Toine van Teeffelen

Song of the Land

Our house is located close to the mosque of ‘Azza refugee camp and so we hear the muezzin or call to prayer five times a day. Even though the sound is loud, you get used to it and we usually sleep through it in the early morning. During the day Tamer enthusiastically shouts “Akka, Akka,” after hearing the sound of “Allahu Akbar!” He then listens to his own echo. Here in Bethlehem, the prayer calls somewhat differ in time from mosque to mosque. This has the effect that the songs “wave” across the land. Toine van Teeffelen writes about the song of the land. 

Shadow of home

The Palestinian home also lacks something else typical of a normal home: basic safety. Lately Mary had a terrible dream. She dreamt about herself running in the oldest street of Bethlehem with Tamer on her arm away from an aircraft threatening to bomb her and the town. Like in a cover drawing of a war novel. 

The Waiting Game

Waiting happens everywhere in the world. Waiting in Palestine, however, is not just a routine and bothersome phenomenon that can better be neglected because there is nothing to do about it. It happens so frequently, and it is so testing and influential, that it often dominates people’s lives. Toine van Teeffelen writes from Bethlehem. 


“Don’t remind me,” says Mary. “I’ll go if I have the courage.” I asked her about visiting Etzion, the office near the Gush Etzion settlement between Bethlehem and Hebron where the Israeli ‘Civil Administration’ is located and where Bethlehemites have to ask for their tasreeyeh (“permit”). We are preparing ourselves for a holiday to Cyprus together with the kids and Imm Hannah and Janet, Mary’s mother and sister. Jara and Tamer have Dutch passports, Mary and her family however not and they therefore need a permit to enter Tel Aviv airport. 


Mabrouk (“blessings to you”) is an Arabic expression to congratulate people. You not only use it on occasions like a birthday but also when something new has been bought, like clothes, or in the case somebody has moved to another house. Saying mabrouk confirms that your interlocutor made the right choice. Arab culture has more of such customary expressions. They are not just polite ways of showing that you know the rules of address - like in the West - but they are said in an often quite enthusiastic and involved manner showing that the speaker has been alert and has detected something new or special. Toine van Teefelen writes from Bethlehem. 

Letter from Bethlehem

We got two full days of snow. It came with storm, so we found ourselves in a kind of emergency state. With so much snow falling on the roofs, water started to trickle down through the porous stones, and soon black spots appeared on the walls signaling humidity. 

Letter from Bethlehem

We had this week two curfewed days, Friday and Saturday, while sometimes the nights are open and sometimes not. In the morning, people get used to carefully listen at 5:00 whether today there’ll be a curfew or not. People sometimes even recognize the creaky loudspeaker voice: “Oh, that is the Druze, you can’t hear well what he says.” 

Curfew tensions in Bethlehem

While walking up into the main Madbasseh street, Mary saw a toshe (quarrel) at a falafel place; about nothing she later heard, but the atmosphere and people’s faces were so threatening that she decided not to do shopping and return home. The tension is also palpable in the refugee camps which are crowded and bear a large share of the arrests. Toine van Teeffelen writes from Bethlehem. 

Field trip to Taybeh

On the occasion of Independence day, November 15, some 60 school and university students and teachers leave together for a fieldtrip to the village of Taybeh north-east of Ramallah. Toine van Teeffelen writes from Bethlehem.