I have been staying with George and Najla Azar in Beit Sahour for the last couple of weeks. They have been good hosts, providing Hannah and I with delicious breakfasts and traditional Palestinian dinners!
Most of our days have been spent in lecture and traveling around the area to various cities somehow involving Scripture as well as historical and recent issues. Hebron was probably the hardest place to be in so far but there have also been a number of lectures, movies and conversations that were really challenging to experience. There is an overwhelming amount of emotions along with the many things I have learned in just a short time. I find myself constantly caught between wanting to help in this situation and not knowing how and hurting for the people and recognizing that the United States government has had a lot to do with the present state of Palestine. I have not yet figured out what my role is and where I stand in all of this. As an American I often am confused why people everywhere are so excited to see Americans when it was our country that got them into this mess in the first place. But I guess they realize that it is the government not the people involved just as they realize that it is not all Israelis but the government that continues this oppression.
I am continuously amazed at the strength of the people here. So many have hope and refuse to leave because they are confident that the occupation will pass; that eventually the occupiers will realize what they have been doing for so many years. Some of the occupation tactics from the Israelis are, to be blunt, stupid. So much of it is just child's instigation. I can't imagine that they enjoy the effort it takes to make other people's lives miserable anymore than the Palestinians enjoy this lifestyle.
Sunday we all went hiking in a Wadi down to Jericho. However, on our a way to the trail head we had to pass through a checkpoint at the top of a ridge commonly known as the "container." We had been through the checkpoint the day before with no issues but Sunday was quite a different story. As we drove down the valley and began to rise up towards the checkpoint we could see a line stretching more than half way down the valley. The checkpoint had been closed just long enough to create a massive line (maybe 15 min)... We waited in line for more than an hour before we got to the check point. As the bus waited in line half of us got out and walked up about a kilometer to play hacky sack to pass the time. Fortunately when we reached the check point we had no issues and simply continued on our way.
However on our way home the same thing happened only right around dinner time and a much longer line. We waited for probably 2.5 hours before we reached the checkpoint. There was a vehicle with a family heading the same place we were who had been waiting since 3:30p and it was then about 7p! Our leader, Samir was telling us that they will not open the check point and quickly let people through no matter the circumstances. Women have given birth or people with medical emergencies have had to sit there no matter if death is on line and wait. Wait.
These people have done nothing and are not even trying to enter Israel from the West Bank. Even though the lines were frustrating for us, it gave us a bit of insight and perspective into what these people live with. They are just trying to carry out daily life but for them it takes much more of an effort than is necessary. But I have to have hope, if they do then I can....