Sunday, 17 June 2007

The first few days

I have been in Jerusalem for 2 days. I had a wonderful meeting with the Holy Land Trust who I consider my "partner" for my project. They are wonderful and very supportive. They will provide interpreters, a little office space, a camera man, the women, the place and translations! Wow.

When I left the British Institute of Archaeology, where I am staying and headed for Damascus Gate to take a "seirvice" to Bethlehem I noticed Green and white striped mini buses rather than the usual white ones. The new buses had numbers on the top and the rest was written in Arabic. Great.

I walked towards the old bus stop area to grab the service to Bethlehem...but it had changed. The new place was down the road. I couldn't find it, nor understand where. Finally, I just stuck out my hand and waved a small Arabic stop the bus wave to inquire where I should go. It just so happened to be one going to Bethlehem.

I was the only resident for the trip. Arabic music was blasting through his speakers, and he was talking on the phone in Hebrew. The road to Bethlehem has changed too. Instead of the 4 lane road, they added a media and a special lane for the busses and taxis. This made for a much quicker ride into Bethlehem.

Remember it has been a few years since I have been this way, and as I approached Bethlehem, the driver turned the corner and the first thing I noticed was that the settlement has grown, like double in size. Are the houses still empty? Then, I thought, where is the checkpoint?

I clearly remembered taking posed photographs of the Israeli solders standing at the checkpoint, smiling like a group of buddies into my camera with the settlement in the background. But, it was not there any more. The land, once again has changed.

The driver kept driving past where the checkpoint was, into what was once Bethlehem, or where part of Bethlehem used to be. He drove me to the wall. I said, is this where I get out? He smiled, he didn't understand what I asked. He turned around and drove back the direction of where we were going and then stopped. I saw a fence, nice new painted iron rod fence, slabs of concrete leading up and down designed for wheel chairs leading into a door that said in Hebrew (of course, it is Israel's national language) Enter and then in English, (the second language?)

I walk up the ramp and through the door. Wow has this place changed. A soldier is talking along the wall to a Palestinian. There are many "gates" with turn stalls and boxes, made of iron painted light green and a person sitting inside the boxes yelling loudly through a speaker at who ever was standing in front of the box. Israelis are loud.

On my side, before entering was another man, wanting to go inside of Bethlehem, waiting for his turn, waiting for the approval for him to show his permit, and walk through the turnstile. On the other side of the turnpike and box, was a very long line of Palestinian Men, waiting to go out. Only one box was in use, only one box was open.

It was holy day, the day of prayer, the day to go to the Dome of the Rock and pray. Thus, a busy day at the checkpoint to go out and the result, only one box would be open.

Finally, the soldier on my side saw me standing behind the only Palestinian trying to go IN. Then of course, I get the red carpet, and asked to show my passport through the window to the person behind the box, who was not really looking at it, on the telephone and playing with the computer. I got to step in front of the man waiting before me. So, I wait, he goes, then I go.

But...there is more! While I was waiting, a few Palestinians get to go OUT. They stand, wait for their turn, to be called. They hold their permit up to the window to the person in the box. She (a women, yes) points her finger up and grunts. Then the person would take a few steps backwards to a small black box located on the opposite side of the big light green box and place their ENTIRE hand on a soft black pad, to take their hand prints (I assume). Once they have done that, then they get another grunt and permission to walk through the turnpike

8 June 2007

I walk through, the maze of inner walls on a cold concrete floor to exit. I am outside, then I follow a path of concrete lined with the freshly painted rod iron sides, up and down, around and turn here and there...just follow the path. I wonder how many cameras they have on you when you walk through this maze. Then, you are in the open...

but Wait, you are not finished yet! You see on the other side of the openness...(who knows why it is open) another turnstile and another box. Two checkpoints? Wow. A nice Palestinian girl has befriended me to show me through the maze and what to do. Just walk through the second turnpike. Down another ramp....and then you are in Bethlehem!

There is a line of yellow taxis parked waiting for their next ride. parked on the sidewalk, one angled one way the other facing the other...just as unorganized as the maze I just went through.

Five or six taxi drivers come up to me, where are you going? do you need a ride? I tell once man, and he tells one of the drivers to take me there. He acts like he understands where I want to go, it is all in Arabic. ummm. test number 3.

He starts to drive along the wall, with posters pasted on the side of Israeli's making faces. Art work done by a French photographer. He drives me by Rachaels tomb, with is walled in like the wall that surrounds Bethlehem. He starts to drive me along the wall. Away from the direction that I want to go. He wants to take me on a tour.

Wait, I am late for my appointment, no I don't want a tour, I want to go here. No, I will see the wall later. "5 minutes" he replies. I get on the phone to call Holy Land, to talk with him. Okay he says, and drives right by. I tell him to stop, we passed it.

He turns around and wants 30 nis for the 4 minute ride. I give him 15.
Welcome to Palestine.

Hava Nargillia June 11

Today was Israeli day. I went to a settlement, Givat Zev. A new adventure, taking the taxi to the West side of Jerusalem (The Israeli side) 30 shikels, then looking for the bus to Givat Zev, with my broken and almost forgotten Hebrew...signed and paid for my name to be in the Torah (10 nis=shikels) and found the bus stop, missed the bus and had to wait 30 minutes for the next one.

40 minutes later, I arrive on the settlement. Yael, a very nice 22 year old religious person, met with me and took me to her home, offered me a drink and we spoke about the project. She is excited, and will gather her friends to join us! She is a singer, and doing a play in Tel Aviv on Monday evening, so she has rehearsal all week, with no time. (reminds me of Jimmy)

Then she tells me to take the bus back, but as we go through the barrier, push the stop button for the next stop and go into that Palestinian village. Well....the driver did not stop in the village, but kept driving through...the next stop?

Another settlement...and to my delight. umm. I knew that it would be 20-30 minutes for the next bus, so I decided to take a walk...up the hill in the sun. I went to the top and guess what?

In my view was the wall, and a Palestinian village. The wall was right up against the settlement and the village was right up to the wall. They were standing proudly side by side, windows in view of one another, to the wall and the village and the settlement.

I followed the wall around the settlement, a fence really, but a tall one with all these cameras watch for danger. I walked along the narrow path between the Israeli home, the wall and the Palestinian homes. And around the corner was people building the wall/fence. Some places is a concrete wall 7 ks high, and others is a fence 7ks high.

Guess who was building the wall? Palestinians, of course. Guarded by Israeli soldiers.If one wants to do a research project in Israel, along the wall...then it is impossible to Not see the politics, hear the politics or smell the politics.

I stopped and asked the Palestinians, in Arabic, why are you building your own wall? The reply, was that there are no jobs, this is a job. "Doesn't your people get mad at you for building the wall?" No, they understand that we need to work. Hallas. That was it.

I continue to walk along the wall, and noticed on the other side of the wall were more Israeli homes...from that view, it looked like the wall divided the settlement. and that would be the first.

I go straight, along the wall...I turn right, then right again...guess what was in the middle of the squared wall? It was a boxed in Palestinian home. Interesting, I think. The home was surrounded by the wall...concrete this least 4 ks.

As I stood, to my right was the boxed in home and to my left was an Israeli home. An Israeli was sitting in the back of his home smoking a cigarette. I continued to walk along the wall straight, then left along the back of the persons home.

I stop. I think, why not? I walk over to the guy sitting outside in the back of his home and say in Hebrew, "Hi, can I ask you a few questions?" Sure...he said, then I started to tell him about my university project, all proud and happy. And as a typical Israeli does, he interrupts and starts to tell me all about the house with the wall wrapped around it, his life in that home, and the cost, and the village, and how tired he is and he is leaving for 3 months because he can't stand it anymore.

Literally, 40 minutes later, I am in his car and he is giving me a ride back to Jerusalem.

I really tried to offer him a camera, but he did not want it. He does not want to take photos. So, I think..dang..this is the perfect settlement for my do I get in? How do I get interested in the community to want to take photographs of their lives around the barrier.????

So, he gave me his MSN chat name and told me to look him up over Shabbat. In the meantime, he would try to think of someone in the settlement, that may be interested to photograph their lives. I wonder, how hard he will really try, and how many people does he know there?

I wait to see. I hope and cross my fingers.

Tomorrow, I go back into Bethlehem and get a tour of other Palestinian places who live near the wall.

Today, the cost for the travel was 20 dollars, money I did not budget for transportation. The costs has quadrupled. what was 5 is now 20.

Yep, and the film? Um, I need to find a better place than planned to develop the film...and have them scanned. Transportation is a big problem for me. To develop is on the West side, a long walk, and a long bus ride. ummm

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