I thought for this week’s blog I would take you with me for the highlights and I suppose you could say the lowlights of the week. Sunday afternoon I headed off to Jerusalem for two days of Placement Visitation (working) and a day off (my first). Upon arrival in Jerusalem I accompanied two EAs to Notre Dame Cathedral. I suggest you check out their web site at: http://www.nortredamecentre.org to see what a spectacular site this is. After walking through the wine and cheese restaurant we took in the incredible view from their roof top dining room. We then attended an inspiring service led by a Mexican Father with the subject of his sermon being on praying for Peace. Walking to the Jerusalem Team’s living quarters we passed by a tree alive with chirping wild parakeets, something you don’t see everyday where I live.
Monday morning started with a 7AM brisk walk through Old Jerusalem to check on the gates an generally assess the situation. School kids in the uniforms were making their way through the narrow streets, laughing and gleefully off to start a new day. Shop keepers were busy setting up, cleaning and getting ready for what they hoped would be a productive day ahead. We checked a number of the gates including the North, the Lions and the Damascus gate before making our way to the Haram esh Sharif, where some of the finest Islamic buildings are located like the 8th Century El-Aqsa mosque and the spectacular Dome of the Rock. A truly inspiring site early in the morning, people scattered around the large plateau quietly praying, making their way to a mosque or having an intimate conversation. Off to the side school children offer inspiration of their own with their laughing and talking as they play in advance to entering the schools off to the side of this truly incredible location.
In the afternoon we are off a couple of demolitions where there appears to be no logic or rational to explain why this took place. At one site a livestock barn was destroyed killing all of the chickens that were in their pens inside. The owners did get their larger animals out in time. Their metal shop was destroyed complete with some very expensive tools. Around the corner a bus used as an office on a recently purchased property that was being landscaped to improve its appearance was totally destroyed. There were no demolition orders in place, none given and nor was there any explanation. They both owned their properties outright.
On the way back from the demolition site I was shown the property of a man who is forced to live alone and without his family, totally trapped, unable to leave for any reason what so ever. He has a large piece of property with fruit and olive trees. This property has been in his family for generations, however the Government has designated the land “For Future Development” There is one access road that runs past his house. A barricade has been placed on the road on each side of his property. Access through one end can be gained through a Check Point. He can not leave the property for fear of damage being done by nearby Settlers. There is a very large Settlement high up on a bank overlooking his property. No other properties are affected by this roadblock and there has been no reason given for it being in place. On he surface there appears absolutely no justification for this blockade.
That night I went downtown to grab something to eat however I had to return an hour later having spent the entire hour pretty well surrounded by rioters and riot police, complete with their horses. I tried many back roads and alleys only always have one or both of the groups going by me in both directions. Burning dumpsters, rocks, paint, ambulances and plenty of media. Fortunately I was of no interest to either side that particular evening. The riot happened because of the death of a 16 year old boy who had died earlier in the week after suffering an injury during a confrontation with the Israeli Army two weeks earlier. Earlier that day when we passed the dead boy’s home which was surrounded by family, media, police and friends. We caught the site of what has got to be one of the youngest “rock throwers” posing for the various media just outside of the family’s home.
The next day we monitored a check point, one a lot more civilized and much more humanly run than the one in our area. Another tour of old Jerusalem and I was off for a day. A lot of walking in some pretty hot weather required quite a few breaks. One stop I made was the Austrian Hospice in Old Jerusalem. An oasis in the middle of all the hustle of the vendors etc. where under the shade of many trees,and surrounded by beautiful flowers I enjoyed some great Austrian coffee and fresh apple strudel. An other interesting place to rest and east is the old Jerusalem Hotel where in a restaurant with loose rock floor, parakeets singing in the foliage above the open ceiling you can enjoy a good old fashioned hamburger. In a scene almost our of Casablanca, people sit around reading, enjoying others company or like many taking advantage of several large water pipes supplied by the restaurant to use one of the many exotic tobaccos that they have available. And no, because I quit smoking on one of my daughter’s birthday in 1999, I did not try this.
Coming back to Yatta on Thursday myself and another EA had to go to the Fire Zone, where we walked in and down the side of a mountain in order to provide protective presence to a family who had experienced issues with settlers the day before. We ended up spending overnight with the families teenage boys, a couple of Italian volunteers with an organization called “Operation Dove”. A very pleasant night with no unexpected guests. We slept in the family cave the is complete with solar supplied electricity with sufficient energy to power lights, a fridge and television. The boys prepared a great traditional Bedouin meal for supper. The stars were out in full bloom, the moon just past being full and the only sounds were crickets and the occasional bark from the owners two dogs chasing unwanted animals. In the morning we walked back up the mountain, seeing a gazelle just cross our path. We walked most of the way back to our flat, stopping to see shepherds on our way.
Which brings me wrapping this up for now. We have more duties tomorrow before going off to Jerusalem and Haifa on Sunday for our mid-term break and more training mixed in with a bit of relaxation.