Today was the day that I have been long awaiting. I am still in so much shock at what I have seen, it seems difficult to explain what has happened. I knew before coming on this trip that I could not leave Israel without going and seeing the other side. Especially after spending the last 5 days here in West Jerusalem it seemed all the more imperative. I have found myself slipping into asking questions as to why the Palestinians would committ terrorist attacks. I mean from what we have seen, it is really not all that bad here. I guess, in that sense I have started to think that it is pretty good here; then today struck me. I would challenge you, that as you read my experience, let it penetrate and question and assumptions and opinoins you have. What you think you might know about Israel and the conflict here, lay that aside for the minute and just listen. At the same extent, remember this was just from what I have seen, there is also another side and balance is everything here in this land.

Early this morning we caught a bus into East Jerusalem and met up with a Palestinian man whom Nomi worked for last year. We drove with him into Palestine and then stayed the day there. Going through the checkpoint was interesting, the guards were intense and really wanted to ensure that we were going as tourists. It was certainly intimidating. Once we got into Bethleham we headed into the main market and toured the Church of the Nativity. On a side note, it was a fantastic site to see the birthplace of Christ and the oldest church in the world, which is over 1300 years old. After we were done with that, we wandered around the city going through neighborhoods and just observing the dynamics of this place.

At the initial glance, it was clear that this area is dying. THe main road, or what used to be the main road has been redirected about 300 meters in order for the Israeli’s to make security walls for a Holy Site, Rachels Tomb. So the main road had to be moved. Well by doing this and moving all the traffic, every business on the main road went out of business, over 250 of them. I looked down this street, that obviously used to be the hustle and bustle and saw it dead, hardly any cars and no people. The building on our left, about 6 stories, was completely vacated. You could see all the bullet holes and even places were apache helicopters had shot rockets into it. We were told that just 4 years ago the Israelis rolled their tanks down this road and were just shooting at the refugee camps, this was clearly evident.

Then we walked up to the wall. Isreal is building this wall for security. It is MASSIVE. As I stood next to it, it completely dwarfed me. Honestly it made me feel like I was in a prison. Ironically, that is what it is. Palestinians are rarely allowed to leave the city and are holled up with little view of teh outside world. Although I believe in the wall and the fact that it is being built, it is the way that Israel goes about it, that I disagree. As we entered Bethleham, it was clear that Israel had ‘snaked’ the wall in order to swallow up the agricultural land outside the city. This is Palestinian land that they are taking, and it is the best land. So what is happening is Israel is making a Palestinian state with its wall. But this will not be a viable state. Isreal is taking all the agriculture and running the wall right through villages and towns in order to divide and weaken them. It is unbelievable to see this with your own eyes. As we walked back to the Bethleham, away from the wall, we noticed an apartment style building that had been taken over by the Isrealis and was being used as a military base in which they placed camoflauge and snipers on it to protect Rachels tomb.

In all, the dehumanization and injustice that is occuring here is unbelievable. Even more shocking was that yesterday we went to the World’s second largest Hollocaust museum. We saw how bad Jews had it in Germany before the final solution and they were killed. What I mean, is that in the 1930’s they had many of their rights and privilages taken away. Economically, they were restricted and their lives became nothing more than simply breathing. We all mourn this fact and recognize its injustice. However, I saw the same thing today. Israel has done the same thing with the Palestinians. Yes, I recognize that Isreal is begining to acknowledge them as people and their right to exist. Most Isreali’s believe in a Palestinian state, it is just that it is taking so long and their is so much disagreement about how it will proceed.

Looking back, I cant believe that we as North Americans never get the real story. How come the news doesnt cover the wall, they only cover terrorist attacks. The things we saw and experienced today I have never seen or heard anywhere else. I must say that my opinion is completely altered and my view changed. I still believe in Isreal and their right to this land, but their occupation of Palestine must end, for it is a crime against humanity.

Tomorrow morning we leave for Cairo and I am getting very sick. I wont have access to a computer for a long time, but still look for the random blog.