This is the common Palestinian greeting “Welcome.”
Ahlan derives from a word meaning “family. Sahlan is the word for “easy.” So the concept of hospitality means incorporation into one’s family and a desire that it occurs in a comfortable, easy way.
Our arrival in Jerusalem was one of true welcome. After nearly 24 hours of travel time, we reached our new home early Sunday evening to the greeting Ahlan wa Sahlan. Russ and Anne Siler, who held this position from 2003-2007 and also served in the interim this summer, are staying with us in our guest room this week to mentor us and to facilitate a smooth transition. They, along with LWF Jerusalem Director Mark and Susanne Brown, treated us to a warm welcome dinner.
But first, out of respect to our Muslim neighbors, we sat on our patio overlooking the old city, listening to the call to prayer by the muezzin and watching the sunset in the west while the cannon sounded to signal that the daylight Ramadan fast had ended and the evening meal could begin. Though the daytime temperatures had been in the upper 90s, the cool evening breezes, lifting from the Kidron Valley to our Mount of Olives home, whispered Ahlan wa Sahlan.