Wednesday, March 16, 2005
'Provo is just like Khan Yunis.'
James Bennet's fascinating New York Times Magazine account of Palestinian politics and life after Arafat, "The Interregnum," includes an unexpected tidbit about my hometown:
In Gaza City, I met another woman from Khan Yunis, Rana El Farra. Wearing winter coats, we spoke in the family's apartment, its windows open despite the day's chill. Open windows are less likely to shatter from sudden shifts in air pressure; the apartment is across the street from a Palestinian security headquarters, a frequent Israeli bombing target.
On one table stood two dozen containers of cobalt-blue mouthwash. El Farra asks Gazans to gargle it, then return it to her to provide DNA samples, which she isolates in a gel. A molecular biologist, El Farra is archiving Gaza's DNA in hopes of curing diseases like the diabetes that contributed to her beloved father's death, as well as of comparing the oral histories of Gaza's clans with their DNA footprints. "I prepare the samples here, and then DHL them to the States,'' she said in her idiomatic English. She sends them to Utah for sequencing at Brigham Young University, where she got her master's. She loved Utah, feeling at home with its conservative values, its big families. "Provo is just like Khan Yunis," she explained. "Only it's cleaner." A lively woman with a musical laugh, the married mother of a 3-year-old girl, El Farra teaches cell biology at Al Azhar University. She adores "Friends" — she identifies with Monica — and she recently finished Hillary Rodham Clinton's memoir.
El Farra and people like her are the real political face of Hamas. About three years ago, a year into this uprising, El Farra became more religious. She began covering her hair. "Islam is the best pole you can hold onto when things get really tough," she said.
A Hamas connection to Utah County? It's a small world after all.
Copyright © 2005 by Philocrites | Posted 16 March 2005 at 8:19 AM