Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Palestine, Day 3

I arrived Tel Aviv after a long-way-around journey from Khartoum, via Frankfurt, on Saturday afternoon. I had to travel on 2 tickets, and 2 passports, due to the non-relationship diplomacy between Sudan and Israel. When I arrived, the wild sand and dust storm that has blanketed areas in Palestine and Lebanon and Syria with snow, created dust and sand "fog" so thick I could only see a few feet ahead of me. I tried to walk around Bethlehem, where I am teaching--but the wind was a shrieking cold cyclone that made anything other than staying safe and warm inside impossible. I did manage to get a taxi to Manger square, and visited The Church of the Nativity and the manger. Who knows if this is really the precise place where Jesus was born--but it feels, deeply, like a holy place.

This is a distressing time to be in Palestine. Each evening, I walk around the city, and no matter which way I look, one can see settlements. I may be looking at the same one or two, but it doesn't matter-they are visible, facing sharply into Bethlehem. They appear to be built to be very noticeable. I feel as if cold eyes are piercing through me.

Each evening, we eat dinner together, and I am not surprised, but saddened, by what I hear. One lovely young woman who is devoted to her studies (a Masters in Psychology) asked if she could borrow my group therapy books for the night, to help with her research. Its hard to get something as basic as a text book here. She is unable to get to Tel Aviv to buy books because she cannot (despite repeated attempts) get a permit. She---like many other young Palestinians I've spent time with here--hardly travel, despite their longing to see other places in the world. Because they cannot get through the check points to Tel Aviv, they must cross the bridge to Amman--which takes at least 1 day, each way, and means waiting in long lines for hours, being strip searched, and being asked intrusive questions. Simply put "We don't travel. Its too tiring and its too hard."

Today, when I asked if there were any questions about the activity we had just completed, one of the men in the training asked "How do I apply these methods to my clients, who just called because their houses are being demolished?"

Indeed, how?

A group or women I spoke with over dinner spoke of the sadness their children feel, because they may never see Jerusalem--a place they all have precious childhood memories of. They wonder if they will ever see this beautiful city, with historic and spiritual significance for their people, again.

When we finished eating, they asked me what my expectations were, from Palestine? I said "its exactly what I imagined--friendly, warm, generous people, and its a beautiful place, full of terrible tragedies and injustice; a place that is being strangled and suffocated." They asked what my hopes were, and I said "That all of you-- and your children-- might see Jerusalem again."

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