Three Cups of Tea ~ And Counting


Enjoying Palestinian Hospitality
Deir Sa’eeda Village
Photo Credit: Yamen

It’s legendary and dependable. Palestinian hospitality is truly remarkable. It is not dependent on how much they have or don’t have ~ whether the cisterns are full or empty. It matters not how many of you arrive at their home unannounced. They may be in the midst of work, but it is unimportant. You are their guest! And you are always warmly welcomed ~ ahlan wa-sahlan ~ and served tea with sage ~ mariamiya ~ in small glass cups with 2-3 heaping teaspoons of sugar per cup! As soon as your cup is empty, it is refilled ~  1, 2, 3 cups and counting. We learn to drink slowly.


Time for Tea ~ Susiya Village
Photo Credit: Elina

We also learn that it is possible to ask for tea without sugar if one acts quickly. However, if one waits too long the teapot arrives filled with tea made in the traditional manner. To ensure sugarless tea, we learn to ask for it immediately after the initial greeting ~ Assalamu ‘Alaykum! Mumken shay biddun sukkar, min fadlek?  It seems rude. It is based on the assumption that tea will be served ~ but it will be ~ it’s the Palestinian way. And why someone would want tea without sugar is a bit of a mystery to our hosts, so our request generally results in smiles and provides a topic for conversation. Using our limited Arabic and our phrase books, we ask questions about their families, the village, and whether or not there have been recent problems with the settlers or the military ~ The children gather around. They are interested in who we are and where we are from ~ The family expresses gratitude for our presence in Palestine.


Second Cup of Tea ~ Khirbet at Tabban Village
Photo Credit: Elina

Soon tea arrives and the traditional taboon bread ~ khubez taboon ~ is not far behind. It is often accompanied by soft sheep cheese ~ labane ~ or occasionally the special Bedouin hard cheese ~ jameed. If we linger long enough over numerous cups of tea, coffee follows ~ tiny cups of the strong, dark brew ~ qahwe. The whole experience is punctuated by “Eat, Eat!” “Koli, Koli” ~ We know that many families are sharing their meager supplies. And yet we can’t refuse. It’s not the Palestinian way. We can only say thank you ~ shukran ~ We are grateful and humbled.

Tea ~ Bread ~ Cheese Khirbet at Tabban Village Photo Credit: Dawn

Simple Gifts
Khirbet at Tabban Village
Photo Credit: Dawn

Time is unimportant. It ceases to exist. Whenever we rise to leave, we are encouraged to sit for another cup of tea ~ it matters not if it has been 30 minutes or 2 hours ~ I reflect on this experience of hospitality and realize that our hosts have much to teach us ~ How often are we caught up in “doing” rather than just “being”? ~ We are so often in a rush ~ to go where or do what? ~ I wonder how often we miss what is truly important ~ As we gather for our new year’s eve celebrations, perhaps we might linger over 3 cups of tea ~ and ponder…

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8 Responses to Three Cups of Tea ~ And Counting

  1. Pam says:

    Beautiful. And so very much who You are, Dawn. xoxo Happy New Year to you and your friends and family there, old and new.

  2. pugmother says:

    Thank you, Dawn, for your lyrical description of the visit with your Palestinian friends. One problem with so many cups of tea would be the need for a bathroom… The photo of you and the lady of the house looks like a painting. Just beautiful!! Dawn, I wish you and Nancy the very best and, quoting Pam’s word, xoxo Happy New Year to you and your friends and family there, old and new, as well as your Mom and friends on this side of the world.

  3. joyce madsen says:

    Dawn, I am sitting in my kitchen with a cup of tea as I read your message. It is an appropriate reminder of the importance of hospitality and taking the time to be with ourselves and one another. I hope you and Nancy have a fabulous time together and look forward to enjoying some time together when you both return. Blessings for the work you are doing.

  4. Shelagh says:

    As I read your latest witness of Palestinian hospitality, I had a flash back to reading Margaret Laurence’s “The Prophet’s Camel Bell.” If you can believe it was written in 1963. I believe I read it in the 70’s. Relationship and hospitality experienced so differently but also time. She tried to help readers understand Arab and desert folks’ concept of time, which is not linear as in our North American or Western consciousness. I believe it is closer to what in Greek is Kairos time rather than chronos? The moment and fullness in time is what gives essence or life to the hospitality. Oh well…enough of my musings… Happy New Year! And thanks for your gifts.

  5. Debbie Hubbard says:

    Thank you, Dawn, for your gift of words and imagery…radical hospitality and served in the moment…I experienced that same hospitality when I visited partners in Zambia – tea and bread with jam or butter and time to sit and be together. Makes me wonder about how I might offer that hospitality as I begin a New Year.
    Blessings and stay safe,

  6. Marilyn says:

    Such valuable lessons to be learned — I appreciate the teaching (by example) by your new friends, teachers from afar for me. The world seems smaller with your postings, Dawn. Thanks for that and all that you are doing in Palestine! I know you and Nancy will be really enjoying your time together. Wishing you both a very Happy New Year!
    Sending love, Marilyn

  7. Dee MacPherson says:

    Dawn, you have such a gift of language… finding just the right words to help us experience your journey. Thank you. Dee

  8. Lori says:

    Dawn, I’m catching up on your posts of the past four weeks, although I have thought about you often in that time. I appreciate how much I am learning through your writings, and I am often stunned by the injustices. Take good care, and I wish you many blessings in this New Year.

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