Bethlehem. Back to reality in occupied territory. We're back in the West Bank now in area A, administered by the Palestinians, but still controlled by the Israelis.
Going south from area A into B and then C, besides the check points every time you turn around, besides the wall that surrounds the entire area, besides the guard towers, besides the security cameras, besides the black tanks on top of all the buildings, it's increasingly easy to tell you're in occupied territory.
The guns are back, everywhere you look. Israeli Soldiers are thick. And a good number of them are young women. It's not just guys with guns. Army service is compulsory and it looks like that means no exceptions. Everybody serves. But it's really noticeable in The West Bank because there are so many troops running around.
I don't think I told you about the black water tanks on the buildings. Water. Israel controls all the water in Israel proper and in the Palestinian occupied territories. There is 24/7 running water in Israel. Not in Palestine. Sometimes they shut off the water to Palestinian territory for a week or two at a time. So every building or dwelling has a water reservoir tank on top to tide them over.
That is, every building except in the settlements. The Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory have 24/7 running water. And in the settlements there are swimming pools. You can't make this up!
To add insult to injury, The West Bank (Palestinian territory) supplies almost all of Israel's water. That is, since the Israelis control all the water, they sell it back to the Palestinians for 5.5 ($1.49 US) shekels per cubic meter. They charge Israel and the settlements, wait for it, 0.5 shekels (14 cents US) per cubic meter.
They keep track of the cars by the color of the license tags. Yellow is Israel, green is for taxi cabs, and white is Palestinian. Palestinians must stop at every checkpoint. Make no mistake. And there are guard towers and military vehicles at most of them.
There are 100 different walking or vehicle checkpoints in Hebron alone. We went through two of them to get into the Ibrahimi Mosque which is built over the Cave of the Patriarchs. According to tradition, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Leah, are all buried here in the cave that Abraham bought in the OT stories in Genesis.
Help me understand the reason for 100 security checkpoints and 2 of them into the most historic mosque in the world. This, in an area occupied by almost 100% muslims and the 1500 Israeli troops? Who or what is getting protected? Oh wait, I forgot. There are settlements here, too. All of this in a "temporary" occupation, a "temporary" settlement, with "temporary" checkpoints.
This is a complicated situation and too involved to dig into in a blog post. Just know this: I've seen it up close for myself. The Main Street in Hebron was once a thriving marketplace just like you've seen in the movies. But now, many of the storefront doors are welded shut. So if you live upstairs above what used to be your shop, you may have to enter your house through the backdoor OR WORSE, climb on the roof of a neighbor's house and come down into your house through your attic. No! You can't make this stuff up.
We had lunch today in the home of a Palestinian family in Hebron. Abu-Mohammad and his family have been in the neighborhood for years. They still own the store downstairs, luckily. Their children have never known anything but occupation. The neighborhood kids go to and from school with the soldiers everywhere. Yes, machine guns everywhere!
One of the main Army checkpoints is right across the street from their store. Guess who was staffing it today? You got it. Two girls with guns.
No, I'm not sexist. Women should serve in the military. No problem with that. But, I'm a spoiled American entitled man of white privilege and you just don't see the Army carrying weapons on Main Street USA everyday let alone, two women younger than your own children. And one of them threw me attitude when I stepped out into the street to take a picture of the storefront. You can bet your last shekel that I was getting them in the picture.
She said, "Do you need something?" I said, "No thanks, I got it. Just getting a picture of the street."
What could I possibly need? I'm in occupied territory and you're the one with the gun.
Grace and peace,
This just keeps getting curiouser and curiouser. Hit the church's Facebook for today's pictures.