Jacob’s Blog 3
Beit Sahour, Hebron & Bethlehem
I’ve not posted for a couple of days because the signal has been sketchy or I’ve been too tired…
The past few days have seen us visit Beit Sahour a town in the district of Bethlehem and Hebron, as well as today, the central city of Bethlehem again.
We spent the morning volunteering with local young people and young adults to clear up a nature park for local people to enjoy. The park is part of a large part of land which is right next to an Israeli outpost. It is also the only patch of land left in the neighbourhood on which they can build houses and much needed facilities for the growing population. However, the Israeli government forbids them from doing so and would bulldoze anything they put up. Not because it is a threat to them, but just because they don’t like to let the Palestinians grow and develop. The impeding local (and illegal) settlements from the Israelis are slowly strangling the town, and the wider area of Bethlehem. Albeit a sad story, our time was thoroughly enjoyable and we made new friends, had lunch together and exchanged cultural dances. This included myself and Joe Nockels who studies in Scotland teaching Palestinians ‘strip the willow’ (Scottish Ceilidh). In the afternoon, we toured the town and enjoyed conversations in a local community hub with a Palestinian Beer .
This was definitely the most difficult day of the trip so far and will probably remain the most difficult. Hebron is a place in which one can really clearly see apartheid in action. Israeli settlers are slowly constructing the old city, including living another the market places and throwing dirty water, bleach, rubbish and urine on the Palestinian shoppers and stall owners below. It has become so frequent that they’ve had to install cage barriers above themselves for protection. When the settlers do these awful things, the soldiers watch in and say proudly that they are only there to protect the settlers. There’s so much I can unpack here about Hebron, but I’ll be writing further about my trip soon. The one last thing I’d add though is the clear oppression and injustice: checkpoints everywhere, CCTV in the main mosque to watch those who pray, the illegal taking of 60% of the mosque for themselves for parties and events that should be viewed as desecration of a holy place (it is a mosque built on the site at which Abraham and Sarah are believed to have been buried). The most scary was the weaponry, an AI operated machine gun on the main checkpoint into the heavily restricted old city area and settlers (not soldiers) walking around with automatic machine guns – wearing them round their necks with pride.
Has been a much more joyous day, spent with more young adults enjoying further dialogue and ending with games and a bbq. The atmosphere was quite surreal though, we were laughing and having fun within 5-10 metres of the wall and immediately to the other side was a military outpost/base, we were also constantly watched by soldiers… to add to the intimidation, an Israeli gunship helicopter kept circling around in the sky. Nevertheless, in the true style of Palestinians, we continue to enjoy ourselves – non violent resistance. We also enjoyed worship in a Melkite Church, followed by meeting up with some of our new friends, and visiting the Walled Off Hotel by Banksy.
Jacob Holme is a Youth Worker at St Andrew’s Fulham Fields (London) in the Church of England. He has been sponsored by a kind Sabeel-Kairos supporter to attend the Young Adults conference by Sabeel Jerusalem. [All photos are Jacob’s].