Category Archives: 2017
Rawna and Issa Khouriya live in Jifna where they have a guesthouse. I stayed there on Sunday evening. The town is about half Christian. Rawna and Issa have 2 children and the oldest is now studying in Germany.
Life under Jordanian rule was much easier and they both had good jobs. Issa was a contracter and Rawna worked in setting up learning centres for disabled children. As the Israeli occupation progessed, so did the difficulties facing the family.
The most notable is freedom of movement. One year, the family wanted to go to Jerusalem for the holy days of Easter. They got permits and were excited too be in Jerusalem for the first time. They got to the checkpoint and they let Issa through, then their daughter, then Rawna and now for their son. The young soldier did not permit the son passage. Despite Rawna showing he was on her permit, the same as the daughter, and despite many pleas and tears, the soldier did not give in and said the son should go back home. So in the end they all went back. To this day they have not been in Jerusalem.
Yes, families are separated. One may get a permit and not another. And going to checkpolnts where you are at the mercy of some 18 year-old, always hat in hand so to speak. Sometimes they pick out the Christians and tell them to go ahead of the Muslims so as to create division. And there are flying checkpoints, ones that appear at any time, never knowing how long it will take to get from one place to another.
Nearby Jifna is the largest refugee camp in the West Bank. Balata refugee camp is crowded. There is no privacy. If someone dies, you must hold the body close like a baby since there is no room to carry a body horizontally. Fridges, for example are hoisted to the roof and passed from roof to roof until there is a road where it can be hoisted down. That is how tight the homes are. Refugee camps only have a certain area on which to build and cannot go outside that perameter. So they build up, etc. Grandparents may live on one floor, then their children, then another floor to accomodate married grandchildren, etc. As the population grew, the area for the camps did not. So they are crowded with no green space. And in all the camps there are frequent incursions by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).
There is so much to write about. Staying at Claire’s has been good. There are other travellers also. We linger over breakfast and discuss the issues as well as their lives back in their home countries.
Yesterday, I walked to the House of Hope to find out more about their work with blind and disabled children. There are presently 23 students. I toured the workshop where older ones learn woodworking and crafts which are sold. They do rely on volunteers to help out as house parents. Presently they do not have volunteers there. A couple from Canada just recently left as their time was over. The man giving me the tour invited me to go to church with them on Sunday morning but I had already thought to go to the Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem. When I told the man that I was going to Nativity Square, he offered a ride since the van was going to Beit Sahour and would be passing close to the square. I went into the Church of the Nativity – much restoration being done there – and listened for awhile to the monks as they read and chanted. (See video). I walked back to Claire’s place which takes about an hour, of course that is with going into some shops along the way. When I returned, there was the doctor from Chili painting on the wall. He is staying also at Claire’s. (See picture on yesterday’s post)
Today I got up early and by 7:45 went through Checkpoint 300 to catch a bus to Jerusalem. It is only a few yards to go through the wall but of course not the checkpoint which is a system of bars along walkways and turnstiles and booths with soldiers. So what once took 2 minutes can now take 2 hours or more for people to go to work. I made it to the Church in time – not easy to find it in the old city. Just knew it was near Jaffa Gate in the Christian quarter. The service was held in the chapel of the church. It is ancients with a central courtyard. I spoke to Rev Carrie Smith before the service since she came into the chapel to prepare and introduced herself. I had met her before when an EA. It was not long before people started to come in – young families and young people. Some tourist groups and the regulars work for organizations such as the UN or embassies, etc. I spoke to a lady from the Netherlands after the service. Her husband has a 3-yr term working in Ramallah. From the church, I made my way to the Western Wall and then hurried to enter the Al Asqa Mosque. I only had ten minutes before it would close. I had promised a Muslim friend that I would take some pictures – he wanted me to take a selfie of me standing at the mosque.
From nearby Damascus Gate, I fook a bus to Ramallah and on to Jifna. Now at a Khouriya Family guesthouse. This town is about half Christian and half Muslim. Wanted to get the stories of how the occupation affects their lives and livelihoods so will write about that. Unfortunately there are no other guests here at this time. The house is huge. I am on the thrid floor and there is a livingroom, kitchen, patio as well as the bedrooms.
Courtyard in Church of the Redeemer.
On the Via Dolorosa- 4th station of the cross.