We've arrived safety in Palestine proper... approximately 2 days ago actually. It's a bit strange because the six of us are now split into pairs and living with homestays. It's so unique to our time in Nazareth, where we were together almost 24/7. But so far it hasn't been too difficult to see one another, and works starts on Monday - so four of us will be at a children/youth center, and another two will be working with the Musalaha office in Jerusalem. The two working in Jerusalem will have to cross the checkpoint each day, which will be good to lend a greater perspective to common inconveniences that come with the occupation. Though they will pass through seamlessly with their North American passports, probably in one sixth of the time as the Palestinians/Arabs with work permits.
Yesterday we toured the Bethlehem area and then went to Hebron. We passed many settlements and military outposts on our way to the bustling and wealthy city. Our guide never failed to mention Israeli marks: different hydro stations and the like, where Israel proper was using the Palestinian land for their own resources. I am not going to get overtly political here, but it was a heart wrenching trip through the Judean desert. We passed many refugee camps, and countless soldiers. Hebron itself was interesting: Jewish settlers have actually taken up residence in upper areas of the Old City. The Palestinians living and working in the market below have had to lay a chain link fence above the alley, to keep large rocks and trash from being thrown on them. There are also armed soldiers lingering around on the rooftops, keeping a close eye out for what have you. The Old City doesn't see too many tourists these days.We went through a couple of security checks on our way up to the Mosque that held the tombs of Rebecca, Abraham, and Issac. Fact: They never took or checked inside my purse. But they made our registered tour guide empty all his pockets and then leave his belongings with them. Other Fact: While he was emptying his pockets, his cell phone rang and the ring tone was an Arabic Lebanese victory song. We laughed and simultaneously winced all the way up the steep steps. Afterwards we met a joyful man who was galloping his horse through the cobbled and ancient streets - a reminder to choose happiness and freedom so much as a soul can be made to.
Our homestay families are all wonderful and blessed Palestinian Christians. The village where two thirds of us are living is called "Beit Sahour" and Lindsay's and Chelsea's house is technically built on the Shepard's field where the angel appeared, giving tidings of great joy and peace.
Please continue to pray for unity: among the Arab/Palestinian/Messianic Christians of this land, and for our team as we're now on a very different ride than before.