Well folks, this certainly has been an incredible trip. To top off everything that we’ve seen, and end the trip on an interesting note, the sickness that I’ve been talking about has progressed to what we almost certainly think is strep throat. Fortunately, with the help of Jane and Max, I was able to find an open pharmacy last night (despite it being Friday, the Muslim holy day) and get a “Z Pack,” which for those of you who don’t know is a lifesaver for those of us like me who are allergic to penicillin, and is a daily dose of the antibiotic Azithromycin. Combined with about 15 hours of sleep last night (I had to skip our work trip to the refugee camp this morning) I am feeling a good bit better. Hopefully I can make it out to dinner with the group tonight. I can’t express how great the leadership from Max and Jane has been, and how I probably would have died here without it!
Well, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration. But really, spiritually and physically they have both been incredible group leaders. Every morning we start the day off with Jane not only setting up basically a buffet table for our breakfasts, but also cleaning that table up along with all of our dirty dishes. On the roof of the “Grand Hall” (I believe that’s what they call it, the place where the administrator of the School lives with her family, and a separate section of the building is a guest house) Max reads us a passage from the Bible while we eat, and explains how it is relevant to what we’re doing that day (for example, the passage about Jesus overturning the money changers’ tables in Jerusalem on the morning we went to the city!). They both know their way around the places we go and set a stiff pace for walking, so that although our group moves fairly slow, we (usually) always get places on time.
Yesterday we visited the Garden Tomb, another potential site of Jesus’ burial, (which looks much more like it than the Church/Holy Sepulchre) met with AFSC (American Friends Service Committee), visited the Israeli Holocaust Museum, and the Tent of Nations. Although I probably should have been resting and fighting this infection, I dragged myself out for two reasons: a) I had to see the Holocaust museum, because it is such an incredibly huge part of the Israeli narrative and I wanted to compare it with the one in Germany; and b) the Tent of Nations, a Palestinian Farm trying to hold onto their land whilst surrounded by 4 Israeli settlements, just sounded so fucking cool.
Well, reason A was kind of bunk. The Holocaust museum was impressive, but very similar to the one in Germany – albeit a bit more emotional. The museum didn’t, however, give me the impression that the events really had anything to do with Israel – except for the parts outlining the challenges from the British Mandate Authority (then controlling Palestine) to European Jews who wanted to emigrate to Palestine – they tried to cap the number, so mostly people came illegally. When leaving, a member of our group and I were talking about it and she said it was really hard for her, being Jewish, because while the Holocaust was such an incredibly awful event, it’s hard not to think of it in the context of where we are. It’s a tangent I won’t go down farther than this: while it was absolutely the most awful even in human history, the Holocaust does not justify the occupation of Palestine by the Israelis. [Omar Barghouti framed it for us in this way: why should the native Arabic Muslims and Christians, who harbored no anti-Semitic feelings or tendencies, give up their entire country in penance for the crimes of Europeans?]
Reason B was a bit better, but it was about this time that I started to really feel awfully feverish and it was hard for me to keep up with the group. The Tent of Nations, as I mentioned, is a Palestinian family farm that is trying to hold onto their land. In 1991 the Israeli government tried to buy the land to make room for a settlement, but the family has incredulously held out, along with the village of Ni’ileen in the valley beneath it, despite four settlements being built around it. You’ll see in pictures in the gallery, it’s quite impressive. Since they first went to court for land ownership, and showed the property papers they have from the Ottoman Empire, the British Mandate Authority, and the Jordanian Government, their case has been constantly deferred and deferred, and the costs have been overwhelming. But they manage to make it with donations, many international volunteers to help run the farm, and extensive fields of grape vines with which they mostly produce wine, if I remember correctly (as I said, by this point my head was really getting fuzzy). There were only a few volunteers there when we went, as a group had just left, but from all over! An Australian, a man from the Netherlands, and even a girl from Chapel Hill, who knew a bunch of Stephanie’s friends at UNC! Small world, right?! It’s incredible how they manage there – they have built caves to sleep in, which are virtually climate controlled, and a church in a cave! We had dinner there, but by that point I had checked out and was lying in a bed in the Tent. We got back, got medicine and I promptly went to sleep, only waking up a couple short times before 12:30 today. So I’ll mostly let the pictures speak for themselves!