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.