Impressions of a Torn Land / Our Trip to Bethlehem

Our breaking walls 2012 Berlin Delegates Meha Dutt & Martha Crowe traveled to the Holy Lands — here are their impressions . . .
From the 23rd of September until the 7th of October, 2012, Martha Crowe and I, Neha Dutt went to Palestine with a group of students from Berlin, Germany. Upon our arrival in Tel Aviv we drove to Jerusalem where we explored the city for the first two days. On the third and fourth day we then went to Bethlehem, because there were Jewish holidays and we would have had to stay indoors for the whole day. On the first day in Bethlehem we visited a beautiful, historic site called Herodion. Then we went to a few churches and ended our day by visiting the International Center or Bethlehem (Diyar Center) to learn about the Diyar Dance Theatre, Dar al-Kalima College and all other projects that the center offers which contribute to  promoting peace and harmony in the region. The center provides educational, medical, political, cultural and spiritual help to people in need in the area. It also tries to strengthen the relationship between Muslims and Christians in Bethlehem. It especially works with young men and women who are taught about their Palestinian culture and heritage in order to show the world about Palestine’s cultural side, because the west for example mainly learns about its political side. The center also offers health and wellness programs.

The next day we went to the Al-Rowwad Center, a beautiful resistance Center in Aida camp. We learnt about the history of the Center and various theatrical and art projects and workshops the center has to offer. There we met our friends Rowa, Mahmoud, Abdelrahim, Manal, Mohammed and Murad, the young Palestinians who came to Berlin to take part in the project breaking walls. It was wonderful seeing them in their home town and getting an insight into the difficult life there, especially after we spent many hours discussing the hardships which many young Palestinians face daily. After a tasty home-cooked lunch we went back to the hotel. Later that evening we met our friends again to watch the theater play “Behind Closed Doors”, a piece written by Arthur Milner, directed by Samer Al- Saber and performed by Kamel Elbasha, Amer Khalil and Abdelfattah Abusrour. It was basically about an unsolved murder of an American archaeologist and the interrogation of the suspect, a Jewish man who was pleading guilty. One on the men questioning him was a Palestinian Muslim and the other was a Jewish man. Even though the play was in Arabic, we understood some of it, because Mahmoud translated as much as he could for us. At the end of the play there was an open discussion between the director, writer and the audience. They were discussing the title of the play, what goes on behind closed doors and what is going on in this conflict that we are not allowed to know about. The following day we sadly had to leave and continue our journey. We went to Ramallah, back to Jerusalem and then on to a Bedouin camp in the desert. The next day we went to Masada, an old Jewish site which was invaded by the Romans. Following that we went to go float in the Dead Sea. Then we drove to a kibbutz, where we spent the night.

Martha, Mahmoud, Manal, Rowa & Neha

The second week we spent in the north in a town called Karmi’el with Israeli host families. Along with the host families we went to the border with Syria and Lebanon, we went to a street festival in Haifa, we saw the Baha’i-Gardens and visited many other places. The host families were very nice and gave us their view on the conflict and their opinion towards life between Muslim and Christian Arabs and Jewish Israelis. We had many political and religious discussions with them, which I as a Muslim girl found quite amusing.

Throughout the trip we learnt a lot more about the conflict, the settlements and the religious and cultural background of the area. We also learned more about coexistence between Jews, Christians and Muslims and the various projects seeking to improve this relationship.  It was an amazing trip in a beautiful land. Even though there were some uncomfortable situations where we were interrogated by security forces in the airport for example, we still enjoyed our adventures in this beautiful and yet torn land.

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