Saturday morning we left Yatta and headed to Bethlehem for a meeting about our placement priorities. Then on to Jerusalem to meet up with the other teams at the Capitol Hotel. My team skipped the dinner at the Hotel opting for going to the Jerusalem Hotel to have drinks with our supper. We relaxed and found out more about each other. Some men and women were smoking a water pipe.
On Sunday morning, we had a speaker, Hanna Barag, from Machsom Watch (women against the Occupation and for Human Rights). Very informative and interesting. She is at checkpoints to help Palestinians who are denied passage and advocate for them. Her group also tries to get demolition orders reversed. She talked about the agricultural gates – how farmers need to start early before it gets hot but the soldiers just take their time and the gates are not opened early. Soldiers are teenagers and are interested only in sleeping in. Please see an interview with Hanna at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nxyoVH3Tvzs .
I will not bore you with other sessions we had. Some had to do with Team building, logs and reporting, advocacy work, etc.
Our team did find some time to go to the old city and the markets. Went into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and saw the stone believed to be where the body of Jesus laid. People were rubbing it and were quite emotional. Also where Jesus was crucified. Then walked on the Via Del Rosa and past the prison.
Today the teams went to the Holocaust museum (Yad Vashem). I opted out the tour however and went for a long walk. I did listen in on a discussion of the tour this evening.
After three days in the Netherlands, I drove to Schipol airport to catch my flight via EI AI to Tel Aviv. Interesting. Security was very tight when I got to the gate for the EI AI airline. They asked if I was traveling alone. Then they took me out of the line, asked questions and took my purse and carry-on and told me to wait. After about 5 minutes, they returned with my purse and carry-on and placed stickers on them as well as in my passport. Luckily I had nothing in my purse or luggage or on my small laptop about the EA program. The flight itself was uneventful. Most of the people around me were dutch and belonged to a group that were going to visit Christian Holy Sites.
(Just to clarify – we would not get into Israel if they knew I am going an EA to Palestine.)
I got through customs at the Tel Aviv airport with little trouble. Perhaps it was because of the sticker in the passport. The person just asked what I was going to do. I received my three-month visa and then off to get my luggage. However, the driver that was supposed to pick me up, was nowhere to be seen. I waited for an hour and then called the office in Jerusalem. They said they would send one over but I said that I could get one of the small vans parked out front that went to Jerusalem. Little did I know that they wait until the van is full before leaving so that was another 45 minutes. When we got to Jerusalem, the driver said he could not go to the Capitol Hotel since that is in the old eastern Palestinian part of the city. He would help me get a cab. The first three cabs that stopped, refused to take me when I mentioned the name of the hotel. Finally, the fourth one did. I imagine Jewish drivers did not want to go to that part of the city.
The hotel is very old and not well maintained but adequate. I was glad to see a few people I knew from the training in Switzerland. I share a small room with someone who was born in the UK but now lives in Geneva, Switzerland.