A full full last day today in Bethlehem - our morning was spent in visits to a wonderful school, a wellness center, a human rights group, and a peace center. The school is Muslim/Christian K-12 and serves around 300. We observed happy friendly children in their classrooms and met some of the teachers. And I was so impressed with this school's emphasis in promoting peace among the students and their families. The wellness center offers psychotherapy, nutrition counseling and family support groups. Our last visit to a peace center included a wonderful lunch and a visit to their store where the local women's arts and crafts are sold......such beautifully embroidered pillow covers, purses, scarves and stoles to choose from!
We drove about 25 kilometers to Hebron after lunch. This is considered a "hot" place....even my Lonely Planet guidebook suggested caution if you visit here. Extremist Jewish settlers came in to this city which is in Palestinian territory and drove local families from their homes in the heart of the old city. Now Hebron can easily erupt in rioting and demonstrating. So Israeli soldiers now have a presence with their loaded rifles. Hebron is the location of The Tomb of the Patriarchs...now an ancient ancient mosque with the tombs of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac and Jacob. We walked through an Israeli checkpoint to go inside, take off our shoes, and then put on (we women) the hooded cloaks that were provided. This was even though we brought head scarves for covering ourselves. This mosque is really indescribable....will try to include pictures in my next blog.
Our afternoon ended with an hour visit to a Palestinian refugee camp on the outskirts of Bethlehem. The restrictions under which these uprooted displaced people live is so very sad.
Their representative told us the history of this camp and some of its individual stories. There has been violence and fighting and killing here through the years, including attacks by Israeli tanks.
Tomorrow will be a travel day.....we leave Bethlehem and the West Bank of Palestine and drive northwest to Caesarea - then over into the Galilee, where we'll be spending 2 nights. We'll be visiting Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee.