Post by Jenny Kolloch
It’s Friday! And everybody is excited about Fridays because this is the only day of the week that the juice shop down the street sells pomegranate juice. This sweet elixir filling our veins with new life… Why only on Fridays? We were told that Palestine provides pomegranates from Israel and the only day of the week Israelis sell them to Palestinians are Thursdays, so they sell it on Fridays.
Fridays here are like our Sundays, it’s a holiday: the shops are closed, the streets are quiet and everybody is home with their families. It’s a relief to be able walking down the sidewalk without squishing through masses of people. But today we don’t leave the HQ anyway because it is the first day that we have actually NOTHING to do. Some of us wanted to attend a peaceful demonstration against the Israeli military in al-Masara, near Bethlehem; but apparently the demonstration didn’t take place. So, we stayed at the HQ and spent the day doing some university papers and a lot of food. Food. And food. Did I mention food?
It was all a peaceful and lazy day until the worst thing on earth that could happen happened: the internet connection died! “Do we need to talk to each other now? Socializing? What is that?!” Funny, how people become uneasy when there is no internet connection. First world problems… Since there is nothing to do for me at the HQ and no internet connection anyway, I leave the place with Marios. Wandering through the streets we talk about the last three weeks and how time passes so fast. I already feel like home here. People start recognizing us and the well-known “Welcome, welcome” shouts become less. We have an ice cream, which reminds us rather of bubble gum than ice cream. Anyway, it’s delicious. And different.
Back at the HQ – still no internet connection – we sit all together on the balcony, laughing about our weird habits. Apparently we know each other very well after only three weeks of living together. At this point the only thing I am going to say is: Brazil. Salute.
The day starts off with goodbyes. Konstantin who visited us for only a couple of days – he has been here already five times before – is heading back to Germany. His flight is at 4 pm but he already leaves at 11 am since he feels that there will be a questioning about his stay at the security check of the Ben Gurion Airport in Tel-Aviv. So, bon voyage, Konstantin!
There is still no internet connection at the HQ, so, some of us decide to visit a nearby cafe to check our emails. I guess my family is completely freaking out because I didn’t contact them for a whole day! But nope. They didn’t even notice. Anyways, it’s a relive to feel connected to the world again!
Today the Orthodox-Christian Easter festivities start. At midday we go to the center of the city to have a look at the Easter parade. The city is always full of people but today it feels like there are 3 times more people. The streets are blocked by police cars and we are waiting on the sidewalk for the parade to start. When it starts, there is the shattering beat of drums and percussion in our ears. Every band represents one of the surrounding towns and every member is wearing a uniform. Everywhere we look, there are Palestinian flags. It’s an amazing spectacle to look at but it doesn’t look the way we would imagine an Easter event in Germany. Where are the crosses and the signs for Christs resurrection? There are so many drumming bands and even bands with bagpipes participating. In the end, uniformed men go among the parade with lit candles – finally a sign for Jesus’ resurrection – and whenever he passes by someone, the person passes his hand through the flames and makes the sign of the cross.
Not all of us were able to attend the Easter parade. Team Urban Gardening had a workshop with the kids of the refugee camp al-Amari. They planted seeds into cut-out bottles and hang them around the youth center. The Computer Club in al-Amari also had a workshop teaching children the functions of alternating current and how to switch on lights or making a propeller work.
#HmarOfTheDay is the not working internet connection!
Another morning without internet. But that’s fine with us because we are going to Jericho today. What was it about Jericho again? What did Jesus do there? Some kind of miracle? I am not sure, let’s ask Google… oh right, no internet. So, we grab a tourist guide book and read: Jesus and the tollkeeper Zacchaeus, Jesus on the Mount of Temptation, the Dead Sea and the lowest city in the world – 250 m under the sea level. Enough information, let’s go.
Three of our new Palestinian friends accompany us on the trip. Entering Jericho we are stopped at a checkpoint – a Palestinian one! They made sure that none of us is Israeli and they hold a short chat with Renad about politics. First stop is the Wadi Qelt, where we hike down incredibly steep ways to reach the Greek-Orthodox St. George Monastery at the depth of the canyon. Here it is at least 40 degrees and no hint of wind. We visit the monastery but not all of us because apparently man are not allowed to enter with shorts – Sorry, David! After visiting the monastery we walk along a very rocky path along the canyon, which our Palestinian friends tell us actually is a river. Unbelievable, because there is no hint of water along the way! We make our way back to the bus and if you walked down the canyon, you have to walk it up again! Some donkey owner offer a ride up but we rather walk.
Next stop is the Mount of Temptation, where Jesus supposedly fasted for 40 days and nights and resisted the devil’s seductions. We go up with the “Jericho Cable Cars” which were constructed in Austria. The cable car ride is about 5 minutes. On top of the mountain is another Greek-Orthodox Monastery – Where did all the Greek come from?! Monastery Quarantal is built around a stone where you supposedly can see Jesus’ knee print, where he kneed for his prayers.
Back at the valley station, on the other side of the street is yet another attraction: Tell es-Sultan. There you find the probably oldest town in the world (founded 10.000 B.C.) and its archaeological finds. The midday sun is incredibly hot and we find a shady place to hide right next to a fountain. But of course we are not here to have fun, so let’s go to the next touristic station! Hisham’s Palace ruins is the next stop. But everybody is more than hungry and already having withdrawal symptoms from the lack of falafel this day – Lunch time!
After a falafel sandwich, we make our way to the Dead Sea, Kalia Beach. We go change into swimming suits – what a relief, wearing so little in this heat. The water is warm and the ground slippery and muddy, so we lay down in the water immediately and…. OH MY GOD, WE FLOAT! It feels like flying. We don’t have to move at all, only relax, the water is doing the job. This must be magic… now I understand how Jesus was able to walk over waters. The water feels oily and is disgustingly salty – please don’t drink! And my advice for everyone: don’t get it into your eyes (Cheers, Dominik!). On the other side of the sea, you can already see Palestine’s neighbor state Jordan, it’s so close and the sea seams more like a big lake. I feel like in a different world, wearing a bikini and lying in the sun. In this moment the conflict which surrounds us seems far, far away…
– Jenny –