What a day! Very long, but so many great things.
Breakfast was a tasty mix of salad, pitta and juice. Then we went to see the Holy Land Trust's new centre in the centre of Bethlehem. They are a great group who work in non-violence. The views from the top floor was awe-inspiring (unfortunately I can't get my pictures off my camera onto my iPod.)
Then we moved on to Bethlehem Bible College. This was basically a modern history lesson, very interesting, but too much to write about here. We had lunch at the 'second-best shawarma place in Bethlehem' (according to Iyad, our guide, who didn't want to give away the secret of the best!) Shawarma is a sort of cross between Kebab and fajita, it was amazing!
We then visited Bethlehem University, and chatted to a couple of students, who were very open about they views. They were frustrated by the Occupation, and want freedom and justice. This became a theme of the day, and I'm guessing the week. When asked what we could do, they simply said 'Speak the truth of what you see, we are good people not like people say.' And that is what I'm trying to do, say what I saw. From the roof of the University we could really see how the Wall encroaches right into the middle of the city.
We took the bus down to the Wall. And it is HUGE at around 8m high. We spent a while talking with Iyad who is Palestinian, and were overhead by a passing Israeli tour guide, which led to a very interesting debate between the two sides. We then walked along the Wall, talking pictures of the amazing graffiti, including a couple of Banksy pieces. The Wall winds it's way around buildings like a concrete snake, we saw a house enclosed on three sides by the Wall, as the Palestinian owners have documentation proving that they owned it before 1948, and therefore it can't be seized by the State.
We had dinner with Wi'am, another non-violent group, who as based in the shadow of the wall, after a quick mingle, they handed us spray cans and encouraged us to add something to the graffiti. My contribution is below.
The day ended with a visit to the offices of a theatre company, who tour with plays based on the lives of Palestinians. It was wonderful to see 'normal life' going on in an Occupied land. After a little debrief in the hotel, we all pulled out our tech to blog, tweet, Facebook etc.
Tomorrow we are doing more of the traditional pilgrim-y things.
Today has been such an eye-opener! I'm already planning my talks when I'm back.
Hope all is well, God bless and sleep well.