I’ll start with what I’ve been doing this week before sharing some thoughts.
On Monday we went to Taybeh for dinner to say goodbye to 2 of our staff. It was lovely. Taybeh has a way of capturing you, in fact, most places here do. It was a great night full of laughter, conversation and amazing food. I also met Sam Munayer, at 14 he is the youngest of the Munayer clan. I told him I was from New Zealand, he brought up the Haka, and that was it, now we are friends! He is hilarious and is every bit a Munayer when it comes to teasing me. Instead of going all the way back to Bethlehem that night I stayed in Old Jerusalem with Shadia. So amazing.
Tuesday we had a BBQ at Shadia’s house on the roof. Where I met Elenor(3) and Tsofia(1). SO CUTE! The view from the roof is breathtaking and as the sun started to go down I remembered why it was that I fell in love with this place 2 years ago.
Wednesday, I had my first Arabic Lesson and ended up doing 2 units instead of 1. My teacher thinks I learn fast. I felt like my head was going to explode. Michelle, a volunteer at Musalaha who has been studying at Hebrew U for 10 months came to stay, we ate Tajin, walked Old Bethlehem, scavenged for wood and watched football at the wall. After the football we decided to walk off the fact that Portugal lost and went to Cremisan, a beautiful valley with a vineyard and an amazing view.
Thursday hit me hard. I was frustrated, annoyed with myself and confused. I got out of the offices and walked to the craft store, even in the heat this was a nice break. It gave me a chance to pray and clear my head. I am still trying to figure out where I stand and what I believe. When I got back to the office I listened to some talks from Christ At The Checkpoint and prayed my most feared prayer, ‘God, break my heart for what breaks Yours’. I’m scared of this prayer for good reason, every time I’ve uttered those words sincerely, God has answered. I got home to find that With God On Our Side was screening at The Wall Lounge. What a way to bring the story home, screen a film about the wall ON the wall.
Today(Friday) we had a training for the helpers for the Baptist Village camp. Shadia came with a bus from Nazareth, and I came from Bethlehem with 2 girls. Because they are under 16, legally they are allowed to come into Jerusalem with out a permit. We met at the Bible College, jumped into the taxi and set off. We headed for the main checkpoint in Bethlehem, 300. There was a problem and it became real for me, this freedom I so lightly take for granted, they don’t have. Then we went to another checkpoint near a settlement, we drove straight through. When we had passed through and got onto the main road, the driver, a Greek Orthodox, next to me crossed himself. I choked up. I’ve seen people do this many a time and have often thought it silly. But this time, to this man, it meant something. He was thanking and praising God that we were able to cross through safely.
We got to the Offices and hung out, I planned the games and realized once again what a hindrance my accent is. The games went well and everyone laughed and talked. We discussed what it meant to help out at camp, what was expected of them and how everything would go. At the end we prayed, each in his or her language, again this was a moment I want to cherish forever. These young people are 13-15, some prayed in English, some prayed in Hebrew and some in Arabic. For the same thing, desiring the same outcome, longing after the same Father. It gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.
Now about some thoughts(I’ll try to keep it short) Life Goes On
Sometimes people ask me what its like to live in Bethlehem. The Bethlehem, where Jesus Christ was born. And the answer is, ‘overwhelming’. I get to say that I am living in the city where the divine became human, God became man, where the course of history changed forever. Its overwhelming at times. At the same time though, Life Goes On. This is a real city with real people living their real lives. They work, they study, they eat, they play, they laugh, they cook, they live. They are people like me, like you and they live here. Bethlehem is more than just what happened 2000 years ago. The Church of the Nativity is an amazing historical building, its also a living church, one that my friends attend. Something that first struck me as strange recently was when talking to people about the summer, a lot of them told me they were going on vacation. Vacation? But you’re Palestinian? As if that changed the fact that it was summer, and they are people, and people go on vacation in summer. Its easier for us to see Bethlehem as simply just a historic town, because that way we don’t have to think of it as a city where people live their active lives. But it is, it is a city, a university city at that with a bustling street life. When you think of it like that, its not so easy to write it off, to justify the wrongs done, to ignore the cries of the real people living their lives. Its not backwards, its not full of terrorists, its not stuck in the past. Its alive and full of life happening now.
PS, in-case you don’t believe me, here is a photo of a hummer I saw in Bethlehem last week with Palestinian plates…