Women in Bastan Village, Kurdistan

Thursday, October 7, 2010

What you cannot see from outside the wall--October 7th, Bethelehem, West Bank

I have been two months in Haifa and I wanted to go back to the West Bank. So I decided to go to Bethlehem to visit the kids from the Tent of Nations summer camp. The problem always is the timing and restrictions in transportation, plus Friday and Saturday there are no buses because of shabat. To go from Haifa to Jerusalem, there is no problem; the problem is how to get into the WB if you go later than 7:00 pm. I finished working at about 4:30 pm on a Wednesday and the next bus is at 6:00 pm, which means it gets to Jerusalem at 8:00 pm. Conclusion: NO way to get to Bethlehem, unless you have money to pay an expensive taxi, which at this point is not an option for me.

So, I went to the source to get the exact information: Edward, a Palestinian friend from Jerusalem who now lives in Haifa. He arranged for me a friend of him to pick me up from the station in Jerusalem and take me through the checkpoint into Dheisheh Refugee Camp in Bethlehem. Edward also took me to the bus station in Haifa. He also gave me his mobile phone so his friend Munir could call me when he came to pick me up. I am so blessed to find such friends here. Palestinians are the kind of people who give everything for their friends. Nayef, another Palestinian told me how he is so thankful that people leave their own country and come from abroad to advocate for their cause that he feels he needs to do anything for them.

Me and Rachel, an Australian volunteer painting a segment of the separation wall inside Bethlehem back in July. In the back Andrea, a German volunteer artist that came to the camp to teach art to the children

So, I met Munir at the Jerusalem Central Bus station and we managed to pass the checkpoint and get to Lara's home. Lara lives in the Dheisheh Refugee Camp in Bethlehem. Dheisheh is a Palestinian refugee camp located just south of Bethlehem in the West Bank. Dheisheh was established in 1949 on 0.31 square kilometers of land leased from the Jordanian government. The camp was established as a temporary refuge for 3,400 Palestinians from 45 villages west of Jerusalem and Hebron who fled during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. According to UNRWA the camps population is of around 13,000 people.

Me and Lara at the Tent of Nations summer camp on her birthday, she brought a cake and share with the whole group

Lara took me to her home, through a small street. I was greeted by her mother, Najah, and two of her neighbors that were there visiting. Immediately I was served Arabic coffee. The women were talking about the tawjid, the national exam that young Palestinians have to pass when they finish high school. It is quite an event here and when kids pass the exam, parents make a big celebration, which includes fireworks, but also is a big pressure for the students to do well in the exam. They said, is celebrated more than weddings.

Lara doing some homework, which is hard having three younger siblings running and screaming all over the house

After they left we ate and then were chatting and watching TV. Tamara, Lara's 4 year-old sister was watching the children's channel and also playing on the computer, while her older brothers Ahmed and Mohamed, had to come to the computer when she came crying, to fix whatever was wrong with it, and she didn't give up either. She kissed them in order to convince them to help her. When her dad came and was trying to get her to give him the remote to watch the soccer match, she was checking herself if there was a match, she kept the remote and said that there was no match and put the childrens channel again. Her dad just smiled! Tamara is the queen of the house and she could make you angry and desperate and could make you smile all at the same time.

This was just the face of a real family and the real Palestinian life that is not often portrayed in TV or newspapers, but that I was invited to witness. It is incredible how little they have and how, even despite the daily struggle they welcomed me as another member of the family. We got some ice cream for desert and me and Tamara got our faces full of chocolate. I was trying to dance to the rhythm of a song playing in the kids channel and Tamara was making fun of me. After that, Tamara prepared the bed for me and was crying because she wanted to sleep in the room with me and Lara. Lara convinced her that if she went to her mother’s room, I will walk her to school next morning. She went to her mom’s, but I couldn’t wake up in the morning at 6 am to take her to school…Shame on me!

Me and Tamara enjoying some ice cream

Tamara insisted on doing my bed....she is so sweet!

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