Today was a long day. It began with saying goodbye to our host families. Staying with them was such a blessing. I was more effected by the situation in Palestine from our conversations with them, than I ever could have imagined. So saying goodbye was bittersweet. We had an amazing breakfast followed by a cup of coffee on the back porch before we headed out. (Ben had two cups…)
After meeting together with the group, we shopped around Bethlehem for about an hour. Ben and I found a wine store run by two 8 year olds, LOTS of souvenir shops, desperate shopkeepers, the market… and in the market, a vendor stopped us and invited us in to his shop for a quick cup of coffee. We accepted, knowing full well that this was my 2nd, and Ben’s 3rd cup (more like shot) of coffee in an hour. A “cup of coffee” here is what Americans consider to be an espresso shot. The vendor, Bags, didn’t want us to pay for the coffee, just to hear a bit of our story, and perhaps to bring us to purchase something else. Either way, it was a nice gesture.
After our shopping spree, Aiman took us as far as he could along the wall to the checkpoint where we passed through with great ease. There were many other people there with us, Palestinians I assumed. Where we simply had to show our passports through the glass as we passed through, these other people had to have special permits, their passports, and give their finger prints in order to pass through. I can’t get over how much privilege and responsibility we, as Americans, have in traveling to this area of the world. I can’t let that go to waste…
A quick shopping spree in Jerusalem, filled with walking and haggling for a full hour led into my first, and probably last, visit to the Dome of the Rock. Standing up there looking at this HUGE mosque inside walls and very secured entrace ways made me think of a big club house. There were a lot of Muslims and tourists, a lots of kids running around playing soccer outside of the mosque. I liked them. It’s neat that on this such highly religious and fought-over piece of land, children still run around and play wherever they like. They don’t have a care about it.
Then we went to the Holocaust museum. The complete opposite of what we had encountered in Palestine. It still disturbs me to see those images, but it’s even harder after spending time in a Palestinian community that has been literally walled-in in order to keep them under Israeli control. Makes me think where this situation is heading…
The group got one last 6 shekel falafel and we caught the taxi home. Finally back in good ol’ Fauzi Azar, we talk about our experience for a few hours and also about what we can do with our knowledge. I think we all are completely confused about the situation still, but we know we must share these stories. We must.
I’m a little worn out from being exposed to so much in one weekend. But there’s still hope.