Yesterday we went to check out downtown Bethlehem, the old city. On manger square, there is both the very old Church of the Nativity (see “Jesus”) and the very new Peace Center (a former Israeli police station) recently changed. We had some Arabic Coffee with a man selling it in the square, who was able to communicate clearly and emphatically that tourism was well, not booming here in Bethlehem. A shame since we must have shot over 200 photos of the textured city.
NOTE: We are drinking a lot of Arabic Coffee, which is served like espresso and has Cardamon in it. Please go out and try it, it is delicious, as well as Blu, which is the Red Bull here. Its good, and it seems as though younger people here drink it, however once we found out where it is made, it has not felt as kosh to drink...
Back in the US, when we began telling people that we were going to Palestine, we were greeted with a mix of reactions, which ranged from concern to incredulity. Being here now, we can attest that Bethlehem would make just as good a tourist destination (if not better in its less prepackaged delivery) than other ancient cities in the EU. However, from what we are hearing, it sounds as though the images shown to the US and the EU have been an effective deterrent for tourism, excepting Xmas day (Jesus was born here).
It is interesting to notice too, how ones eyes become more and more accustomed to the things they sees, slowly changing exotic sights and sounds into background. However this morning, just as the look and texture of Joseph’s home is becoming more natural, we accompanied Joseph and his wife to the market and were on sensory overload once more. Everywhere we turned was something new, fascinating and visually exotic. It was a filmmaker’s wet dream.
Later we went to behold another site that will not be escaping our minds anytime soon. About 5 minutes taxi from Joseph's house is a portion of the wall which has been being built around the west bank starting in 2002. Built by Isreal to separate the Palestinians from the Isrealis, it actually has not only trapped most Palestinians on one side, but since it wavers from the 1949 "Green Line," it has about 27,520 Palestinians (8.5%) stuck on the Israeli side. Standing next to it was an incredible experience, and its height made it difficult in terms of cinematography, but simultaniously is such a specticle that it begs to be captured. We worked slowly though the sun setting, because even as an American one could sense the psychologically dominating feeling that emanated from the height of the cold concreate, the barbed wire, and of course the towers staffed with Israeli guards.
We went home (which is what we call Josephs house now) and promptly fell aspleep, exhausted from the experiences of the day. It is the first full night of sleep we have had since we left San Francisco 6 days ago.