Saturday, April 25, 2009

Crossing the Wall: Bethlehem and Dheisheh refugee camp Sunday afternoon

My son Yehuda and I are planning to go to Bethlehem on Sunday afternoon. We also plan to visit the Dheisheh refugee camp.
Our guide will be Manal, an energetic, hope-filled young woman from Bethleh
em who I met on Friday afternoon at a conference for peace educators organized by the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information. Manal, a recent Bethlehem University graduate in education, is a devoted volunteer with Areen, a Palestinian non-profit community organization in Dheisheh that develops skills and knowledge among the youth and women of the camp.
Nowadays, going to Bethlehem is
no easy matter. For Israeli citizens, it's illegal. The "Wall" thoroughly seals it off from Jerusalem. When I first lived here in 1971, it was so easy to go to Bethlehem just down the road from Jerusalem's southern edge. Traffic flowed easily back and forth. The two towns are so close together there is really no undeveloped space between them. But now they are entirely separate realities.
Manal ha
d never been through the Wall to the Jerusalem side since it was built. Friday, when I met her, was the only time she was given a permit -- and even with the permit it took her over two hours of standing line from 7 - 9 a.m. to be allowed through the gate to travel all of about half a mile to the Tantur Ecumenical Institute where the IPCRI conference was held.
If we have time, I'd like to go back to the extraordinary Hope Flowers School for children in El-Khader right next to Bethlehem where I first went with the Compassionate Listening Project in 2001 and to visit the Holy Land Trust in neighbouring Beit Sahour where Michal and I joined a Palestinian-Jewish dialogue group in 1990.


  1. David, I'm so happy to be able to follow your journey. I just sent you an email, asking if you had time to pick something up for me from Sami Adwan in Bethlehem. Please see your emails for the details. Happy travels. -Reena.

  2. When I was in Jerusalem last summer, I took a day trip into Bethlehem and Hebron; we visited D'heisheh, and had lunch there, and spoke with some of the young men who had offered to chat in English with tour groups. It was a remarkable experience.