When you first meet Manar and Halima you would think that they are two ordinary ladies from the village of BaniNaim, south of Hebron. Manar is a 34-year-old engineer and mother to two children, Rita and Raad. Halima is a 51-year-old woman who didn’t have the chance to continue higher education or get married. The difference couldn’t be greater, but the more you get to know Manar and Halima, the more you realize they are two fascinating women who complete each other, setting a unique example of courage, strength and love.
It all began when Manar’s husband, who is also Halima’s brother, died of a heart stroke in 2010. Manar had the perfect life; she was married to a loving husband, had two adorable children and worked as an agricultural engineer. But after her husband passed away, Manar realized her life had to be rearranged to ensure her children’s future. Meanwhile, Halima who lived with her brother and his family knew she must prove she can also help save the household. Halima took the responsibility of the house and the children while Manar applied to get a better job that would ensure that the family enjoys the same lifestyle. Manar said, “I always joke with Halima that I suddenly became the man of the house.” Manar and Halima were able to identify their strengths and combine efforts to survive in a society that views women as weak, dependent and unable to survive on their own.
When Manar heard about the homestay program, she knew Halima wouldn’t refuse the idea, on the contrary she agreed immediately, but under one condition that they only host women. She said, “We live in a traditional society and we are two independent women living alone. We need to respect our traditions.” Manar then began the process of rehabilitating the ground floor turning it into a spacious suite with four bedrooms and a large bathroom.
Manar and Halima didn’t join the program because of the financial gains only, but also to meet new people and make new friends from all around the world. Manar joined language courses to be able to communicate with her guests efficiently and Halima attended several workshops, including a budgeting training. She said, “I didn’t have the chance to get higher education, but I feel like I am learning so much and helping Manar at the same time.”
The two ladies believe their four-story house is the perfect homestay, because it is easy to find, the suite is separate from the floor where the family lives which makes it private, quiet and perfect for exchange students, and most importantly, because of Halima’s delicious food. Manar and Halima received guests several times, including a masters student and four young women working in Hebron. They remember the experience as exciting and rewarding and said they canâ€™t wait to host more people.
When they first started the project, many people around Manar and Halima expressed objection, but decided to do whatever it takes to make the project a success to prove that women can.
Meet the people who host travelers on the Palestine Heritage Trail
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Learn more about community initiatives along the Palestine Heritage Trail