I have referenced Palestinian hospitality a few times in this blog. But the truth is that, like many things here, I have played it down as I worry that it sounds unbelievable.
Most family visits result in being fed an uncomfortable number of delicious treats. Children will immediately offer you whatever they are eating, or give you their favourite toy, hairband, jewellery. If you have become close with the family then the kids are likely to have prepared you a homemade gift. I have received many small boxes containing the most treasured possessions of the little girls.
A month ago a friend told me that she had lost her purse at a fruit stall in Nablus. The vendor not only forgave her the cost of her shopping, but also gave her cash to get her back to Ramallah.
None of this is ever done with any fuss. It is just the way here. I understand from talking to other Western travellers that you find the same limitless Arab hospitality in Jordan, Syria, Iran and Yemen.
And it’s not political. I remember when I nervously crossed back into Israel from Jordan; dressed and behaving as much like a culturally-unaware tourist as I could bare. Palestinian Israelis stopped to give me a lift all the way to Nazareth, bought me dinner as I must be tired from travelling and then put me up in their family home. They had no idea I was involved in supporting Palestinian resistance.
Last week in Hebron I wandered up to the roof of our ISM apartment with a couple of the other girls. A woman appeared on a neighbouring roof, feeding her three boys. There was a sudden thud at our feet. She had thrown a bag of hot corn on the cobs over for us.
Every morning when we passed through the souk in Hebron we were given tea, if not a full breakfast. We are passed vegetables as we walk through the market. There is always more falafel in my bag than I have paid for. I am given food to bring to my Mother, offered places to stay and kissed and nurtured by the women at every opportunity.
What a crime that this wonderful kindness is not part of our picture of Arab countries in the UK.