I’m in Occupied East Jerusalem on my fourth visit to Palestine. This time I’m a volunteer at the Alrowwad Theatre and Culture Centre in the Aida Refugee Camp in Bethlehem, to which I’ll travel tomorrow.
Getting here wasn’t easy. Well, the flights from Wagga via Sydney, Dubai and Amman were fine, as was the 30-minute drive from Amman’s Queen Alia International Airport to the Allenby Bridge across the so-called River Jordan. I say ‘so-called’ because there’s no water in the Jordan, it having been pumped dry by the illegally occupying Israelis.
The problem was the four hour(!) interrogation by the Israeli border force, including a session with the Israeli army. They really don’t like international peace volunteers, figuring we will expose their cruel inhumane and largely quite illegal tactics as they continue to defiantly occupy the Palestinian Territories.
Anyway, after this harrowing experience, when I did feel that this time they would really not let me in, I made my way up to East Jerusalem for a day’s rest before travelling on to Bethlehem. In theory that town is in Area A of the State of Palestine, which means that it has full Palestinian sovereignty, and no Israeli presence at all. And pigs might fly – the Israeli army (full title Israeli Defence Force, acronym IDF) comes in and out at will. Last week it raided the Aida Camp, killing two Palestinian civilians.
IDF is of course a euphemism, for it is nothing more than a brutal army of aggression, hell-bent on fulfilling the Greater Israel policy of the extreme Zionists in power in Israel.
Despite being jet-lagged and emotionally knocked about by the IDF’s interrogations I’ve just had a great day in (illegally occupied) East Jerusalem. I love this place and lament what it could be like without the Israeli presence, which means that it is very neglected and run-down. Despite that it is a vibrant community, jammed packed with places of historic and cultural significance.
Highlights for me today were the Old City, including revisiting the Dome of the Rock, both a real pleasure by being there early in the morning, the Educational Bookshop in Saladin Street and its sister shop at the American Colony Hotel, and, a new one for me, the Palestine Heritage Museum.
This museum, funded by the EU, is a modern place in an old building, well curated and a fascinating educational and cultural experience. Having found it on my fourth visit to this city I’ll need to visit it again and again on future visits.
My next entry to this journal-blog will be during my settling in to Bethlehem.