Inside the walled city of Bethlehem: Walking. In the Rachel's Tomb area where the Wall looms high ("Rachel is my neighbor but I can't visit her anymore." Antoinette has told me. Rachel's Tomb is walled off to the Palestinians and Netanyahu recently announced that it would be added to the list of Israel's "Heritage sites.") Walking…The Arab Educational Institute Sumud Story House. (A.E.I.'s Sumud Story house works with women and families surrounded by the Wall to foster creative non-violence and "sumud"-- steadfastness.) Walking…. The Paradise Hotel (A cordon of Palestinian Authority soldiers and police abut the sidewalks, guard the streets, leery of a third "intifada"—uprising-- alerted to stop protestors.
The recent closure of the Al Aqsa Mosque to men under 50 and Netanyanhu's announcement to build 1600 new homes in Occupied East Jerusalem have brought thousands of Palestinians to the streets of Jerusalem, crying out; some stone-throwing, burning of tires, and in response, pummeted with tear-gas, stun-grenades and rubber-coated-steel bullets.. Mustafa Barghouti confirms on Al Jazeera that it doesn't matter if the Palestinians protest peacefully or violently—they are treated by the Israeli authorities with violence.) Walking… Bethlehem Bible College. (The recent international conference "Christ at the Checkpoint: Theology in the Service of Peace and Justice" is just letting out.) Al--Azza Refugee Camp (Kids have thrown an old couch into the middle of the Camp's one street and are using it to block the way, playing at "Checkpoint;" waving a stick in the air.) Walking… The Mosque of Salah Al-din. Walking…
Bethlehem University (the highest point of the city. Toine tells me the library holds an excellent collection of Palestinian women's history… Wild lilies are blooming.) Walking… Children Street (Epheta Institute for Audiophonic Rehabilitaton; Hospital of the Holy Family; Church of the Holy Family; Women's Union Club)…Harat Al-Batin (Neighborhood), St. Joseph's Sister's Convent, Madbasfa Street, Salesian Convent and Church. Walking… Terra Sancta Girls' School… Walking… Climbing. The Mosque of Omar, Manger Square, Basilica of the Nativity, Milk Grotto Street. (A group of Italian tourists are visiting the Milk Grotto Chapel and the guide is speaking to them: "La Madonna vi si sarebbe rifugiata durante la fuga in Egitto…..") Further up the street, A.E.I. Youth Center. Walking...
Look over what was once a peaceful terraced countryside. Confront the white skeletal settlement of Har Homa–hovering closer and closer like a death cloud --built where the most beautiful forest used to stand. Two years ago, in Bethlehem, Uri Avnery spoke at a conference against the Apartheid Wall: "I want to apologize to all of you here for the terrible things done to the Palestinian people in the name of our government – even as I speak. I weep when I see Har Homa… I weep for the blockade and the siege of Gaza. This Wall will fall… (Applause) The Occupation will Fall… (Applause) And when I'm in Bethlehem--especially in Bethlehem--I think how beautiful this country could be if we had peace…"
Back to earth: On the Wall across the street from the "Bahamas Fish Restaurant" someone has written the menu: Bahamas Seafood Fish Shrimps Calamari Millet Mussels Beef Filet Scallops Garden Lobster Blue Crabs Desert. And at the edge of the Wall, someone else has scrawled another menu: Freedom Menu: Starters: Hope Faith Joy Knowing God Loving people Willing Hearts. Jesus He Paid for U.
Rest from walking. Hear the Islamic Call to Prayer rising over the city of Bethlehem.