Fifteen kilometers northeast of Jerusalem is a small Palestinian village called Taybeh. To others it’s just an ordinary village, but to me it’s home. Living In Miami ten months of the year then going to Taybeh for the summer is like being transported to another dimension. Everything is different. You no longer see buildings, or hear English and Spanish, or smell the ocean; instead you see roads filled with rocks and dust, you hear others only speaking Arabic, and you smell hookah as it pierces your nose with its strong scent.
Visiting Taybeh knowing you’ll be greeted by everyone is a feeling like no other. Villagers living there know each other. To them, strangers don’t exist. In Miami, I see ten new people a day at school alone, but in Taybeh you can go to the supermarket and the vendor will know you and your family’s entire life story. You are guaranteed to see a smiling familiar face on every corner, not to mention, your neighbors are your relatives. I live right next door to my grandpa, my two uncles, my grandma, and my aunt. But the “no strangers” rule is really emphasized when you order a pizza delivery. All you have to say is your dad’s name and they will immediately know where you live. Knowing I can walk down the street to the grocery store at 4 a.m. and feel safe is probably my favorite experience in Taybeh.
In Miami, I don’t get to practice and learn about religion and culture like I do in Taybeh. Almost everyone you meet in Miami has a different religion or no religion at all. I do love Miami’s diversity, but being Muslim it’s hard to relate to that many people which is why it’s so great to go somewhere and know that everyone shares your beliefs and values. Everyday in Taybeh you’ll see people walking to the mosque for prayer and hear the imam’s voice on speakers all around the village reading Quran. I hear new stories about my faith from my grandparents every week. During Ramadan, the whole village is filled with colorful moon string lights and everyone fasts together. I break my fast with an enormous feast of mouthwatering hummus, falafel, and grape leaves with my whole family. When Ramadan ends, I’m lucky enough to spend yet another holiday called Eid with my loved ones. We spend the entire day going to every relative’s house to greet them while drinking tea and devouring delicious date-filled pastries. We end the night at my house with a mouthwatering dinner.
A small village northeast of Jerusalem envelops me with a type of happiness I've never felt anywhere else. It holds my most treasured memories and it’s the one place where I feel like I truly belong. Taybeh is my home.