Thursday, January 19, 2017

Thursday, 19 January 2017: Bethlehem / Tel Aviv

This morning we will meet with Dr. Charlie Haddad, Director of Education, to discuss Lutheran education in the Holy Land and visit a Lutheran school. If schedules allow, we will also meet Bishop Munib Younan of the ELCJHL and President of the Lutheran World Federation. Later we will travel to Ramallah for a tour of the city and a visit to the Palestinian Authority governmental site and Arafat’s tomb. This evening we’ll enjoy a farewell dinner at a local restaurant featuring a local dancing group before transferring to Tel Aviv Airport to board our overnight flight home. (B, D)

What a delight to wake up HEALTHY!  Yesterday REALLY sent me for a loop, and I'm thankful to be sturdy (though, weak) on my feet again.  PLUS, we're going to go see children...THAT will cheer me up ANYDAY! AND, Susan seems to be warding off whatever I had, so we are one, happy pair.  

The school was lovely and absolutely welcoming - and those children!  Everywhere!  We met in the gym/auditorium/cafeteria to meet and greet the principal and director, along with taking in some musical performances by the kids themselves.  How delighted I was to learn that I would be able to view the dancing group from last night - they were from this school!  It WAS a good decision to stay home and recuperate, indeed!  What a kick to hear the Choir and the Brass group, along with experiencing the dancers.  Such joy - such life - such appreciated for culture.  ALL the while, being an ELC-based school, founded in the tenets of the Lutheran faith.  What a place!

Dr. Charlie was a very stern-looking man, making me wonder how on earth he connected with children...right up until the children came around.  He melted.  Makes me think he just wasn't that thrilled about having to speak in public.  He spoke with nothing but love and pride for the children as he toured us around the campus.  

And the CHILDREN!  They were having lunch while we were there, and they were allowed to be eating it on the entire campus.  GENIUS idea - they can eat in the outdoors and then run it off.  They were so curious as to who we were, too!

We stumbled across a tiny gift shop, filled with the creations of the children.  How we wish we would have known about such a gift shop - we would happily have saved our money to purchase from here, and directly support the children.  Next time!

Off to a refuge camp - which was NOTHING like either of us anticipated.  I don't know if we expected there to be tents or in my case, wailing.  SO different than what I had ever seen on the news.  This was a small community, nestled in-between buildings, off of a main road in a city.  Boom.  You were in the 'camp' - which really was nothing like any camps we had seen.  Our guide delivered succinct and poignant thoughts as we traveled in the narrow and cold streets.  It really was a wake-up call, especially for those of us who live in the Dels.  Here, we complain about our 425 square feet of property, when there are people living in this 'camp', with open windows to the cold, and walls shared by their most direct neighbors.  Children 'play' in the narrow streets, nary a blade of grass to be found.  We have nothing to complain about, unless it comes in the form of protest against such living conditions.  Sigh.    Again, we came across a shop where the women of the camp had hand-embroidered purses and whatnot, all for sale, and all benefiting the members of the camp.  We promptly purchased what we could at ridiculously cheap prices for the beauty they had stitched.

A local Jewish man spoke to us at a freeeeeeezing Synagogue.  The freezing where you lose track of where you are and why you are in attendance.  He spoke for a rather long time.  LONG time.  As in, I might have lost 2-3 of my fingers from frostbite.  He had a quickly-roused temper that would come across in the form of a juvenile, argumentative style that made me quickly tune him out.  Susan and I admired the beautiful glasswork in the church, and even sat through several rounds of the pocket labyrinth she had brought along in her pocket.

This visit to the refugee camp stood in stark contrast to the lush and manicured homes we were able to see inside the settlements later that afternoon.  No boxes of dead and neglected flowers hung outside those settler homes - lush, floral arrangements were everywhere.  Children had their choice of playground equipment, and it wasn't on concrete.  Artwork was displayed in town centers, not graffitied on walls of the camp.  People motored around in mini-vans, and weren't stumbling around on uneven concrete.  The dichotomy between the two locations left a chasm in our hearts.

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