July 21st, 2005
Today is Thursday the 21st of July 2005. This is the
day we also known started planting trees. I do feel we made history
here (on a very limited scale, but never the less). I like to tell something
about two aspects of this event, something about the chaos in which
we try to accomplish something and something about the effect of what
we did (yes the effect was visible even after one tree planting session).
The chaos or Murphy has found his land of dreams; a place
were everything goes wrong at all times and in great synchronicity.
The idea was to start with the actual tree planting at eight in the
morning; eight o'clock being a kind of compromise between the need to
work when it is still fairly cool and what was possible in terms of
logistics. Mornings are a bit cooler here. But if we wanted to start
when it was cooler, we're talking about getting up at five o'clock in
the morning. But since we like to eat in the morning (which requires
a cook). We also have to wait for the youngsters who arrive by bus as
they give us a great helping hand. So eight o'clock is a doable time
but not a really good compromise.
So the internationals got out of bed for breakfast at
seven. But nothing was there: no cook and all the doors closed. And
yeah it was early and people were eager, so frustration began to arise.
The truck from the municipality was supposed to be here
at 7.30 hours to pick up the plants and tools to take them to the right
place along the road in the village. But the truck didn't show up. We
need the local police to ensure our safety in the middle of that road
where we are planting trees. But when the police were contacted they
said that they were not aware did not know about the project. They affirmed
that they were willing to help but that they really need an official
letter from the school with a request for assistance. And a phone call
from the Municipality (where are you guys?) led to the suggestion to
start planting of the trees at the city centre and not on the side of
So at about 8.15 hours we changed our plans and got into
action. We asked everyone to grab one tree and walk down the hill and
then towards the city centre. And after they were on their way, we put
some tools in the schools minibus and drove behind them. In the mini
bus were Ibrahim, Menno a disabled boy from the school and me. We encountered
the municipality truck half way down the hill and asked them to come
after us. And we found our group sitting at the first supermarket: cheerful
and full of energy.
We decided to start the cleaning and planting right there,
in front of the shop. Plastic bags were handed out and the first fifty
meters of the middle section of the road were cleaned in no time. So
people started digging two rows of wholes as advised by the schools
gardener and the environment specialist of the municipality. At the
same time a small group found a place to put up a large banner with
the name of the project. Lots of work was done with an incredible energy.
And amazing things happened. At first the shopkeepers
and other bystanders just looked surprised. And I can imagine that this
sight of a mixed group of foreigners and locals picking up garbage must
have been strange. But by the time the plants were planted and our objective
became visible, things changed. I will never forget how I saw a man
get out of a taxi, and walk across the street to the shop. He looked
around him and tried to understand what was going in there with all
these people standing there in the middle of the street. When he got
out of the shop again I could see the expression on his face changed.
A broad smile appeared, there joy in his eyes. He came over and told
he was happy we were there and that we were planting trees. Others that
were sitting in front of their shops engaged in helping us (for instance
by bringing water for the plants), workers from the municipality came
and helped remove all the litter.
Just one thing more I like to say about our start. Remember
I told the disabled young man drove with us on the minibus. He became
my hero of the day when he walked to the middle of the street with his
two crunches and planted a tree.
After the morning of planting most internationals went
to Jerusalem to visit the group that rebuilds demolished houses. They
had a difficult trip (bus, roadblock, bus, another bus etc.). But they
found their way and had an interesting day. A few stayed behind and
just had some time off. And in the evening we had the official Gathering-
Opening Circle. That was difficult: people are tired, full of emotions.
Being here in this area in which violence, de-humanisation
and tension are common is hard. There is logic in all that is happening.
One minute we are looking at the series of settlements on the outskirts
of Jerusalem that enclose Bethlehem more and more. The next, another
one of us wants to change money in a change shop and answers the questions
that are always asked: what's your name and where are you from. But
it becomes weird when after saying he is from Germany the shopkeeper
says: Hitler did a great job!
Dealing with your own emotions is a difficult task. I
am lucky I have my little computer and you My Dear Friend. You are willing
to listen and you don't seem to be scared off by my tears when I tell
you about my adventures here. Thank you for that!
PS: My dear editor and friend Saira, a volunteer at the
school, wasn't able to do her work today. She lost her glasses. So forgive
me sending you a letter in my own poor English today.
Miracle needed !
This time I am not sending you a report about my adventures over here.
This time I need your help.
The Hope Flowers School is, as you know, a four-story building. And
it stands on a hill. The playground is lower then the first floor. So
are quite a few of the classrooms. I mentioned to you that we have one
disabled participant in the group. But I know that among the school
kids there will be more since it is the schools policy to integrated
disabled children as well.
And although the first floor and playground area are made accessible
for people in wheelchairs, the rest of the building is not. Everyone
just has to use the stairs. That does not feel right.
I think it would be a great improvement if the school would have an
elevator. A thought that of course has came up before. So it was easy
to put a price tag on this, it is $40,000.
Now this is what I need your help for. What ideas do you have to get
that sum of money for the Hope Flowers School? As you know I will greatly
appreciate your ideas on this.