Day trip to Bethlehem
Trip Start Oct 02, 2011
11Trip End Nov 04, 2011
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Back from my day trip to Bethlehem. Looking is very tiring - could sleep right away; hopefully also when it's time for bed...
Today I didn't take the official route via the checkpoint at Qalandia and Jerusalem but one of Palestine's many sneaky routes that take three times as much time but avoid all the checkpoints.
The price was three times as much as well (7 Shekels to Jerusalem; from there it's only 8 km to Bethlehem, but 20 Shekels Ramallah-Bethlehem). But it was worth it, I'd say. The route is quite scenic; it takes you on serpentine roads through Palestine's lovely hills and what is remaining of its ancient villages
I still haven't quite sussed out the ownership thing though; although I'm moving around pretty much in Palestine only, there are some areas such as Ein Gedi at the Dead Sea where you only see Israelis - I guess that's an Area C, which, factually, is Palestine but is controlled by the Israelis. Mmh.
The roads also; this time we definitely travelled on Palestinian soil only but, still, there were quite a few road blocks with big chunky concrete blocks and immensely bored Israeli soldiers to be seen, but the Serweez (minibus) didn't get stopped and probably never does as this route is used by people who don't have a permit and thus can't pass via the checkpoints out of or within Palestine.
There are also some roads, which can only be used by cars with a yellow Israeli numberplate (Palestinian numberplates are green) - the so-called Apartheid Roads - word leaves a bad taste, doesn't it. These are mainly the roads leading to Israeli settlements in the heart of Palestine.
En route to Bethlehem we passed one of the largest settlements Ma'ale Adumim; it's now factually one of Jerusalem's suburbs - 70.000(!!!!) settlers living there
Anyhoo, road blocks successfully and uneventfully passed, serpentines up and down through lovely olive tree hills and terraces, tiny, ancient Palestinian villages and we arrived in Bethlehem - together with coach loads of tourists also daytripping....
Lots of churches, a few mosques and lovely old town pretty much still as it used to be.
Typically touristy place - it was difficult to move by myself without being constantly hassled! But once I had unpacked my meagre Arabic it got better - even the lunch got cheaper :) Did a lot of strolling...
Jesus would be shocked though, what a commerce on his behalf - incredible!
The Nativity Church was amazing though - the entrance is just a tiny door; you have to duck to get through; the original door was made so small by the crusaders to prevent attacks - it's lovely simple inside - not the usual gold and bombastic interior most churches have - amazingly huge - but you couldn't really feel much of what the stones had to tell cause all of the noisy, photo-shooting crowds...
What left a much bigger impression than all the churches together was the separation wall that surrounds Bethlehem (what would have Jesus said to that, ey???). It was the first time I had time to look at the wall that close....it's so incredibly high - twice as high as the Berlin wall they say, about 8 metres!
@ the IELTS-Team: This, by the way, would have been THE chance to accomplish my mission and hang up the Ielts poster - no soldiers pointing their guns at me - but I didn't have it with me, DAMN!!
Adjoining Bethlehem are three refugee camps - overall, 725.000 Palestinians were moved to camps after the 1948 war when cities were "cleansed" of Palestine folks and villages demolished.
I sneaked around a corner of a wall to have a look at one of the camps. Its by now a small town but incredibly crowded and they have very severe water problems, Bethlehem anyway, and the camps all the more.
It's stunning to start calculating how many generations have lived and died in a "temporary" refugee abode.... Please see also this UN article with figures on all camps in the West Bank http://www.unrwa.org/etemplate.php?id=104.
Anyhoo, in the end I was escorted to the minibus-stop by two sexy traffic police officers, whom I had asked for the way. The have so little to do there that they decided to show me the way in person - niiiiice.
So, overall, a nice trip; but the impression of the holiness got very muddled from the views I got of the wall and the camp. Mmh, not easy not to get politcal in this country, and when have I ever talked of politics to you??