Monday morning, February 11, 2008. Sorry I have not been able to update my blogspot since the first one but Heather & Ryan had a large data base due this past Friday so she was working almost nonstop on the computer. It is now completed so I have access to the computer for awhile this morning.
I left off telling you I had just returned from the day in Hebron on Saturday, Feb 2. Hebron is the second oldest town in the Bible with a population of 400,000. It was an unforgettable day. My emotions went from sad to angry & all the emotions in between. Hebron is a town in the West Bank which is to be Palestinian, but there is an Israeli settlement in the middle of the town which is off limits to the Palestinians. It is to be under Palestinian control, but the Israeli military is there to “protect the Jewish settlers”. They patrol the streets, even the Palestinian streets as well as the settlement area. There are Palestinian police, but they are not permitted to carry any weapons.
All roads except one have been blocked or destroyed going into Hebron so the traffic in & out can be controlled by the Israelis. They may decide to block that road for the day so no one is permitted to enter or leave even to go to work. The Palestinians must have a work permit or a type of citizen card that permits them to leave the area. Hebron is divided into H1 & H2. H1 is to be for Palestinians & H2 for only Israelis. Even though we were on a tour bus with Eastern Mennonite College we had to park the bus in H1 & walk. It had snowed approximately 4-5 inches in Hebron when we had snow & it was melting. There are no sewage drains so there was 1-4 inches of water running in the streets. There was still quite a bit of snow on the sides of the streets as they have no snow plows & no snow shovels. They were using hoes, pieces of metal & whatever they could find to try & clear the sidewalks. We walked through the market places on way to our first stop, CPT, Christian Peacemakers Team. This is the group Ryan came here with over a year ago. They talked to us about what they do & the history of the organization. It was very informative & a lot of information which I will not go into at this time. There are many oppressive facts that make you both sad & angry at the injustice that is present in not only Hebron but throughout the area. We went up on the roof top & just across the street were 3 soldiers watching us & the area. We were not permitted to take any pictures in their direction or toward the military area. These soldiers walk up & down the streets patrolling the areas.
After leaving CPT we walked through another market place to where we had to go through an Israeli check point. On the way there I was hit by 2 snow balls, once in the neck & the other on the side of the head. This was not malicious, but our group joked they may have singled me out as I was the oldest person in the group. We got through the check point with no problems. The tour guide was a Palestinian but he was also approved. We had to walk through an Israeli settlement area (Jewish) on our way to the Mosque. We were only 100 yards past the security guards when one of them came after us telling us we would have to turn around & leave. We told him we had permission from his superior to be here but he kept insisting we could not be here. Two Israeli settlers had come out their houses (like condos) & told us we had to leave. He was not very nice about it either. The EMU leader, Lynford told them again we had permission but he would go back to the gate & ask again. While he & the tour guide were back at the gate the settler went into his home, got his gun & came out after us. He again threatened us. We remained calm stating we would wait till our leader came back & if the superior said we had to leave we would. When Lyford came back he told us to starting walking, keep moving but watch our backs. Heather & I were right in front of the settler but we kept walking but did not look back. After about 2 blocks he returned to his home. Two blocks later we were stopped again by police patrol in a jeep & they interrogated the tour guide again. When the police knew he could do nothing about us being there he gunned the jeep driving through a large mud puddle right beside us splashing us with water & mud. We did get to go into the mosque where the burial caves are under ground for Abraham, Sarah & Isaac. There is a mosque on one side & a synagogue on the other. Walking from the mosque to the bus we went through a section of markets where the settlers live above the Palestinian shops. There is netting with a lot of garbage on it above the narrow street because the settlers dump garbage and even feces out on the shops at people walking below. On the way to the bus Heather & I were a few of the last of the group. I felt something pushing me in the upper back shoulder area & when I looked there was a soldier with his gun barrel on my arm pushing me out of the way. I was in his way. Just a few yards ahead of me coming in my direction was a Palestinian women. The same soldier went up to her & put the gun barrel in her chest to make her move out of his way. I had some un-Christ-like thoughts which I had to confess. Our last stop of the day was at the Hebron glass factory where I made some Christmas purchases. Heather and I went to dinner in Bethlehem on the way home that evening. Heather has been great at letting me talk through my anger, sadness feelings of oppression & other emotions I have been dealing with since arriving.
Feb 2/3…Sunday’s church service was a joint service with the Arabic speaking Lutheran church & the English Lutherans. It was interesting & he had a good sermon. The Arabic preacher spoke for 15 minutes in Arabic then preached it again in English. After church we drove to Jericho. All of you know the story of Joshua & the battle of Jericho but it is also the area where Christ went for 40 days to fast & pray & then Satan came to temp Him, Matt 4:1-11. We took a cable car up to the Mount of Temptation where there is a monastery there now. We saw Elisha’s spring which is little more than a sewage drain now. We also saw some more ruins of a palace. Tues 2/5 Heather, Elijah & I went north towards Tel Aviv to 2 different monasteries & also a convent. It was so peaceful & just nice to get away from all the conflict you see everyday in Jerusalem. There are green mountains in that area & just beautiful scenery. This past Sat we went to Bethlehem for the afternoon. Heather & Ryan met with EMU to share what MCC is doing here. The girls wanted to show me the Church of the Nativity so we did a quick tour of it prior to their meeting. I am going on a tour of Bethlehem on 2/19 so will get to see more of the tourist sights in Bethlehem then. We are leaving for the Nazareth area on Thurs 2/14 & return on Sunday 2/17.
People ask me if I am enjoying my time here & it is not easy to give an answer. I am enjoying the time with my family but other things are very difficult to see & deal with. It is not a vacation but it is what I have on my written journal “My Jerusalem Journey”. I will update my blog again after we return from Nazareth.