Pastor John Paarlberg will be in Palestine and Israel January 11-24, participating in a study tour, “Popular Resistance and Liberation Theology,” sponsored by Friends of Sabeel, a Christian ecumenical organization seeking justice and peace in the Holy Land through non-violence and education.
As he is able, he will be sending us some updates of his study tour.
I arrived in Bethlehem yesterday after a shared cab ride from Ben Gurion airport to Jerusalem and then another cab to the Gilo checkpoint. The driver of the latter cab was an Arab Israeli (an ethnic Arab with Israeli citizenship) and could have driven me all the way into Bethlehem via Beit Sahour. It's a bit longer but would have avoided the checkpoint. I declined the offer and decided to walk through the checkpoint myself. I was waved through one gate by a government official and carried my luggage down some long corridors and through several turnstiles but was never asked any questions or required to show ID. It made me wonder about the purpose of this "security" wall. Perhaps going through the checkpoint in the other direction from the Palestinian side to the Israeli side will be a different experience.
The bed & breakfast where I am staying is nearly up against the separation wall on the Palestinian side Palestinians who have permits to work in Israel have to pass through a checkpoint twice a day, often having to stand in long lines and adding significantly to their "commute." Fortunately (for me) I went through checkpoint at mid-morning and hardly any one else was there.
I also learned that earlier today a young Palestinian man was kilIed by Israeli soldiers in Beit Sahour, a few miles from where I am staying.
I'm staying at the Anastas guest house which is bordered on three sides by the separation wall. It used to be on one of the main roads through Bethlehem which has now been cut off by the wall. The result was a sharp decline in business and the owner has now had to take another job. His father's house is a short walk up the road but because it's now on the other (Israeli) side of the wall he can no longer visit without a permit which he can get only a couple of times a year-- perhaps Christmas and Easter.