8.2. Bethlehem – Separation Wall – Palestine

‘Separation barrier’, ‘West Bank barrier’, ‘Apartheid Wall’ or ‘security fence’? // Food for thought: “Although the graffiti artists felt that they were making a statement with their pieces to bring attention and help to the Palestinians, many Palestinians feel that it turns the wall into something beautiful… a work of art instead of an aggressive prison Wall”

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I find it interesting that there’s a Banksy shop here. It did attract my attention though, as a tourist. I was tempted to purchase the magnet. 

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Frankly, it’s all too easy for countries to stand on the path that says ‘no’ to the wall – we are not the ones who may be implicated, who bear the consequences of otherwise. Is it fair for me to say… it’s easier to play the victim, and it’s easier to take sides with the victim? We stand behind our screens and wave ‘no!’ but we aren’t the ones living the lives here, with the real fears and concerns for their lives. I suppose I feel this way perhaps because well, statistically it seems, terror attacks did fall significantly after the wall, and I saw a video of the random stabbing which may have influenced my perception. This may also be amplified by how I felt when walking around Jerusalem – I would have wanted the wall, and the security checks, to ensure my safety. I am glad for it. Why? Is it because I distrust the other side as well, and I fear terror attacks too? Is it because I am influenced by my hosts? Is it because of the media? Is it because of the contrast I felt in the levels of development between Jordan and Israel? Education? And the fact that I did read about the suicide attacks? Perhaps all these factors did shape my views. I understand the rationale for the wall, though the implications are indeed problematic and in a sense, unfair to the other side. How do you reconcile the trust? Who knows? I briefly wonder if I’ll live to see the day the walls get torn down, reminds me of events like the fall of the Berlin Wall, and other walls around (apparently in Cyprus the Greece/Turkey North-South border has one). 

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I remember the man who offered to drive us to the checkpoint. He was pretty well-dressed, a car that looked new and big, and an expensive camera. I asked if he was taking photos as a tourist. He said he was Palestinian, and was taking the 360 degrees photo around Bethlehem; we could check it out on 360degrees.ps. I find myself caught by stereotypes of Palestinians I suppose. I had assumed he was a tourist, I thought he worked for some media outlet in taking photos. Well it could be that he doesn’t live in Bethlehem and perhaps other cities, but it’s also a reminder to myself that Palestinians are not a single identity nor social class, they are also in other parts of the world, with their own hobbies, and not solely the image of foreign-aid recipients I had found myself drifting towards. 

Thank you to Khader for Banksy-graffiti spotting with us!

8.1. Mar Saba Monastery, Bethlehem, Palestine

It’s been more than half a year since Bethlehem, Palestine. As I look at these pictures again, I am sometimes slightly surprised at how time flies, and these remain fresh in my memories, yet somewhat foreign. Sometimes I catch myself thinking – wow I was really there?

We met Khader, whom I contacted the night before, and arranged to meet outside of the Church of the Nativity. We split the petrol cost and he drove us to one of his favourite places – Mar Saba Monastery! I had read about it somewhere, and was open to any place anyway. It was lovely to have been there, we likely wouldn’t have visited it if we were on our own.

driving along the Judean desert

Tada – the desert monastery

We didn’t enter though, but took a short hike around the area.

‘Saba was further influential in reshaping the customs and living habits of the monks, and the monks of Mar Saba are reputed to live an especially strictly regulated life. Until today women are not allowed to enter the main compound and have only access to one building, referred to as the Women’s Tower.’

^ Hmm. Khader might have explained this, so we didn’t enter.

As I revisit these photos and look at this long empty stretch of road ahead, I think to myself: what if? What if we had been driven to a deserted land? In this vast and foreign space, calling out wouldn’t save us. But I left the contact with my sister, so I did have a backup plan. Of sorts.

But I’d say we were in good hands. If we had more time, we’d probably head to Jericho with Khader and his family. Someday, perhaps – you really never know.

The word Sumud ( in Arabic: ‫صمود‬‎‎) means “steadfast perseverance” and resilience. Our Palestinian friend from CS shows us around. He hopes we spread the word about the beauty Palestine has to offer to its visitors. ‘What do you think is one thing special about Palestine?’ I ask. He thinks for awhile. ‘The thing about Palestinians is that we never give up. We never give up.’