Sunday, March 22, 2009

Seperation...No Breathin!

If you ever thought building a wall on the southern U.S. border was controversial, then try talking about the Separation Wall. Here is as short of a summary as possible about the history and problems associated with the Wall: Ever since Israelis declared their independence in 1948, there have been a series of wars between them and neighboring Arabs and Palestinians, resulting in some controversial territorial boundaries. In many cases, the Palestinians were forced out of their homes (so goes war) and into the West bank, the Gaza Strip, and neighboring Arab countries, creating “temporary” camps numbering around 5 million Palestinian refugees. Some Palestinian extremists resorted to suicide-bombings (a.k.a. homicide-bombs) in Jerusalem to fight back for their land. The Israelis responded by building a huge wall to regulate the flow of persons between the West Bank and Jerusalem. Israel has a right to build a wall in its own country, however the wall intrudes into the West Bank in several spots (the West Bank has its own Palestinian political authority, but it’s under Israeli military occupation). Since the wall’s existence, there virtually have been no suicide bombings. But many other problems have resulted: The Wall separates families from each other, from schools and hospitals. It’s big, ugly, and runs through peoples yards and streets; it has devastated economies, particularly those dependent on tourism (when we visited Jericho, I saw an huge multi-million dollar hotel-resort that was completely abandoned); many people have to line up at 4 a.m in order to get through the checkpoint to work in Jerusalem, only to return at 10:00 p.m—others simply lost their jobs.

I have passed through the wall on a few occasions, but last time was my favorite. We spent the day in Bethlehem, mostly at Bethlehem University, where we watched a documentary about a Palestinian village that was forced to evacuate by the 1948 Israeli Army. The director was there to answer questions (the film took first place at the last Dubai independent documentary film festival), as well as a panel of 4 college students who answered questions about life in the West Bank and their opinions on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. I sat next to another student named Jasmine who spoke to me throughout the movie, and after the presentation we played a short pick-up basketball game with some other students. The overall feelings I got from the students was that they are eager to learn, eager to make a difference, eager to make peace, but very upset and annoyed at the way they are treated and the barriers (physical and social) between them and the Israeli youth. Dr. Mussalem (our Christian Palestinian professor of Islam who grew up in Bethlehem)walked us through the streets he grew up and took us to his favorite restaurant. We never felt unsafe—the contrary, we were welcomed warmly and I want to go back.

This is the spot of the manger.

This is a mosaic of St. Jerome, who, while in this room, translated th Bible from Greek and Hebrew to Latin

The guy in all black on the far right is an Orthodox Greek minister. He made some of the girls turn around and leave the church for laughing while in his church. Good times.

The panel.

People can make wishes if they put their fingers in these holes, and place a coin in the bottom hole. I wished for world peace and a remote control car.

Eating dinner in a cool tent. Best food ever. I sound like a girl.

We had a Christmas devotional, full of Christmas songs, stories, and memories as we overlooked Bethlehem. Nothin' like celebrating Christmas in March.

The streets of Bethlehem. It is hear where I bought a unique nativity set made of Olive Wood. The set shows the three wise men seperated from the manger by a giant wall. Quite the political statement (which I'm trying to stay as objective as possible for now) but I think it said alot about Christ's message. Jesus was born. He lived, died, was risen. So much seperates these people, these cultures. Even Christ came as a sword, seperating families, peoples, even thousands of years later. So much seperation. But underneathe it all there's the possibility to connect. The realization that we are all sons and daughters, human beings, here with a purpose. I'm sounding preachy but I can't wait for the day when walls are non-existent.


  1. Looks like you've started celebrating Christmas even earlier than me this year, that's impressive. I knew you'd come around.

  2. whoa you have had a blog how long, and I haven't none about it? I can't wait to follow your adventures in the Holy Land. Hope all is well Jeffy!

  3. You're kiddin me- the film about mistreated Palestinians took first place at the Dubai film festival?
    Yes, a wall would be very annoying and it certainly doesn't help with future calmings of feelings and reconciliation. But I suppose peaceful coexistence is not on the list of possibilities anymore, for many of the land's leaders.
    That wall wasn't there when Todd and I visited Bethlehem and had Christmas in July. But to the point, that very same day we visited Bethlehem, there was a suicide bombers attack in an open-air market in Jerusalem which killed several people and wounded many others. The bombs, packed with long nails and explosives, were detonated next to a watermelon stand. I remember a picture of blood-red watermelons cracked and seeping all over the place.