Weekend Festivities

Trip Start Jan 03, 2011
Trip End Mar 26, 2011

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Flag of Palestinian Territory  ,
Monday, January 17, 2011

Over the weekend, we had some lovely rest time. Saturday we had a short sleep in, and then we went on a tour of the separation wall, Shepherd’s Field, Aida Refugee Camp, and then we all went back to Holy Land Trust to watch a movie called “Little Town of Bethlehem.” I’ll briefly talk about all four of them:

The Wall. What a sight. This thing is VERY tall, I think someone said 30 meters, and pretty intimidating from the Palestinian side. Although most of it has been covered in murals, graffiti, pictures, and signs all conveying a variety of messages. The majority of them are positive, promoting love and peace instead of violence and oppression. However, there were some negative messages spread in there too, mostly cursing at the Israelis or the USA for funding them so heavily. But what I was most impressed with was the artistry that was being displayed. People had gone to great measure to “decorate” the wall and make it somewhat easier to live with. Some of the murals were really beautiful, and then some of it was just words and phrases meant to make the readers think. At one point we came across a house that had been entirely surrounded on three sides by the wall, meaning that one three sides of the house the wall was about 20 feet away. So seeing anything out of the windows was out of the question, and Elias (our guide for most of the trip) told us that they are forbidden from going out on their roof unless they have permission. This is because there is a military base right on the other side of the wall, so the military doesn’t want them being able to see in. This also means at night that the Israelis point spot lights on the roof and third story of the house, so no one can sleep in there any more because the lights are SO bright. So basically the family has to live on the second floor because they have a shop on the first floor that hardly gets any business because of the wall surrounding it. It was quite a fascinating experience.

Shepherd’s field wasn’t quite as exciting, although it was still pretty cool because there is a network of caves that were where the shepherd’s from Jesus’ time would had lived. The field itself isn’t actually a field, but more like a park. There is a small church that was built by the Canadian Franciscan Church to commemorate the spot where the shepherds supposedly saw the star and followed it to where baby Jesus was. It was cool, but we were also starving and ready for lunch :)

Aida Refugee Camp was definitely humbling. Some background on refugees: These are the descendants of the Palestinians that were forced/asked/fled from their homes both in 1948 when the state of Israel was established, and in 1967 during the Six Day War. Descendants of refugees are still considered refugees both by Palestinian standards and by the UN and the rest of the international community. So today I think there are either 4 or 6 million Palestinian refugees across the world, I’m not positive on the number. Then there are 1-2 million refugees still living int he West Bank. There are many refugees camps all over the West Bank and Gaza, very similar to this one. Actually, we were told that this camp was one of the nicer ones, which seems pretty amazing to me. These refugees have had a very hard life, there’s no arguing with that. Among the Palestinian people, being a refugee gives you status in society. The fact that they are still waiting to reclaim their homes and that they choose to live in such poor living conditions gives them respect. This is why most of them won’t leave the refugee camps, plus by holding on to their refugee status, they are holding on to the claim to their old homes. If all the refugees decided to let go of that status, then technically there would no longer be a refugee problem and the “peace negotiations” wouldn’t include provisions for them. The female guide that was taking us around the camp was 22 I believe, just a few months younger than I am. It was really mind blowing to think about how she had grown up compared to my own childhood. I’ve always felt blessed and grateful for all the wonderful aspects of my life back home, but this experience was absolutely humbling. This girl had been in a UN provided school that is right next to the Wall where there is a guard tower. In 2000, during the second Intifada, Israeli soldiers had raided the camp and started shooting at the school, claiming that they didn’t know it was a school. You could still see the bullet holes. In 2000, I was in 6th grade and I assume she would have been also, or maybe 5th grade. I can’t even fathom being in school one day and getting shot at by soldiers. Talk about making these kids grow up faster than they should. Jeez…

The final activity of Saturday’s excursion was a movie called “Little Town of Bethlehem”, which was basically sharing three people's story, 2 Palestinian and 1 Israeli, about challenging the government and military against the way the Palestinians are being treated by the Occupation. It was pretty extreme in some cases and definitely a thought provoker. I’m not going to go into a huge amount of depth just because that would take up too much time and I have other things to get to today :) But if you interested it might be available to rent somewhere back in the States. I’m not sure…

So that was it for Saturday, and Sunday was a free day that I spent reading and doing homework. It was so nice to just sit around the house and relax, even if the reading was class related. Definitely a nice refresher day.

So I just want to comment on the pomegranates here, because they are DELICIOUS. Last week, one of the girls bought one and now we’re all hooked. They’re approximately 75 cents a piece, SO cheap, and they’re so fun to take apart!! All the little seeds are so carefully clumped inside the fruit, and when you open it up they are beautiful and red and plump and ready to be eaten!! SO GOOD! :)
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