May 24 - Jerusalem

I've asked Mark Eaton to post this on my Google site until I'm at another place.  I cannot reach it through the normal channels on this computer so he will be my go between.   Additionally, I'm trying to type on a computer that has Arabic characters first and English second so please bear with me.  If I look down at my hands I'm lost! I'm sitting at Mike's Center in Jerusalem tonight.  Mike's Center is a traveler's dream.  It is a spot down from the Golden Gate Hostel (in Old Jerusalem) where Steve and I are staying with the CPT delegation while in Jerusalem.  Mike's has one washing machine and dryer, one copier, 5 computers (all in private phone booths for use) and 5 booths for international phone calls.  He also provides tea/coffee!  He seemingly has tapped into all the important needs for the 21st Century traveler.  You enter through the shopping tunnels at the Damascus Gate and his upstairs shop is guarded by about a dozen feral cats who sleep in pizza boxes and any loose junk that happens to be on the roof.  In Jerusalem, "Cats Rule" - at least the rooftops!

Our days have been a whirlwind so far.  Yesterday, we worked through our tentative itinerary, discussed cultural issues, got to know a bit of the Old City in Jerusalem, exchanged money, and desperately tried to get into the right time zone - even in the surroundings of Jerusalem where it could be any time zone.   Walking the streets here really takes you back in time - centuries-old cobble stones and stone edifices stories high with roof-top access.  As an important site for many religious traditions, Jews, Christians, Muslims, all have history and tradition oozing from the cobbled stones and steps that take you everywhere and you begin to think about who also walked these steps - makes me a bit of a time traveler.

Today was packed with a stop at SABEEL, an ecumenical organization that focuses on liberation theology and connecting its ideas and philosophy to the Palestinian Occupation.  We heard first hand stories from the founder, Cedar, who was a 12 year old when her family was forced at gunpoint to leave Haifa - never to return.  We also heard from a variety of others on the diverse staff who present, write, raise money and provide aid for Palestinian families and Palestinian peace organizations.  The most interesting speaker was a young African-American woman, who introduced herself as a Mennonite Feminist from Elkhart, Indiana.  She is working on environmental issues for Palestinian families and communities.  The afternoon took us all over East Jerusalem in the Old City.  We were led on this bus tour by a 20 something Israeli woman who began working with social justice for Palestinians when she was a teenager.  Chaska, whose father comes from Zimbabwe and mother from the UK, works with the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolition (ICAHD).  She talked about the over 500 villages destroyed and the 27,000 Palestinians who have had their homes demolished by the Israeli military since 1967.  The destroyed sites are stunning and incomprehensible when you compare the Palestinian homes to the Israeli apartments and settlements in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem.  Our last stop was at the home of a Palestinian family who has had their home destroyed six times and are still building another.  The perseverance is amazing and as I gazed at the walls recently built to "contain" the Palestinians, it reminded me of a federal prison with huge cement structures topped with barbed, razor wire.  The only difference was that these walls were full of liberation graffiti and equal messages of hope and despair. 

I must quit for now - I'm paying by the minute for computer use and I need to head back to the hostel.  Hopefully, in a few days this computer issue will resolve itself and I can post directly.  Until then - thanks Mark.