Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Getting Acclimated

!صبح لاخير (Good morning!). Greetings from Bethlehem. Life is beginning to become more routine, but very slowly. I have loved every minute of being here, though it has required lots of energy and input. Being around Arabic most of the day without understanding a lot of it wears on you.

On Saturday we toured East Jerusalem (which is largely Palestinian)and met up with B'tselem (www.btselem.org) and the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions (www.icahd.org). These are both organizations that are fighting for Palestinian issues. We saw a Palestinian home that was demolished by Israel becuase it didn't have a building permit. This is a very common thing in East Jerusalem, where Israel largely refuses to give building permits to Palestinians who are growing rapidly, basically forcing them to build illegally. We also toured some Israeli settlements, which housing complexes built within what is internationally considered the Palestinian West Bank. These are illegal by international law and threaten to divide up the West Bank into small Palestinian bantustans (thin South African apartheid). Seeing all this was a very heavy experience.

I have been able to have several eye opening conversations with some of the kids from the camp that speak good english. One kid, Mohammed, was telling me how in this month alone 7 people from the camp will be getting out of Israeli jails.This is from a camp of only 2000 people. Many more are in jail and won't be coming out soon. Mohammed's own brother, who they haven't seen in 2 1/2 years, will be getting out this next week. It will be a big occasion. Palestinians in the West Bank are taken to prison in Israel proper, thus seperating them from family and friends who can visit them. It is difficult for Palestinians to get permits to visit them (West Bank Palestinians can't cross into Israel without a special permit which is difficult to get. Many in Bethlehem, who live 15 minutes from Jerusalem, haven't been able to go.).

Yesterday, began both the Arabic lessons and my volunteering with the NGO (non-governmental organization, think non-profit). I am not sure if this NGO is going to be a good fit and it doesn't really fit with my schedule well. We are trying to see if we can find another place where I can volunteer. Please be in prayer for this as this will be a large part of my experience here.


megan said...

hey jonathan-- glad to hear about your time in palestine so far. my thoughts and prayers are with you :)



Anonymous said...

jonathan!!! I just got caught up on all of your adventures thus far. Know that we are praying for you as you adjust, learn Arabic, work with your team, and live life. LOVE YOU!
-the coxen