Our first question, of course, was, “Are you safe?”
The HOPE (Holy Land Outreach for Peace Education) teachers from Cincinnati were skyping with their partner teachers in Palestine. Having stayed in their homes, having eaten at their tables, having learned the names of their children and their spouses, and having, here is the key, having looked into their eyes and seen in them Christian sisters and brothers, our Cincinnati teachers wanted to know, first above all, that their friends and colleagues were safe.
Much of the first half of the 90 minutes was about our questions about the war and the situation in Gaza: the news as we hear it, what is going on and why it is going on, what we might do to be of help to them.
The answer that came to our safety question was, “Even though we are safe, we are affected.”
Teachers in Catholic schools 6,000 miles away from each other talked about what teachers (and parents) talk about:
“Did you start the children’s choir yet?” Response: “Yes, they will be singing for the opening Mass of the school year? We will skype the Mass, so that you can hear them.”
“Is your baby sleeping at night?” Response: “Yes, he is sleeping better, but his mother is not!”
“Here are some books we found about Palestinian life as a child [holding them up close to the camera]. Maybe we could read the same books together.” Response: “We know those books. We know that author. Yes, they are good.”
“What is the best way for my students to communicate with your students?” Response: “Skype. It is better for our students to speak with your students. They really want to make their English speaking skills better. They are very good at reading and writing English. But if they could talk to your students, that is much better for our students.” Teachers on both sides of the online face time agreed that the 7-hour time difference would be, “No problem!”
At the end of the session, we sang an “alle, alle, alle, lu-i-a” together. I offered a cyber-blessing over our friends in Beit Jala, Bethlehem and Beit Sahour, asking God to bless their students and their country, to which we all answered, Ameen,” making the sign of the cross at the same time “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” We shouted final greetings of, “We will do this again,” and “We will see each other again,” to which, with smiles, we volleyed back and forth, “Ensha’allah (God willing).”
And the camera was turned off.