My Bethlehem project continues

by ray goodlass

I spent the last two days exploring Jerusalem and then had my first day teaching at the Alrowwad Centre at Aida Refugee Camp in Bethlehem, State of Palestine.
The Jerusalem days came courtesy of Green Olive Tours, as the outfit I organised my adventure through, the Green Olive Collective, is an offshoot of it.  I did wonder if I really needed two days exploring that city, as this is my fourth trip here, but in the end I’m very pleased that I did, because we went to areas that were new to me, and though there was some inclusion of Israeli West Jerusalem even those parts were free of Zionist jingoism.  The Extreme Orthodox Jewish area was in fact positively  pro-Palestinian, as they regard the State of Israel and Zionism as abominations, given that they firmly believe that the Temple will not be restored until God’s Messiah arrives!
 The guide was a youngish Jewish guy who had previously worked for an NGO that investigated, reported and exposed the regular and continuing illegal Israeli government demolitions of Palestinian homes. A good guy, and a reminder that not all Israelis are rabid Zionists.
My first class at Alrowwad wasn’t drama, which I’m supposedly here to do, but helping with a visual art class. Fancy finger painting really, but great fun and the kids were delightful.
The drama lessons do though start tomorrow, to which I’m really looking forward. I’ll have to focus on non-verbal drama games because the kids only have a few words of English. They can all say “Hello”, “What’s your name?”, and “Where you from?”, but after that their fluency varies enormously. Should be great fun though!
In several ways it is good to be in Bethlehem, for most of the time it is free of obvious Israeli presence, as it is part of Area A, which means full Palestinian state control. Israeli troops can still come, and do so, “because they can”, having overwhelming military might, and the attitude to go with it.
However, because the largely Christian tourism has not fully picked up from its downturn during the Second Intifada, it is not especially prosperous, but the again, what part of Palestine is, and what part can be given Israel’s stranglehold? It is all very depressing, but the resilience of the people amazes me, as does their hospitality and friendliness.