Today, Shaban and I went to the second biggest city in Palestine, and most definetly the largest tourist attraction. Bethlehem, which is a staggering 15km away from Hebron. I didn’t really know what to expect, and Shaban immediately asked me, how long I wanted to pray for. People who know me, will know for exactly how long I was planning on praying for.
While driving once again, the tension became apparent. Watch towers, army checkpoints; what I hadn’t noticed on the drive in were huge red signs warning Israelis to not enter the dangerous Palestinian areas, as well as huge steel gates. Shaban explained, that the Israelis sometimes shut these gates for up to a month, and when this happens (of course with no notice) the people are trapped in their homes or outside of their homes depending on where they are when Israel decides to close the gates. I have heard a lot about the conflict within the last 7 days that I have been here, however it really never seizes to shock and upset me, when I hear about it. Little was I to know, that I would get faced with a lot more up close and personal later on.
We arrived at the Church of Nativity, to find that the entire site was being renovated. Thereby sadly I wasn’t able to catch a glimpse of the historic building, however the grotto; which features the silver star marking the birth place of jesus was still accessible.
We had to wait in line, for about 15 minutes as there were plenty of tourists on pilgrim tours (I only know this because of there artistic name tags). Once again I was up close to religion, experiencing the real meaning that these people cherish. Even though I don’t in any form have a religious belief, I can understand why people cherish it to such an extent.
The decorations that were visible were truly spectacular. I presume gold and silver plate, incredibly ornate and delicate. Unlike the monstrosity of a thing which I was going to pass, while driving through Bethlehem.
Everyone has seen the pictures of the wall dividing Israel to the West Bank. However we drove past it, and woah. I am used to seeing a wall, that divided a place. I have walked past the Berlin Wall every single day since March. Yet the Berlin Wall is absolutely titchy in comparison to this lump of concrete. I was generally stunned. Shaban just looked at me with a shrug of his shoulders. Not only was it a behemoth of a thing, yet it also had to contain yet another guard tower.
Bethlehem truly confused me. One had masses of tourist groups, the usual street sellers just like in every tourist hotspot; then one drives for a total of 5 minutes, and there is this wall. I left Bethlehem with an apprehensive feeling, not remembering the beauty within the Church of Nativity. What worried me even more was the idea that directly behind this wall, were the outskirts of Jerusalem.