More on my volunteer work in Bethlehem

by ray goodlass

My drama classes at Aida Refugee Camp are now happening regularly and are going well, and the kids are great. Because of language difficulties, though I have an interpreter with me who has some English and I have a few words of Arabic, I’m focussing on non-verbal drama games.
Because I’m here for three weeks I’m also exploring Bethlehem in more detail than previously, finding much of historical and contemporary cultural, social and political interest. After having found on  previous visits to the Church of the Nativity that tourist crowds made it impossible to see anything in any detail at all, this time, having realised on last week’s visit to the Dome of the Rock that going there early (like 7.30 or 8.00 am) meant there were no crowds, I did get there by 8.00 and was rewarded by a very calm and even spiritual experience, though I’m not a believer in the traditional sense of believing the stories in the bible.
I also went to the Milk Grotto,  which was quiet, calm, and quote beautiful. And later I went to King David’s Wells, which are not only still there, but are still in use. My interest though wasn’t in glorifying David, but in learning that he fought the indigenous people, the Phillistines, to gain control of the City. Phillistine gives us the origin of the word Palestine, which I sometimes see/hear as Falesteen.
I’m staying in a very small inexpensive bed-sit flat near the Israeli Apartheid Wall close to Rachel’s Tomb, sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims, but which the Israeli’s have enclosed by the Apartheid Wall. The Camp is next to it too, so it is ever present in my life, a constant reminder of the situation faced by Palestinians, which I lament.