Annual Earthstewards Gathering 2005

Harry Troelstra from the Netherlands, one of the key organizers for the PeaceTrees/Gathering in Bethlehem has been keeping a diary since his arrival in Bethlehem. Here are those entries on a daily basis.

Thank you, Harry, for bringing this event home to so many of us who dearly wish we could be there physically, but for many reasons are not able to attend. You know our hearts and prayers are with you all.



July 13th, 2005

Dear Friend,

The day started early today. I woke up at 5.30 hours, probably because the local mosque urged us mortals to pray (but I'm not sure that's what woke me up). But anyway, I decided to get out of bed and just start my day. I finished yesterday's letter to you and then went out to get some breakfast.

I walked down the hill and suddenly noticed that the Israeli military watchtower was still there; it had managed to escape my attention yesterday now that it is camouflaged. But luckily enough they had a flag out today so it can be seen again. But OK, down in the village I found a small grocery. I bought bread, some meat, tins of hummus and something that looked like salad. Shopping can be a hindrance if you cannot read Arabic or Hebrew and the shopkeeper doesn't speak a word of English.

We had breakfast with those who were awake (8 out of 10) and after that we sat down with our small organising group and started to go through the programme for the next two weeks planned by Menno. He really did a great job in putting all of it together. We didn't have enough time, some had other engagements, but we will give it another shot later this evening.

Next we walked around the school to decide where we would deliver the various workshops and had a look at the ongoing construction work; about another ten guestrooms are being prepared. This really is a wonderful and efficient place; there is so much space for everything we wish to do.

The next point on the agenda was a visit to the Bethlehem winery. The winery is one of the places we'd like to visit with the whole group sometime in the next two weeks. So today's visit was mainly to get a feel for the place. We ended up buying wine or grape juice or olive oil.

A very important moment for me was when we visited this Shoarma restaurant. I had my first shoarma wrap like meal, with lots of salads and spices to go with the shoarma meat. What a feast!

Not all of the group members had been close to the wall or a checkpoint before (most of them have only driven through), so we walked there. With excessive help from their big brother the US, the Israeli's really have added something to the scenery here. What used to be just a horrible checkpoint is now becoming a sterile, concrete area. In a year or so, getting through the checkpoint will be a highly sophisticated process. This could possibly mean that us Internationals will no longer be able to just go where we please. Additionally, this means that the Palestinians living here will be completely isolated for good.

We got back to the school by taxi, feeling somewhat depressed. Once we were back we visited the little shop near the school that will be our main resource of drinks and snacks in the next couple of weeks. Just as we stepped out of the shop, some of the local children asked us to take a picture of them. I'm looking forward to seeing those: the image of the broad smiling kids despite everything will stay with me.

Greetings,
Harry

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