This morning we packed our kit and left Bethlehem. We went to visit Ardi, an American Jewish settler living in Efrata, an Israeli settlement in the West Bank. Many would say the settlement is illegal, but he stated that the West Bank is 'disputed territory' and therefore it is legal. I am still going to refer to them as illegal.
I got very annoyed with Ardi, mainly because it felt like arguing with a UKIP member. He always justified the Occupation as protecting the lives of Israelis, but seemed to avoid any questioning of his beliefs. He kept asking if we valued the right of free travel of Palestinians over the right to life of Israelis, something of a false dicotomy in my mind. He sidestepped a number of difficult questions, especially those that called on him looking at how just actions are. I am not sure whether is was lying in some of the things he said, or whether he doesn't know he is mistaken. He seemed to dispute easily provable facts. He also seemed to be living in fear. Most of his justifications were that Palestinians simply want to kill Jews. This is a massive generalisation. I'll be praying for him, because no one should live in fear. Though it was a hard few hours, it was vital, seeing arguments from the other side of the Wall.
Leaving the Settlement, we headed to Hebron, where we had lunch (falafel again) and then went into the city. Hebron is a divided city. There are approximately 500 Israeli settlers living in a city of 40000 Palestinians. We walked through the market, seeing shops welded shut, and houses abandoned. This is because they were too close to the Settlers houses. The streets had wire netting over them, to protect Palestinians from things thrown from the Settlers above. In one place, we could see six watchtowers, manned by the IDF to 'protect' the settlers. It was so depressing to see the hardships Palestinians face. I saw a water tank (used to store water due to the irregular water supply) which was riddled with bullet holes.
We then headed to Patriarchs' Tomb, the resting place of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob and Leah. Even this was divided, following a massacre of 29 Muslim worshippers by a Jewish radical.
We then moved down the road to a shop where we brought some presents. While we were sat drinking tea (free hospitality!) three Apache helicopter gunships flew overhead. This made the most nervous I have been out here. We walked along another street of abandoned shops, the door of each had a Star of David graffiti'd on, but then covered over (not very well, many were still distinguishable). It had a haunting echo of pictures I had seen of Jewish shops following Kristallnacht, when shops were painted with swastikas.
We boarded the bus heading towards the Tent of Nations. We said goodbye to Iyad (our guide, the same one as Thursday). But before he went, he left us with some profound words. 'why should some children have more rights than my children?' and he said that his message to any pro-Israelis was ' just give us 2% of your heart'.
Tent of Nations is an organisation who have been in a legal battle for 21 years to prevent the confiscation of their 100 acres of land. They are surrounded by four settlements, one of which has a huge watchtower which had a massive Star of David on it, which is illuminated at night. They are such a inspiring cause, staying hopeful and peaceful. They also have a wonderful sense of humour, planting double the number of trees that were destroyed my the IDF, and building underground as they have been told they 'cannot build upon this land.' They work with young people to spread the message of peace. They have a few buildings above ground, but have a number of caves, which are amazing. I really want to live in one! We had food while in the meeting cave, and have spent the evening playing a card game version of Monopoly. Now we are in camp beds in a large tent without a door. There are still helicopters about.
It has been another head spinning day, but it has been wonderful to just chill out and relax tonight. I have so much to think about,
Ps, sorry this is a day late, tents and caves seem lacking in Wifi.