Checkpoints and Spiritual Pilgrimages

Trip Start Mar 04, 2007
Trip End Jun 15, 2007

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Flag of Palestinian Territory  ,
Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Checkpoints and Spiritual Pilgrimages
Yesterday, we drove to Bethlehem and the checkpoint was moved from where it was in 2005.  We found the entrance, and after showing our passports and being asked why we wanted to go to Bethlehem, we entered. 

We wound our way up the hill to Manger Square and pulled into a garage labeled "public parking," a half a block from the corner.  (The large public parking garage we parked in 2005 was closed.)  We entered Manger Square, and we were the only tourists there!  Just we three!

As we went through the Church of the Nativity, we had plenty of opportunities for reflection in the silence.  Every so often a small group would come and one large group came by.  But overall, it was like we were on retreat and had all the time and silence we wanted.  This was a good thing for our souls.
But it is a bad thing for the soul of the city.  The shops on the street going down Milk Grotto Road where mostly shut; even shops were empty facing onto the Square! 

The few people still running their traditional family businesses told us of the hardships they endure because of the wall, the lack of tourists and how difficult it is to be a Christian, even in this once Christian village.  The asked us to pray for them.  They reminded us to send our friends.  And they invited us to return.
Today, as we left Jerusalem, we tried to go to Bethany, the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus.  We wanted to visit their village and see the tomb where Lazarus was raised from the dead by Jesus.
Our first try left us near Mt. Zion and missing the road. So we backtracked up the Mt. of Olives and then continued down the hill.  After much winding, we found ourselves in a valley with the wall and a checkpoint ahead.  Nothing on the map to indicate this so we saw a different way to get there - back up the back of the Mt. of Olives and past the Ascension Church, then down the road past the Paster Noster Church.  It wound around the side of the Mt of Olives and then another dead-end into the wall.
A gas station sat next to the wall so I stopped to ask for directions.  When I pointed on the map to the Tomb of Lazarus, the owner got tears in his eyes and said, "It is just on the other side of this wall.  I used to walk there and to the other churches. My family has lived there for generations.  But now I cannot go."

He explained how to go to the checkpoint we had found 15 km away in order to enter and then that we would have to wind our way back. Maybe we could find it. We decided to give up and I know we missed a blessing because of the wall.
As we drove back to Ramallah, I somehow followed some cars off the road and the wall was open into Al-Ram, with no guards, no stopping and showing passports, just like the Red Sea was opened and we whizzed in.  I knew the way home to Swift House because of visiting Asma's parents in Al-Ram.  Whew!  Back home in Ramallah!
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Where I stayed
Swift House
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