The day began with a typical Palestinian breakfast or eggs, meats, cucumbers, cheeses, bread, sweet juices, fruit, yogurt. Our first training session was a general intro to the organization and safety lecture. We were then given envelopes with our first month's cash, Arabic and Hebrew phrase books, and other useful information like maps. After lunch we walked over to the UN Human Rights Office where we given a presentation about the original borders, the settlements the current borders, plans for new settlements, and the illegality and violations of the Geneva Conventions. It was quite enlightening. Then we were off to our home for the next 3 months.
We arrived in Bethlehem at about 3:15 this afternoon. We is my teammates Kat from Sweden, Hannah from the UK, and Esteban from Ecuador and me. Martin has not yet arrived. We were met by Bibi in Jerusalem. She is one of the current team who will be leaving. We dragged our luggage what she said would be 500 meters, which turned out to be more than 1/2 mile, to take the public bus. The bus was completely full and I ended up with my carry on bag in my lap in the back of the bus with a family sitting next to me. We were dropped off on the Israeli side of Checkpoint 300, which will be one of our posts. Of course no one cares who enters from Israel to the Palestinian side, but we did have to navigate 3 turnstiles before getting through the wall. On the other side we were greeted by a van and driver who immediately took us to a 3:30 outdoor service that occurs every Friday as a protest to the occupation. To give you an idea of the weather, the weather service may say 55 degrees, but it is cold. Except that walking and pulling luggage at the same time created sweat. Once seated in the bus as I cooled down sweat was pouring down, getting my clothes wet. Then we stood for about half an hour while the sweat froze....not very comfortable.
There were about 60-70 people gathered in an olive grove. Mass was done in Arabic, but the priest greeted everyone in English. In his English prayer he asked our prayers for the Israelis that God would soften their hearts to see the oppression.There were many foreigners and a member of parliament present. The MP spoke in Arabic to the group, so we have no idea what he said. Our driver returned with our bags and we arrived In our new home to settle in and review the schedule. At 5:30 we went to the Wall for an every Friday night peaceful protest led by ecumenical and catholic leaders. I added my jacket ti my fleece to be more comfortable. The small group of about 10 people prayed the rosary in English while watching the sun set over the wall. I met Constanza who lives next door. Her home is right at the wall, and on the other side of the wall was their olive grove from which they earned their living. Constanza is a faithful Catholic woman with a broad smile and big heart. She expressed great fondness for her Jewish neighbors but just wants a peaceful end to the occupation.
How is that for a first day?