Saturday, 23 November 2013

And so into Palestine

Day started outside the leafy garden of the YMCA on King David Street, a rather smart part of Jerusalem. Could not have done anything today without the help of a guide, Yamen Elabad, pictured later.
I wanted to see Bethlehem and the security wall built by the Israelis as a barrier to prevent infiltration by Palestinian extremists. I had edited reports about this when I worked for Christian Aid: it was central to much work by NGOs in the area. I'd seen photos - but still was not prepared. Why did Christians come to Bethlehem and not take time to see the barrier and understand its effect on Palestinians? asked Yamen. Wasn't this part of Christian faith? Indeed. Much to take in.

The grey Israeli side: it's quiet because it's a Saturday. No one from the West Bank is travelling to Jerusalem to work. It would be very crowded it they were. Normally people leave their cars on the Palestinian side and walk through. There are pictures of the barred walkways crammed with people. We are the only travellers there today.

Very hot on the other side. Graffiti. The wall is made of huge slabs of concrete. How did the Israelis build this? Trucked in the slabs and erected swiftly - to prevent Palestinian suicide bombers. It makes it difficult (and in some cases impossible) for West Bank Palestinian families to visit Israel.
Views of a Jewish settlement on the hills - Gilo.
A house looped around by the wall which scoops the Tomb of Rachel into Israeli-held territory.
Banksy has been here.
Postcards in this shop where there is also a crib with a wall.
We are in Bethlehem.
There are three zones in the West Bank: Israeli and Palestinian soldiers at different points along the streets.
Area A: about 17 per cent, under Palestinian control. This includes Ramallah, which we are to visit later, and Bethlehem
Area B: about 24 per cent, under Palestinian civial control but Israeli military control.
Area C: sbout 59 percent, under full Isareli control.
Nativity Street. Religion at the heart of everything.

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