Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Bethlehem Activities on My First Friday

Friday Checkpoint Check

Friday is not a workday so the lines at the checkpoints have a very different look.  The only people allowed to go to Jerusalem are the men over 50 and the women over 46.  This woman is heading toward the second turnstile; the total walk would be about two blocks.

When we arrived, the line was moving smoothly.  We simply pass through timing ourselves for our report.
We entered the ramp, through the first turnstile; pass through the first passport point, across an open area, down another ramp, through a turnstile to the area of another check and on to the metal detectors.  Neither of us set off the alarm so we gathered our vests from the trays and walked to the next booth to show our passports and walk onto the Israeli side. 

That is when we found out what the private police do.  They escorted us, potential terrorists, back to the metal detectors.  We had to go back and though again.  All the time that we were being escorted back while asking, “WHY?” the checkpoint line stopped.  This second check turned up no illegal items in our vests; we were cleared to travel into Jerusalem.  

Meanwhile, Palestinians heading to catch the bus, hoping to get to their worship services were delayed. 

Further delay is experienced as they help each other replace the clothing items that had to be removed in order to go through the metal detector. 

It seems to me a violation of human dignity for this elder man to have to put his belt and other garments back on in public. 

My prayer is that all humans have unobstructed access to their places of worship.  


An important aspects of what we do is complete incident reports when there has been a demolition.  We went to an area where there had been two the day before. 
First, we met with a woman who had her restaurant demolished for the second time.  After the first demolition, she received no financial help.  She and her family took out a loan and rebuilt.  They went through a lawyer who assured her all was in order.  The day before this picture was taken, without warning, the Israeli army came with their large machines giving her only one-hour notice to remove what they could.  She was devastated!  She is holding a 300,000 NIS note that needs to be repaid. 

 Picture taken from a poster. 

Below, as it now appears.

The huge machine that left these tire marks was made in USA.  

An EA from the prior team saw spent canisters of munitions stamped USA.

Prayers are important!

I am asking God to help me as I learn more about our government's foreign policy.  Seeking wisdom to find out what needs to change so USA policy will be just according to God's word.  

Let's pray for discernment since we will answer for what we say, do and do not do.

"Lord in your mercy, hear our prayers."

We also processed an incident report on the neighboring home that is owned by an elderly man. We processed an incident report.

 He also was devastated emotionally and financially by this destruction.  This was the third time that his home wash demolished.  He pointed out the previous foundations.

Please notice the proximity to settlements.  The problem from settlements continues; more on that as I gain knowledge.

Examples of Demonstration Attended on Friday

Non-Violent Demonstration at Al Ma'sara

Each Friday we go to the village to provide presence for non-violent protest.  At Al Ma'sara they try to make different presentations or new ways to demonstrate every time. The demonstration could last from one to two and a half hours.  We will generally meet demonstrators at the cultural centre in the village and walk behind them through the village to the crossroads where the demonstration culminates. 

However, this week we were told to wait at the top of the hill, near the crossroads.  We monitor this demonstration; we do not participate.  EA's always stand at the back, and this role is appreciated by the organizers in the village. We take note of the number of demonstrators, soldiers, police and army vehicles, as well as recording the narrative in the weekly log. We take photographs of the demonstration and any incidents.  

The theme of this weeks demonstration were issues related to prisoners.   

A group of youth chained themselves together as they walked to the demonstration. 

During the demonstration a child of about 10 was blindfolded and chained symbolizing the many preteen and young children that are being arrested.  I did not get a good picture, but he is on the ground in front of the "chained" youth in a red jacket.

The leader of this ongoing protest met with us after and explained the grass-root efforts to developing non-violent networks for education and peaceful just peace activities. 

Flare Up Event

On the way back to our apartment we came across an incident that was happening up a hill from the road we were on.  We stopped, but tear gas was already being used.  Our dedication is to nonviolent resolution so we did not remain at this site.


I also had the privilege to attend a mass that takes place every Friday.  It is led by Roman Catholic priests with the seminarians from Beit Jala.  It takes place on a hill under olive trees on the way from Beit Jala to Al-Walaja, and it is a protest against land confiscation for the separation barrier and for the settlement.

I found this service very touching. As the Priest holds up the bread and the cup, the settlements of “greater Jerusalem” are visible in the background.

There are different proposed paths for this enormous wall that is being built through the church's property.  One proposal separates the convent from the school, another proposes a path that will keep the priests from their agricultural pursuits.  I am not sure of the other, but according to international law, both the settlements and the wall are illegal. 

Wall Prayer Walk Every Friday

This demonstration takes the form of a prayer walk along the separation wall led by the Franciscan Nuns from the Caritas Baby Hospital and the La Salle Brothers from Bethlehem University.

 It was my joy to walk and pray with those who gathered for this non-violent demonstration against the wall and the occupation..