A Day for Freedom

Trip Start May 19, 2012
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Jerusalem University College
What I did
Dividing Wall

Flag of Palestinian Territory  ,
Saturday, June 2, 2012

The blank was just baiting me to go for a cheesy title, and if there's one thing many of my friends have discovered, it's don't bluff Nicholas.  For the record, didn't post yesterday because I didn't get done studying until too late and I was nodding over my maps, so yeah.  Better that than some other reasons though.  More thoughts on that will be developed in the body.

So the first free day of the trip, and I volunteer myself to wake up relatively early, doing a brief workout, getting breakfast, and being on the #24 bus by 7:40.  A lot of the travel sites I have run across in the process of preparing for this trip have lauded the merits of taking the local public transportation, and I suppose I should chime in my assenting opinion here:  turns out it really is cheap and designed strategically to get people to where people want to go, in the case of Nicholas, Danny, Sally, and Mel, that was the checkpoint into Palestine through Bethlehem.  Because it was a Friday, the Muslim holy day, we were basically the only ones using this travel corridor and in spite of our inexpertise got through without a snag, probably by merit of our American passports and clear inability to pose any sort of a threat.  We were even able to successfully meet up with a fellow Wheaton student, Andrew, who is from Chicago but living in a refugee camp in Bethlehem for the summer studying Arabic.  He met us just past the checkpoint and walked us along the wall that divides Israel proper from Palestine, explaining the realities on the ground a bit more and showing us all the graffiti.  To be frank there's way too much detail and way too much feet-on-the-ground context required to really give a feel for what it was like, but the high points go like this:  Israel is building, depending on who you ask, a security fence or a annexation barrier, half a dozen or so miles beyond the "green line" established at the end of the 6 Days War, in the process dividing Arab communities and protecting Israeli settlements in the West Bank; depending on what zone you are in in Palestine you may be under complete, partial, or no control by the Israeli military; water and electricity are rationed by the Israeli municipalities, meaning that on the Palestinian side all the buildings have huge water containers on the roof to survive weeks or months without water, while the Israeli settlements have swimming pools.  Yes I try to be neutral, no it doesn't work.

After about a mile and half of wall we met up with one of Andrew's friends, a Palestinian Christian girl Sam, who gave took us up to a rooftop where we she told us about her life and more of the realities on the ground.  On the plus side, everything was significantly cheaper on the Arab side, an ice cream bar costing literally 1/10th of what it would in Jerusalem, but on the down side that means the economy is weaker, in case somehow you missed all the trash and poverty.  From there we went to where Sam and Andrew volunteer and met up with more of their friends.  The next 4 hours or so will be further expanded in a fun and exciting post script to either the trip to Israel or Holy Lands, deciding upon what yours truly thinks is best.  One of those things.  No, nothing bad or probably illegal, just a time for discretion and reflection.

After a period of discretion it was definitely time for water and some shwarma, both of which were excellent, partially on their own merit and partially because I hadn't had anything of substance since 7:15 breakfast and it was now 3:30.  Oh, and I was (and am) somewhat sun-sapped and somewhat more sunburned.  Sated, we got back on the #21 bus and I had just enough for the 6 shekel ride back to Jerusalem.  Got stopped at the checkpoint on the way back again, and this time I didn't even have to show my American passport because the first person in our group did (I draw this in direct contrast to the gnarled old lady with child behind me detained for several minutes for security reasons).  Social commentary aside we got back smoothly, I mustered the peanut butter and nutella toast and fortitude to do a workout, and then it was dinner time.

After dinner we were scheduled to meet up with the president of JUC for a tour of the graveyard adjacent to the college, of course a night-time tour.  I should briefly mention that we were briefly interrupted by a not insignificant brush fire on the slopes right outside the college gates that unfortunately the local fire department put out before we had time to extinguish it with our heroics.  So it goes.  Then it was cemetery spooktacular time, which was actually pretty interesting, if made somewhat less macabre by the fireworks a neighborhood down the way kept shooting off.  Frights received (or, alternatively, not), it was time to start studying for the test I had at 8 o clock this morning, which I will cover in more detail in the catch up post later today.

I'm not going to really bother outlining my Saturday schedule because I fully intend on writing in today's occurrences in a couple of hours, after dinner and once I can get to a coffee shop that is open in the post-Shabbat hours.  So that's it for.  Time to get my munch on.
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