Visiting the Separation Wall in Bethlehem: Yesterday volunteers some of our volunteers from the Excellence Center took the day to go and explore Bethlehem. Our volunteers coordinated their days off so as to be able to go as a group. At the Excellence Center we are more than happy to be flexible and let our volunteers schedule their week slightly differently and all go on a day trip together. Ala is one of our local Arabic teachers and she accompanied our volunteers to Bethlehem to help show them around.
Maneesha is joins us from the United States and she here is to teach software engineering to Palestinian university students. Maneesha most enjoyed the long walk we took around Bethlehem, from getting dropped off by the service, to the separation wall, stopping for refreshments at a café and then through the old city. She was surprised to learn how long the separation wall is, 700 kilometers long. She hopes, “all the artists from all over the world come to the wall and make their mark, every famous artist must add to the wall.” Maneesha speaks solemnly about her thoughts on the wall, saying it showed, “how humanity can distrust so much.” Lina from Finland comes to us to share her expertise in our Medical and Healthcare Program, she remarks on the wall, “it is so high, and so brutal.” Alexa who is here from the United States participating in our “Volunteer to write about Palestine” program says, “ I have read and read and read about the wall and this conflict but nothing prepares you for actually standing in front it towering over you. There is so much pain and so much creativity expressed upon the wall, it is an intense experience to witness.” Our volunteers were also able to see some of the famous Banksy works upon the wall.
Even Ala who is from Bethlehem tells us she knew the wall was very long but did not know the figure of 700 kilometers, “that is ridiculous!” Ala speaks more on the separation wall, “Bethlehem is so close to Jerusalem, only the wall separates us from Jerusalem but people cannot go there without a permit.” She explains more, “usually Palestinians are denied permits when they apply,” she laments, “it is just a wall away, it is our capital, there is just the wall and still people cannot go.”
Across from visiting the separation wall our volunteers visited the “Banksy Shop” where reproductions of the famous graffiti art by both Banksy and other Palestinian artists are available on printed shirts, bags, posters, magnets and the like. Maneesha grabbed magnets for her book club back home as well as two posters for her own house. Lina purchased herself a Banksy poster.
Maneesha expresses a desire to return to Bethlehem “for the wall only.” One of the men running the Banksy Shop was kind enough to take Ala and our volunteers along the wall, giving us notable history as well as pointing out the Palestinian refugee camps. Visiting the separation wall is definitely an experience unlike any other but we encourage all our volunteers to visit it at least once. Along with the sobering reality of witnessing the wall there is also such an outpouring of strength, creativity and emotion within the graffiti which is spilled upon the grey cement.