Ultimate Palestine frisbee team.