Trip Start May 13, 2006
Trip End Jun 13, 2006

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Flag of Palestinian Territory  ,
Sunday, May 21, 2006

I enjoy hearing from each of you. I am trying (if you can't tell) to see beyond what this class is teaching. I want to go beyond the history and geography and experience the places. I want to see the ancient ruins and picture life as it was and then see it for what it is now. For me this goes beyond the syllabus and grades. Yes I am taking this for a graduate credit but what I want more than credits is the experience - not just so I can say "Oh yeah, Bethlehem, I been there." Yes, I want to be able to picture it as I read the Bible but I also want to experience the story now. This is a "holy" place on the map but there are regular people here and I want to see that story too. That is why I titled this contrasts - we contrast different rocks, soils, and ridges but I also want to contrast beliefs, practices and peoples.

Today I was up early again as our bus hit the road at 7a. We again drove into the West Bank and toward the town of Jericho. On the way we stopped at a St. George's Orthodox Monastery. It was partially cut into the side of the cliff (note the pictures). What an experience. This place was in the middle of nowhere. These monks were cloistered out here in the wilderness. We walked down the LONG, STEEP walkway to the monastery. Inside we looked around and even went into the cave they used as a sanctuary. Here I meet Ivan a Russian born monk. He could not speak English and my Russian is bad so we just "talked" as best as we could. As I left and said 'paka' he smiled as we shook hands then said something I didn't understand and laughed. I laughed too - maybe he called me a donkeyman.

We continued on to Jericho. Here at the ruins there were about 6 kids aged 10 or younger - begging. Some had no shoes. They were curious about everything from my sunglasses to the sunscreen I had on my pack (fanny pack Rob!). We could not communicate but after a few minutes we got out our names. Amil was one boy who took a liking to me after I showed him a couple of hand slapping games. While our professor was explaining the ruins I was playing with Amil. He even offered to give me a ride on his donkey (I told him I was Donkeyman but he didn't understand). He had a bright smile and didn't mind getting real close to me. I wished I could speak Arabic so we could have communicated but we had fun anyway. He waved as our bus drove away.

I have noticed a sharp contrast between the Palestinian West Bank and Israel. Israel is clean - there are parks without trash and kids playing on playgrounds. In the West Bank there are vacant lots with trash and broken down buildings. In Israel the people are dressed well, drive nice cars on well paved streets and look like 'Westerners'. In the West Bank the people look run down, have very little, and look desperate.

Money. I think is one difference. As I met Father Tom yesterday he told me that the police there have not been paid in 3 months. When Hamas took over and the west cut their funding of Palestinian Territories the well was empty quick. You can see the effects of poverty all over the West Bank. Town after town looks run down and desperate.

Another difference I think is ideology. The world views of the Israelis and the Palestinians are very different. While I am not sure of the roots of these I want to understand it more.

Spiritually, I struggle with understanding why. Why I don't care about suffering in some places but not in others. Do I pray for relief? Do I pray for that God will take care of them? No, I find myself thinking things like, "I wish the air conditioner in this bus was stronger." "When is lunch?" - My sin is always before me. The great commandment rings in my ear tonight: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength and Love your neighbor as yourself." Who is my neighbor? Jesus then tells the story of the Good Samaritan. I was along that very road today...I didn't stop...
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