Photos and Text by Lydia Aisenberg
During the Ramadan holiday educator Samiya Mahamid invited the third term of the MASA-Givat Haviva Intensive Arabic Semester students to visit her home in the Wadi Ara village of Mu’awiya. Perched on high, situated in the middle of the extensive plateau atop the Menashe Hills, Mu’awiya is a sprawling village very much out of sight and mind of those traveling the main Wadi Ara highway below.
Turning off Route 65 at Ein Ibrahim and passing through that village, the road continues in a series of twists and turns until reaching Mu’awiya. Views of the villages, the Amir mountain range and city of Umm al-Fahm en-route to Mu’awiya interchange as the bus bobs along and when eventually reaching Samiya’s palatial Menashe Hills villa, the coastline visible in the near distance. Although it is Ramadan and the adults of the household fasting, the table is laden with food for the students.
When one of them points out that it is more than a little uncomfortable to eat and drink in front of someone who is fasting, Samiya laughs and with a wide sweeping two handed gesture invites the IAS students to tuck in. Born in Mu’awiya and married to a fellow villager, Samiya’s house is surrounded with the equally spacious abodes of her husband’s parents, his brothers and their families. A large courtyard is all that separates Samiya from her in-laws. Although she would like a little more privacy she does mention that her children play in the courtyard with their cousins and are always under the watchful eye of family.
Like all other villages in the area there is little to do in Mu’awiya village and so children and youth when not at school spend a great deal of time hanging out in each others homes. The Mahamid clan is one of the main extended families to be found in the region, the majority resident in the nearby city of Umm al-Fahm.
Samiya discusses the holy month of Ramadan, the tradition of receiving guests, the relationship between her village and that of the city of Umm al-Fahm, a stronghold of the Islamic Movement’s northern branch and radical leader Sheikh Raed Salah.“I have a great deal of respect for Sheikh Salah as a religious leader but not so with regard some of his political activities,” she tells the students, some of whom aware that Sheikh Salah was aboard the Gaza flotilla ship ‘Marmara’ where 9 Turkish activists died.
“We are Palestinians in Israel and I believe we should do what we can in a peaceful way to achieve equality with the Jewish population in this country,” said Samiya who also explained that some of local Arabs did not see being involved in projects embracing encounters between Jewish and Arab youth (such as at Givat Haviva) as positive.
“There are those who think that if you work among Jewish Israelis then you are going against your own, but on the other hand there are those who support this kind of work, each one has to decide for themselves,” she says. Although an extremely hot day and no air-conditioning unit in the Mahamid household, a strong breeze wafts through the open living room windows. The room is huge with a number of couches, armchairs and coffee tables and the artwork on the walls of an Islamic theme including an enormous dark blue and gold lettered wall hanging with portions of the Koran almost fills a wall opposite the main entrance to the home.
Samiya’s two young sons play in another room but shyly peek out every now and then. The older boy gets a little adventurous, approaches the seated students and within minutes is throwing ‘high fives’ with them. An educator with two university degrees notched up to her credit, Samiya Mahamid looks forward to continuing to work in her field and has also taken upon herself organizing community work for the IAS students and finding adoptive families for them in Kfar Kara.