July 15th, 2005
A couple of days ago I already told you about the Israelian
watchtower (snipers nest as it is called here). This tower is a few
hundred metres away from the school on the west side. From where I'm
sitting right now (a meeting room on the fourth floor), I can see it
through the window. From that tower there is a road that goes to a settlement
southbound. And to the southwest of my current positioning, yet another
Israeli military post is situated on a hilltop and it is very much perceptible!
Therefore, I guess we're all so 'protected' by the military around us.
We were shown an illustration of the geographical situation here that
I'm hoping hope to include in my mail today. This will elucidate things
for you so you have a better understanding of what is happening here.
This illustration includes the future route of the Wall.
I am telling you all of this because the presence of
the Israelian military is a constant yet distant factor. They are constantly
there but they don't seem to influence daily lives unless you get irritated.
Irritated by the fact that the settlement looks like a Christmas tree
at night (and electricity is scarce here) and that the road to the settlement
is brand new (and the one to the school is still badly damaged as a
result of a roadblock installed and removed by the Israeli a couple
of years ago), etc. This all makes it hard not to be judgemental and
not place the blame on only one side for all that is wrong and the result
of the conflict here. Furthermore, I'm still not able to really understand
the purpose of the A, B, C classification system for the occupied territories
(A = fully under Palestinian authority control, C = under full Israelian
control). This is a C area.
Before lunch one of us went out to buy bread. Seeing
as there was no bread in the corner shop, the owner sent his 8-year-old
son, Suleyman, to get some from what we assume is the bakery. But at
the corner he decided it would be a good idea to ask the son of the
shopkeeper there (they do not sell bread) to walk to the village and
get the bread for us. Little Suleyman happily agreed. Strangely enough
he hadn't returned after an hour and we were beginning to wonder what
could have happened.
Robert, a fellow volunteer here went back to the shop
to check on him as they promised to bring the bread up to the school.
What had happened was that he was 'arrested' by Israeli soldiers who
were suddenly there on our not-so-beautiful road. They detained the
boy for about an hour, questioning him.
It is known that incidents similar to this happen on
Fridays (Fridays being a sacred day for Muslims especially here as they
are the majority there). A certain nervousness spread through the group
of internationals at the school because of him not getting back. After
an hour we walked down the road to see if there was any military presence
that could affect the arrival of our new guests but there was no sign
Later that day some of the Internationals paid a visit
to the boy and his family. They were invited in and enjoyed the sincere
hospitality they had to offer. They listened to the family stories,
for instance, about the loss of a family member as a result of the conflict
or houses being destroyed. Though it was emotionally hard for those
who paid the visit, I was told that the visit was somehow a blessing
in disguise. They had a chance to connect with those involved in this
plight. Most importantly, it was the element of sharing that took place
This kind of incident however is not the norm around
here but the Israelis are probably being very vigilant due to a suspected
recent regiment change. Also, the very current situation in the Gaza
strip confirms their reaction today.
Our new guests and friends arrived at about six without
any delays. About ten of us are here now and we are expecting another
fifteen to show up tomorrow or the day after.
We were all tired at the end of the day and opted to
go out for dinner instead of doing all the cooking ourselves. So we
all (yes you can get into the schools minibus with 12 adults without
much trouble) and drove into Bethlehem. Ibrahim drove us to a pizza
restaurant where we, on a joyful, warm summer night, enjoyed pizza and
I have to admit that I'm sad. Sad because of what happened
today. Sad because at the end of all this, I'll be on the plane homebound
knowing that those who live here can't, as this is their reality no
matter how crazy it seems. Sad because something is wrong with the ingenious
water system of the school and I can't have the much longed for shower.
And I feel so small, so powerless and so incongruous. I am like a child
who innocently agrees to something without questioning little knowing
that there are consequences to what he or she is agreeing to. As a result
of this, children then seem lost, not knowing what to do or who to turn
to which is what I can relate to right now. Additional to all this,
it was a day full of little tasks that needed be done and decisions
that needed to be made before we can start with the gathering and the
Thankfully, these tasks were all carried out in good
time. We even reached a point when Menno, this wonderful guy that has
been working on this project for so long, couldn't think of anything
else to do! Just two more days to go until the opening ceremony and
two more weeks until this tiny area of Our planet will be a thousand
trees richer! I have managed to survive this day and tomorrow is another
One more thing I like to say: I now have a wonderful
young lady, Saira, helping me with this letter. She happens to be a
PS: I listen to cantatas by Bach while writing. The following
text says it all, I guess (sorry but Bach wrote them in German and I
just can't translate Bach):
"Zu Tanze, zu Sprunge so wackelt das Hertz".