Schlagwort-Archiv: palestine

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The Be(rlin)thlehem Wall

One thing you should not miss to visit when you are in Bethlehem is the great wall separating the city from its surroundings. The wall is around nine meters high and on top of it you can see barbed wire. It actually reminds me a lot of the Berlin Wall, which looked the same, just not as high as the one here in Bethlehem. You can also find a lot of paintings and slogans there on the wall that compare the Berlin Wall to the Wall around Bethlehem. Most of the wall is covered with paintings, slogans and graffiti. You can also find some pieces of the street artist Banksy here. He is honored like a national hero here. There is even a souvenir shop just for Banksy stuff in the border area inside Bethlehem. Again there is a lot of Israeli military around here in the so called Area C (under Israeli control).

 

We walked along the wall, breathing in the conflict, trying to catch the meaning of all those graffiti. There  is a ‘Wall Museum’ which actually contains lots of big posters, which are fixed to the wall. On those posters you can read the stories of Palestine civilians and their experiences with the Intifadas, the building of the wall and what it means to their daily lives. It really hits you emotionally. And yes when you wander around there, reading all those stories: yes – you feel pity, no matter if this is right or not.
We met a young Palestine woman, who lived right next to the wall. She was asking us if we had time, so that she could share her story with us: The street we were in used to be one of the busiest in Bethlehem. A lot of people were using that road to get to Jerusalem and vice versa. The family had a few shops in the street and was earning good money. As there was the last Intifada the Israeli army annexed the house, using it for strategic reasons and shooting, since it was right at the border. The military left, but then the wall was built – surrounding all the houses of the family, cutting off the busy street.
The wall ruined the family’s business. When they look out of the window there is this huge wall. The woman told us her daughter was crying that day ‘They buried us alive’. I have no idea if all of that story was true, But I guess it was. There was no reason for this woman to lie. Again I felt like the regular people living in Palestine just wanted to call attention to their situation, so that some foreigners would spread the message to the world. Looks like it turned out.
We walked further leaving the wall museum behind and arrived at the checkpoint where people cross the border to Israel by feet. There are two barred small lanes: oe for the entrance, one for the exit. It was late afternoon and the checkpoint was crowded with men. Probably a lot of men were coming back from their work in Jerusalem. This is also a big problem. A lot of people in Bethlehem work in the try close by Jerusalem. But you never know if the border will be open the next day and even if it is, Palestinians usually do not get a job in Israel.
As so often we were asked here where we were from. As usual people were very happy to hear we are from Germany. But for the first time one guy did not make a secret about, why he liked Germans: Germans used to fight the Jews. It happened a lot of times that people were very welcoming when they heard we were from Germany. I do not want to assume that all of them were thinking like that, cos there are also a lot of German volunteers in the West Bank. But the thought always crossed my mind. And obviously the German government is not too fond about helping Palestine.
When we came to Bethlehem we came here by bus. After we saw this busy checkpoint we decided to walk through it the next day on our way back to Jerusalem. It is easy to cross here for a German. The Israeli Military did not even check our passports, they just waved through the gates. Palestinians contrarily have to show their passports and identify themselves by their fingerprint. Not to mention that you have to go through X-ray security check beforehand.
Herewith the Palestine Experience had come to an end. We were back on our way to Tel Aviv, excited to hear what our Israeli friends would think about our trip.

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Aida Camp

Bethlehem and Aida Refugee Camp

We stayed the night in Jerusalem and went to Bethlehem the next morning. We were taking the bus there, since the situation there is more tense than in Jericho. Disregarding that the car rental company was not allowing us to go to Bethlehem by car, it is not advisable. It might happen that people will throw stones at your car when you have the yellow Israeli car plate.

At the checkpoint some strict military women were entering the bus, checking all the passports, writing down the names of Israelis going to Palestine. The Bus dumped us somewhere close to the city center of Bethlehem. By feet we crossed the centre and the old city to find our accommodation at the other end of the city.

We were not sure if we were still on the right way, that’s why we asked for the way in a souvenir shop. The  people there were very nice and Joseph, the owner of the shop, offered us to give us a ride to the guesthouse. The guesthouse in Beit Jala unfortunately was fully booked. The women there tried to arrange some other accommodation for us and so we ended up in – a Christian monastery. Joseph took us there, leaving his name and telephone number in case we would need anything. The room smelled like desinfections. The room was plastered with pictures of Jesus and Holy Mary, a cross was hanging over the bed. Well, ending your Israeli/Palestine travel experience with a stay in a monastery just aces it somewhat a successful roundup.
Right after leaving our luggage in the monastery we went for some sightseeing in the city. We started at the Church of Nativity, where it is said Jesus was born. The entrance is just a very small inconsiderable door. They say the Church of Nativity is the oldest Church in the world. Inside Monks in dark robes were singing. There were also a lot of pilgrims, wanting to visit that holy birth grotto underneath the altar. It was so crowded that the believers only were allowed to stay in the grotto for a few seconds to make way for other people to pray. I kind of felt sad for them. You may have saved your money for years to come here, you waited so long and then some guard interrupts you prayer by shouting: ‘Only two seconds, only two seconds, move forward!’ Even for me it was too hectic.
We then strolled around the old city, walking along the way Joseph and Mary took. The market in the old city is wonderful, but nothing for hygiene lovers and vegetarians. The sellers are shouting, the bargaining is loud, kids are running around with carts as if they were in a supermarket. There are stalls and booths for meat, fruits and veggies. In the outspreads of the market further to the new city center there you will find clothes, some trashy stuff, furniture and shoes.  There are guys running around with pipe like looking cans decorated with flowers, serving tea in the streets to thirsty men. The city of Bethlehem is bustling. The narrow streets are jam-packed with shops, sellers in the streets and people of all ages. It is a city with lots of differences: different religions, the spiritualness of an old holy city, the sleaziness in some places and the wall seperating Bethlehem from Israel. We also went there, but you can read about it in another article.
In the evening we went to a restaurant called the Square right at Manger Square where you also find the Church of Nativity. One of the waiters, Mahmoud, was living in Aida Camp one of the Palestinian refugee camps close to Bethlehem. He asked if we visited this place. So far we didn’t. Kati and me had been mulling over coming to this place cos it feels like poverty tourism. But when Mahmoud encouraged us to go there cos we were really welcome to see his place, we decided to go there. At Aida Camp you will find poor housings and it feels like its a camp of kids. There are kids all over, playing football in the streets, running around. In general Aida camp is overcrowed. There is trash in the streets, the people are rather humble and shy, but friendly. Still it was a strange feeling to walk around at this refugee camp, observed by the eyes of the military.

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