3.13.05 - Woke up early and packed up our things. After breakfast, we went with Josef over to the Temple Mount. Spent several hours exploring the grounds and enjoying spectacular view of the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque. Afterwards, we stopped by Jerusalem University College en route to Ben Yahuda Street in the new city. Returned back to the falafel stand at Damascas Gate, then got our bags and found a sharut for Bethlehem. Crossed in to the West Bank near Beit Jala by walking across a buldozed dirt pile, thus avoiding the hassles of the checkpoint. Got a ride with Issa Zoughbi's son back to their house in Bethlehem, where we will stay for the next five days in their extra apartment. Had tea with them, then went out to buy groceries up at Manger Square. Cooked a delicious meal, then hung out talking around the gas heater.
3.14.05 - Woke up and had breakfast. Dave did some writing while Alethia, Laura and Eric walked the two blocks up to the Basilica of the Nativity. Hung out there for awhile before coming back to the house. Decided to walk down to Beit Sahour, and stopped to visit Dave and Eric's previous host family on the way. Had tea with them and sat around catching up a bit. Continued on to the Alternative Tourism Group (ATG) office, where we met the guys who helped lead our cross-cultural. After talking with them, we were invited to Samer's house for coffee and then dinner. Enjoyed good food and meeting his family. Returned to our apartment for the night.
3.15.05 - After a short night of sleep, we got up and walked down to the ATG office in Beit Sahour. After coffee, we spent the morning with Samer touring around the Bethlehem area. Saw many areas where Palestinian land was being confiscated and new bypass roads were being built. Also went out to Herodian and saw many new Israeli settlements and outposts being built illegally on Palestinian land. After lunch with Samer, we drove out to the Bethlehem checkpoint and walked around where the seperation wall was being built. Returned to ATG, used internet for a bit, then went back to apartment and cooked up a stir-fry dinner. Hung out in the evening with Tim and Chris Seidel, the MCC reps here in Palestine.
3.16.05 - Ate breakfast together and then took a taxi to Wi'am Conflict Resolution Center, where we met with Zoughbi Zoughbi and his staff for the morning. Afterwards walked to Bethlehem Bible College, where we received a tour from the president, Bishara Awad. Walked back to the Church of the Nativity, where we hung out for an hour before meeting Omar at the Bethlehem International Center. Returned to the apartment, got cleaned up, and had a nice dinner downstairs with Tim, Chris, and Omar. Watched an MCC video about the wall and talked about the conflict. Eventually returned back upstairs for a good night of sleep.
3.17.05 - Spent the morning at the Dehaisha Refugee Camp in Bethlehem. Received a tour of the camp and met some of the young people there. Ate lunch and then walked to the Bidal Center for a seminar on divestment issues relating to the Israeli occupation. Afterwards, Laura and Alethia went to art show, Eric and Dave went shopping for dinner. Bought a live rooster, and drank coffee with our new salesman friend before taking the bird back to the apartment. Eric and Dave went to a pool hall in Beit Sahour, where we hung out with our host brother Hussam. Returned back to the apartment, killed and cleaned rooster, prepared rest of dinner, and ate a feast around midnight. Sat around apartment until early morning hours.
3.18.05 - Woke up late, said goodbye to Tim and Chris, got ride to ATG, said goodbye to the Zoughbi family,and finally walked out towards checkpoint. Dave and Eric bought plane tickets from a Turkish Airlines office. While trying to get cash from an ATM, the card was confiscated and we spent awhile trying to get it back. Hurried to checkpoint, passed through with no problems, and took a sharut and taxi into Jerusalem. Caught the last crowded bus down to Ashkelon, where we were picked up by Moaz's sister and driven to the party at Moaz's parents Moshav. Enjoyed delicious steak, lamb, and sides. Stayed up late enjoying arguila and good conversation with a group of young friendly Israelis. Crashed at Moaz's parents house for the night.
April 4, 2005