wow a whole month has gone by. Its amazing how time flies when you’re not blogging ☺
Its not that nothing has happened I just lost my desire to write for awhile, but now it’s back in full force. I think, due two a few recent events. First was the detention and deportation of an American friend of mine, and the continued detention of another friend. Here is an article about the situation. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8458566.stm
If you read my earlier posting about visas you already know the situation here, and how hard it can be to get a valid visa if you are an international who is here for other than “legitimate” reasons. Ma’an is a Palestinian News agency, but Israel does not grant work visas to their journalists. Jared has been here on three month tourist visas for two years he is known by the IDF and many government officials because of his job, and it is only now that Israel claims they must deport him because he is a security threat. Jared was scheduled to have a hearing today. I haven’t heard any news yet on what happened, but it seems more than likely that he will be deported just like Faith was a few days ago. These two people are as far from a security threat as I could possible imagine. They are just internationals trying to live and work/volunteer in the west bank and according to Israel that means you are a security risk.
The other event is actually retaliation to something some friends and myself did. In Beit Sahour is there a very nice park called Osh Ghrab, where Paidia has our climbing tower. Across the road from the park and up a hill is an abandoned army base. When the IDF left this base the ownership of the land reverted back to the Beit Sahour Municipality, but there is a group of settlers who are trying to reclaim this land and take it over. They call it Shdema. They meet there almost every Friday and make speeches and are generally not nice. There used to be racisit and nationalist graffiti all over the site on the old buildings that said things like “this land is only for Jews” etc… Last Friday my self and some other people (mostly Jews) went to the site and spray painted versus from the bible and rabbinical sayings that pertain to how what these settlers are doing is against Jewish ethics and values. Such as Do not steal, do not covet your neighbor’s house etc… ask me if you want pictures. While we knew this was unlikely to unharden the hearts of the settlers we thought it may be the only way to get through to any of them. We also knew it would upset them to see they were being fought with what they think of as their own words. Sadly, we did not foresee their reaction. This past Friday they decided to retaliate by going to the Park across the road and spray painting Jewish Stars and other sayings similar to what used to be on the army base buildings all over the park. IDF soldiers that were present at the time allowed this to happen and did nothing to stop them. Arutz Sheva an Israeli right wing news agency did an article on it. (http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/135548
In it I, and my friends are referred to as anarchists, left-wingers and international activists. While I don’t see any of these names as insults or negatives I do think it is interesting that they lump them all in to one category, and also that they don’t think for one moment that this was done by fellow Jews, some of whom are very pro Israel, just not pro crazy settler. In the article the settlers are referred to as Nationalist Activists and it talks about their “ongoing effort to make sure the recently abandoned military base site does not fall into enemy hands.” It also says “Shdema activists went down to the illegal structures the Arabs built at the foot of Shdema and spray painted all of the Arabs' illegal structures from within and without, on the walls, doors and floors.”
It is utterly amazing to me that someone who calls them self a journalist can actually print something like this. This land legally belongs to Beit Sahour. Im not sure what laws they are looking to when they site the buildings and climbing tower at Osh Ghrab as illegal structures. I would like to just dismiss these people and say they are the crazy minority, but they are growing and it scares me and makes me wonder if peace will ever be possible here as long as these people filled with so much hatred are allowed to have so much freedom and power.
On a lighter note, before all of this happened I had Christmas in Bethlehem! This was quite the experience. I went to my first Christmas mass at the Lutheran Christmas Church. It was nice. They had the service in Arabic, English and German, and we ended with a candle light procession while singing silent night to a reception. Then we had dinner with all 20 of us, Katie, Bethany and I all had guests. At some point all the lights went out and when they came back on there was some guy dressed as Santa Claus giving out hats, masks and noise makers. I wasn’t sure if it was Christmas or Mardi Gras. After Dinner we went to Manger Square, which is a large square outside of the Church of the Nativity. There were a bazillion people there. They had built a large stage and there were concerts and performances going on. It was pretty great. We ended the night with wine and cookies at our house. I think over all a pretty great Christmas. One thing I have learned while here is that there are three different dates for Christmas. The catholic/protestant one is Dec 25th. Then there is the Greek Orthodox Christmas, which was a week ago, and last but not least is the Armenian Christmas, which is on Tuesday. The one on the 25th is the most celebrated, but the lights stay up until after Armenian Christmas. So If you live here you get three Christmases…. Its almost as good as eight days of Chanukkah