Place of the Patriarchs

Trip Start Jan 03, 2011
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15
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Trip End Mar 26, 2011


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Flag of Palestinian Territory  ,
Tuesday, February 1, 2011

We are officially in Hebron! This is a town south of Bethlehem, and it only took about 30-45 minutes to drive here! When we went to Ramallah on Saturday (which on a map looks about the same distance away from Bethlehem but to the north) it took 1 hour and 30 minutes to get there! SO WEIRD. Apparently it's because from Bethlehem to Hebron you can drive straight there, but to Ramallah you have to drive around Jerusalem, which is between Ramallah and Bethlehem. Anyway, it blew my mind that it only took 30+ minutes to get here...

So I’ve now had a full day and night in Hebron, and while it’s nice, Bethlehem is SO much nicer. When we got to Bethlehem, I had no idea how great we had it! But after going up to Ramallah for the day, and now down south to Hebron, Bethlehem is still winning big time in my book. Bethlehem is cleaner, brighter, and everyone just seems happier. I mean, Hebron is famous for the conflicts in the old city between the 200 or so extremist settlers living there and the 1,000+ soldiers that are here to protect them. This makes for some clashes every once in a while. So I don’t know if this the cause for the longer faces or what. Although all the people we have met have been very welcoming, and we even met a US political figure yesterday! I’m afraid I forgot his title, some kind of foreign affairs officer maybe? He was in the Old City meeting with some important Palestinian people I guess, but I think he works at the US Consulate in Tel Aviv. His boss is some big shot, I think maybe the Council General or something? My knowledge of the positions in the US Diplomatic system are zero, so my apologies for any of you out there who are reading this and shaking your head at my ignorance. :)
So yesterday, we had the opportunity to go into the old city of Hebron and see the tomb of the Patriarchs. We saw the tombs of Abraham, Sarah, Leah, Isaac, and maybe more, but those were the only names we were told specifically. The tombs themselves are pretty interesting also, because the whole place used to be a mosque, and then when the Jews started coming in it turned into a mosque and synagogue, where everyone prayed together. But now, half of it is a mosque and half a synagogue, with a barrier in between and no co-mingling. You have to enter in different places, and go through a mini-checkpoint to get into the Jewish side. This segregation started in 1993 when an American Jewish extremist came into the mosque/synagogue and opened fire on Muslims while they were praying. I believe he killed 29 people and seriously injured over 100. They call it the “Hebron Massacre” and since then they have made it half mosque-half synagogue. The tombs were really pretty though, they had big huge coffins with cloth draped over them with different embroideries in either Hebrew or Arabic. On the Jewish side, we came upon mostly pilgrims it seemed like, who had come to pray at each of the tombs. It was really interesting watching them rock back and forth as they prayed, and some of them were crying as well. I think this is part of their prayer, I mean I’ve heard about “Jewish crying” before, but I don’t really know what the significance of it is. 
Now, I’ll tell you about Kateland, who is my roommate here in Hebron! Kateland (pronounced like Kaitlin, a bit of a strange spelling) is essentially an assistant to the group leaders, sort of a Teacher’s Assistant type role. She’s been doing a lot of the coordinating on this trip, making tons of phone calls and sending lots of emails. She graduated with me last year from school, so we were in the same class. In the fall, she was at school as an assistant cross country coach, and while we’ve been here she has been going running ALL THE TIME!! It’s crazy! I’ve been very impressed. So she’s pretty cool and very laid back, so we get along well. 
Kateland’s sister is also on the abroad, and her name is Sarah. She’s a junior at Prin and I believe she is a Religion major, just like I was! I still don’t know her super well yet, I think she might be the one person on the abroad that I haven’t talked to for a significant amount of time. She can be kind of quiet, but we’ve shared some laughs and she’s a pretty fun girl.
That’s all for now!
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