Saturday, August 21, 2010

Today we went to Bethlehem.  Our taxi driver, Walid - the one I always use, took us to all the religious sites in Bethlehem.  But this time I asked him to show us a few places within a  politcal aspect.  He took us to the Wall and showed some us of the graffiti.  There are some very clever pieces. We saw the wall from a different angle.   We went to two refugee camps in the city.  One has been in existence since 1948.  There are no longer tents but they have been replaced by very small homes all randomly placed in the area.  The roads are very narrow and bumpy.  A few terrorists have come out of these camps.  The UN has separate schools there for the boys and the girls.  We saw some buildings that were destroyed by the intifada of 2003/04.  There are other signs saying America Aid has helped build an elementary school and a local government building. We had a wonderful lunch of about 14 different salads and then kebobs and lamb chops. We said goodbye to Walid.  Of course, we had to go back through the checkpoint.  You walk up long paths that look cattle ramps. And then go through a very large and strong turnstile to go through Palestinian Control.  Then you cross no man's land to the Israeli checkpoint.  Americans can basically just walk through but the Palestinians have to go through metal security gates, all bags have to be scanned.  Then you go to the passport screening where we show our passports and walk through.  But the Palestinians have to show their work permit, have their hands / fingerprints scanned.  I think they even do a retina screen.  The whole process takes about 30 minutes to get through the whole checkpoint.  Sometimes 45 minutes.  It is very degrading to the Palestinians.  We heard that there are Talks scheduled in Sept.  The Palestinians are hopeful that they will bring some relief but not planning on it,  The first picture is of the New Wall between Israel & Bethlehem.  The second is of a bombed building from the Intifada.