Story of Ruwaida, the ceramist in Nisf Jubeil

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As a child, Ruwaida Jelal Khalil dreamed of becoming an artist. “Art,” she tells us, “has always given me energy, helping me in moments of deep sadness.”

We are in Nisf Jubeil, a village of about three hundred inhabitants, perched on the hills of Samaria (Nisf, in Arabic means “Half”, and Jubeil comes from Jabal, ie “Mountain”: “Half of the mountain”). The Association pro Terra Sancta and the Mosaic Center Jericho, supported by FAI (Fondation Assistance Internationale) in Lugano, have started a Ceramic Centre here. The activity is part of a  wider project to support the population of the nearby town of Sabastiya, the burial place of John the Baptist according to the tradition.

“When I heard about the new center I immediately thought it was perfect for me!” Ruwaida says, “I’m self-taught, I never got the chance to study art. Despite this, I knew my chance would come … Sooner or later”. Yes, eventually, because until that moment life had never been merciful with Ruwaida Jelal Khalil.

I got married and I went to Jordan,” she explains, “I had four children, three males and one little girl!” “But my life was not life: I had to ask permission for everything and I could not get out of the house.” So she divorced and returned home where she now lives with her family. “I’m worried about my children” she goes on explaining, “When I left my husband I managed to bring with me only the little Lujain, the girl, but for the others … I have not seen them for years!” Then she takes the phone and shows us a picture of a boy who is about 17. “He is Omar, the only one of my three other children that I am able to contact through Whatsapp.”

For this reason the Nisf Jubeil Ceramic Center is a blessing for Ruwaida. “Art makes me happy,” she keeps on repeating, “It allows me to express myself. I remember that in the worst moments of my life, whenever I started drawing I felt better. The job is a great opportunity to do what I’ve always wanted to do, expressing myself in different ways and showing my identity to the world”. It also gives her the opportunity to meet people from abroad, who come to visit the center. In addition, Ruwaida and her colleagues of the center are now learning new languages, such as English and Italian.

I am really grateful to the Mosaic Center Jericho and the Association pro Terra Sancta for this opportunity, that allows me to grow professionally and in the knowledge of myself.” And then there is the little Lujain: “It means gold,” Ruwaida says, “That’s what I want for her in the future. A present and a golden future, that is, beautiful and full of opportunities. This work also allows me to offer it to her, so thank you very much!”

Find out more about the project in Sabastiya!