Bethlehem, Palestine.

I went to Bethlehem today.  It’s only about nine kilometres away from Jerusalem so I opted for the bus.  It’s very simple.  You take the number 231 bus from the Arab bus station opposite the Damascus Gate and it gets you to downtown Bethlehem in about forty minutes.  Bethlehem is administered by the Palestinian Authority so it requires going through an Israeli military checkpoint.  They don’t stop the bus on the way in… I guess they don’t care who or what goes IN.   They do stop it on the way back to Jerusalem, however.  All the Palestinians have to get off the bus and are checked The tourists are allowed to stay on the bus while two young Israeli guys with machine guns come on and check passports.

My initial plan was only to visit Manger Square and the Church of the Nativity but once I got there, I walked around downtown, chatted to some locals, checked out the old city, looked at the dividing wall between Israel and the West Bank and ended up in Camp Aida, a Palestinian refugee Camp since 1948.  The locals were very nice and seemed keen to chat and share their plight.  One man was keen to point out the difference between Palestinian and Israeli taxi drivers… Although both Israeli and Palestinian taxi drivers will rip you off, at least the Palestinian ones aren’t rude like the Israelis!

I’ll let the pictures tell the story.  The only time I felt a little uneasy was when Osama, my driver, pointed out the Israeli Guard Tower overlooking the camp and the walls of the school opposite the tower with bullet holes in the walls.  Although to be honest, I don’t know which made me feel worse; that or Osama’s halitosis.

Getting the bus from the Damascus Gate:

When I arrived, I bought a felafel from this guy.  He was quick to point out that Bethlehem is better than Tel Aviv because felafel only costs five shekels as opposed to Tel Aviv’s 20 shekels.

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Some faces of Bethlehem:

Some street scenes:

A quick look at Manger Square and the Church of the Nativity.  Most of the inside of the church was undergoing repairs or renovations so it was boarded up or covered with scaffolding.  The parts not undergoing renovation were covered with Russian tourists.

Then I came across Osama, the taxi driver…


… And asked him to take me to see some of the wall that separates the West Bank from the rest of Israel.  There’s a lot of graffiti on the wall.

After that, we went to Camp Aida, one of the Palestinian refugee camps.  It’s been a refugee camp since 1948.  Now the tents have been replaced by more permanent structures, although the conditions in which the live is very poor; many families sharing one apartment and sporadic water and electricity supply.

A reminder of all the men women and children who have been killed…

Bullet holes in the wall…

Some scenes from the streets of Camp Aida…

There’s no getting away from the wall…

Osama took me to the roof of the building where he lives, so that I could see over the wall…

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From the roof, I could see over the wall to the Israeli settlements… and noted the stark contrast between those and the refugee camp.

It’s incredibly saddening to think that people live like this everyday.  They live in an outdoor prison with no luck, no hope and no future.

.. And that was my day!