I knew it's complicated, but it's even more complicated than I imagined. We began our day with a presentation by Col. (res.) Benzi Gruber, Deputy Commander of an Armored Corps brigade of the Israeli army; he talked about the ethics of military action and dilemmas in the field. Then we took a short bus trip to view the security border from a hill, on the Israeli side, just opposite of Bethlehem and Beit Jala, and heard from our tour guide about the history of its origins. Near a checkpoint we met our second guide, a Palestinian Muslim journalist who talked to us about growing up in East Jerusalem and the impact of the "security barrier" on Palestinians; in Bethlehem we saw how they live in the towns and camps behind the wall/fence. We stayed in Bethlehem for lunch and to visit the Church of the Nativity (both of them, the politics of memory are complicated) and the souq. After lunch we heard a brief presentation by the Executive Director of the Bethlehem Development Foundation, a Palestinian Christian, who also talked about the challenges of life so close to the city of Jerusalem and yet so distant from it because of Israeli security concerns. One of the most troubling issues was brought up by our Israeli tour guide, who told us that his kids didn't have any encounters with Palestinian children; this can only deepen the estrangement between the two groups. We returned to the hotel to gather around the big table to process the information, our questions and concerns. "I knew it's complicated, but it's even more complicated than I imagined" was a kind of tagline for me for the day, and it turned out to be so for most of us. We left the room with a sense that the loss of easy answers because of the complexities of the issues is a good place to begin the crucial work of hope and change. After dinner at the hotel (maybe I should mention again that the food here is fantastic, on both sides of the fence) we walked through the streets for a couple of hours to enjoy the cool of the evening.
تصبح على خير Good Night! לילה טוב