2 February 2015
Hebron – the first glimpse of the conflict on the ground, and a major reality check. How is it possible that neighbors would have each other arrested, or throw their trash on each other? I stood on one side of a wall that divides the city and half an hour later I was standing directly on the other side thanks to my American passport. I stood on the road originally created for Palestinian use but taken over by Israeli settlers. I watched a dog run down the middle of the road and I thought about the irony of freedom – a dog travels freely, but a Palestinian cannot. My spirits fell as I walked past doors welded shut, a symbol of a once bustling market, now completely deserted. The bone crushing atmosphere in Hebron was distinctly lacking of all hope. But yet in Palestine, hope remains.
We found hope at Bethlehem University, a university made up of young Christians and Muslims both male and female. We admired the greenness of campus and the vivacious life we found in the students. We played basketball (and table tennis) with our Palestinian brothers and sisters. And when we asked them what we should tell the folks back home about what we saw, they said, “Tell them we aren’t terrorists.”
Arabic classes continue to be entertaining and yet simultaneously the bane of our existence. While challenging and applicable, they are also frustrating and demanding. Our teachers tell us, “Use the back of your throat!!” I didn’t even know that throats could make that sound. But along the way, we’ve also picked up the wisdom of our teachers. In the words of charismatic teacher Abdullah, “to learn the language of your enemy is to make them your friend.” From the smiling faces of the local shopkeepers as we greet them with a simple ‘Marhaba!’ we are learning this for ourselves.
The hike through Wadi Qelt took us outside of the classroom and straight into the pages of the Bible. The beautiful scenery and precarious paths took our breath away and also our feet from under us (5 documented wipe-outs from the day). We read Psalms 23 as we sat beside still waters in the (legitimate) Valley of the Shadow of Death. King David’s words have never seemed so real, as we imagined ourselves to be shepherds on the very hills where the boy poet David roamed. Not to mention that we got to stand on the ruins of one of King Herod’s many palaces.
This week has been a flurry of information, images, and activity. It seems that we learn without even trying. With one week left here in Beit Sahour, we want to take in everything we possibly can. The things we have seen and experienced will travel with us even as our time here draws to an end.
– Alena Yoder, junior
– Malachi Bontrager, junior