One Long Last Update from Team Bethlehem:
3 weeks ago:
The Saturday trip was to our very own Bethlehood & only K decided to join in, while the others did their own thing because we've a lot of the stuff here already: L went with the kids from the Ansar Center to Ramallah where they swam, went to a fun park and ate an excessive amount of sugary treats. C went to Deheiseh refugee camp to help with a kids camp one of our friends has been working at there. J was in Tel Aviv at the beach.
On the Bethlehem tour, we went to the Herodian - Herod's palace & harem - where we saw ruins, underground tunnels used during the Bar Kokhba revolts, and the place where currently archaeologists think that Herod was buried. We also saw the Shepherd's Fields in Beit Sahour, the Nativity Church - including the cave where they think that Jesus was born - in Bethlehem, and ate lunch at Afteem (Falafel King: where Bethlehem's best falafel can be found), then we went to Solomon's Pools and Aida refugee camp where we heard from the Lajee (which means refugee) Center and got a tour of the camp. Afterwards some of us went to Cafe SiMa to hang out, because the cafe was set to close for the next two weeks.
On Sunday the four of us headed into Jerusalem with our adopted fifth member, Joey, to do some of the stuff we had missed the past couple of times. Unfortunately we found out that both the Dome of the Rock and the Garden Tomb closed just before we got there, so we headed out to do the Holocaust Museum instead. That was a really interesting experience. The Holocaust in itself is one of the most shocking and sickening things to learn about, and all of us walked out with heavy hearts. But to make it all the more disturbing was the similarities we noticed between the oppression of the Jews in Europe to that of the Palestinians in Israel - you could literally just replace the word "Palestinian" for "Jew" and "Israel" for "Germany" and it would be describing the conflict here: injustice, racism, etc. In the very first room there was a particularly poigniant quote: "A state is not just what it does, but also what it tolerates...."
This past week, C and K finally finished painting the railing they've been working on for the past six weeks: YAY!! L and J are also feeling their work winding down at their volunteer sites.
On Friday we all helped to paint at J & C's host family's house, L & K's taxi driver asked them to a rodeo (we said...um, no...), and we had dinner at the Salman's (Catherine and Jessica's host family from last year).
Two weeks ago:
Our trip this weekend was to Caesarea (a port city built by Herod), Capernum (where we saw the house they think Peter and Jesus lived in), the Sea of Galilee, Nazareth and Golan Heights. It was about 110 degrees on Saturday so one of the highlights was swimming in the Sea of Galilee after going on what is called the "Jesus boat," a replica of a boat that comes from the era of Jesus, that plays a random mix of music (Black Eyed Peas and ABBA, anyone?) as we drive around the sea. In a small village outside of Nazareth, we met with this organization called House of Hope, an organization working for peace and justice. It was interesting to hear from them particularly because they are Palestinians living in Israel.
We spent the night in Nazareth where we got to see the Church of the Annunciation and Joseph's Church (built over the spot they think he lived). Then we went to the Golan Heights where we met with Golan for Development. Our tour included a lookout point on a hill filled with bunkers used by the Israelis in the 1967 war, overlooking the Israel-Lebanon border. After a delicious meal, we headed home early because our meeting in Haifa had been canceled.
Our last week:
For our cultural night we got to spend the night at Tent of Nations where we explored the area, roasted hot dogs, slept on sketchy matresses and had a great time. J visited friends in Ber Sheva. L got to make wadak dawali (grape leaves and zucchini stuffed with rice and lamb) and K & C helped eat it :)
On Sunday we went our last trip to Jericho (where we saw the ruins of the city), Qumran (where Bedouin shepherds discovered the dead sea scrolls in 1947) and the Dead Sea. Either the tourist destinations didn't live up to their expectations or our tour guide decided to give us the boring version of the story, because it was kind of a lame trip.
Monday we had our last meeting, mailed home all of our potentially pro-Palestinian belongings, and hung out for the last time with our host families, which was very sad :( On Tuesday we said goodbye to Bethlehem and headed out to Tel Aviv. It was a really nice day: we got to hang out on the beach, swim in the Mediterranean (or if you were K, get totally dominated by the waves...), eat a relaxing and delicious dinner while we watched the sunset, and hang out on the beach at night with three of our favorite people: Flora, Joey and Rob.
Wednesday morning we woke up really early, said goodbye to them, and headed to the airport. We got through security relatively easily & were very happy to finally be headed home. We got to spend a little time in London during our layover with our friend Miriam & were all very happy when it began to rain. Way too many hours later, we finally arrived in Seattle, home sweet home.
We will all miss the place, the people, the culture and the group of internationals we have all come to fall in love with. But we are very glad to be home.