25 January 2015
Entering into Israel and Palestine has brought a whole new mixture of challenges, emotions, and incredible experiences. After a very smooth border crossing into Israel we headed towards our new homes for the next weeks in a small Palestinian city in the West Bank right outside of Bethlehem. Our group was separated out into groups of twos and threes to live with Palestinian families for our stay. Here we will study Arabic, have numerous lectures on Palestinian culture, history and conflict, and go visit various biblical sites and cities.
The first day we saw multiple sights that inspired two very different emotions in me. Our guide showed us a fence that is a part of the wall separating Palestinians from Israelis that goes through a Palestinian olive tree farm leaving more than half of the olive trees on the other side of the wall. Because of this no one has been to harvest those perfectly good olives. We then went to the church of the nativity and saw the supposed place where Jesus was born. Right after that neat experience we saw the actual large solid wall which cuts through this holy land leaving very little land and resources for the Palestinians. This made me think how Jesus was born into the world to teach peace and loving your enemy and ten minutes away from his place of birth there is a large wall separating two groups who can’t find a way to live harmoniously together.
It has also been an incredible experience living with a family in a completely different culture from my own. They have been so hospitable and accepting by feeding me delicious food, giving me tea constantly, including me in conversations even if they have to translate, teaching me Arabic and letting me participate in their daily lives. However, it makes the weight heavier in my heart to know how loving and accepting they are despite their current reality. Even though it’s been a whirlwind of emotions, life in Beit Sahour has been an awesome experience so far and I can’t wait to keep learning about this wonderful culture.
– Martha Bell