Saturday, 23 November 2013

A refugee camp by Bethlehem

There is a possible Daily Mail reader in the group. Why aren't the refugees living in tents? Why don't they just leave and go and live in houses? What are refugees?
The road to the camp goes right down beside a multi-star hotel (hotels are cheaper in Bethlehem than Jerusalem. It's easier to get a room now - not surprising in view of the checkpoints.
Aida Refugee Camp has been here since 1948 - set up by the UN Relief and Works Agency. There are 18 refugee camps on the West Bank - 6,000 people live in this one. In 1948, people were given designated areas to be housed - and moved away from their villages around Jerusalem. They came here. Over the decades houses have been built in makeshift fashion.

It is right up against the security wall. Our guide calls it the separation wall.
This is a 'five star' refugee camp, he says. Here 'refugees' mean displaced people. The Israelis say they can leave at any time. The refugees say they can never leave. When they left their homes they brought their keys with them: they believe they will return. They hold the keys to claim their return. Another symbol or amulet.
There is a gateway with a key above it.

Water here is a problem as in the whole of Palestine: there is often no water. The pumps are turned on sporadically. Water is collected and stored in tanks on the rooftops.

The UN school where there were shootings in the second intifada. Yamen points to the bullet holes.
There are many bullet holes. There are also paintings and posters of Palestinian activists - most of these in prison, he says.
The guide talks about Israeli snipers, children building fires by the wall, children in prison.
It was entirely uplifting to visit a Refugee Centre: this seemed a peaceful place. From the rooftop you could see the cemetery, some burial places left in an unfinished state so that the bodies could be taken 'home'' whenever that might be possible.

Reading and watching

  • Foot by Foot to Santiago de Compostela/Judy Foot
  • The Testament of Mary with Fiona Shaw at the Barbican
  • The Testament of Mary/Colm Toibin
  • Schwanengesang/Schubert - Tony Spence
  • Journals/Robert Falcon Scott
  • Fugitive Pieces/Ann Michaels
  • Unless/Carol Shields
  • Faust/Royal Opera House
  • The Art of Travel/Alain de Botton
  • Mad Men Series 6
  • A Week at The Airport/Alain de Botton
  • The Railway Man/Eric Lomax
  • Bright Lights, Big City/Jay McInerney
  • Stones of Venice/John Ruskin
  • The Sea, the Sea/Iris Murdoch
  • Childe Harold/Lord Byron
  • All The Pretty Horses/Cormac McCarthy
  • Extreme Rambling/Mark Thomas
  • Story of my Life/Jay McInerney
  • Venice Observed/Mary McCarthy