First impressions from Bethlehem

Greetings from Star Street in the Christian neighborhood of Ephrath Bethlehem.  Inger, my host, came to my flat at 9 am after I got some much needed sleep. (The trip was fine, and surprisingly, the entry people at Customs did not ask me one single question. They just took my passport and stamped it! And all my supplies are here.) We walked over to Dar Annadwa and we looked at the show that is coming down today. Such artists!  I want to buy pieces!!! Oh, my. How to teach such gifted people? I have no hope, except that watercolor is not so common here so I will hang onto that! We filled palettes with paint and had some long conversations.  I believe I may have 19 students now.  Some supplies will have to come from the center as I am only prepared for 15.

The people themselves are extremely generous and helpful. My aircard has not been working, and my hosts said they would bring me a cable. As there is a connection in the wall, I thought this is what they meant.  This evening they brought the cable.  An elderly man with little English came in to “perform” the cable.  His son was in the alley below. Together they opened my living room window and strung the cable through the alley and into the window.  He apologized that due to the length of cable I would have to work at the kitchen table!  My hosts at Dar Annadwa will not let me buy anything such as bread, yogurt, etc., they are taking care of the cost of the flat also.  I am getting used to living with the perennial water shortage and its many effects, such as not flushing toilet paper.

It has been a good day, an adventure. I am beginning to understand how the separation policy affects people very personally. For instance, it is hard to convene the local choir, which I attended at Bethlehem University tonight, as some are unable to come regularly – they cannot obtain the permit to come to Bethlehem regularly.  They talked about the necessity of preparing early for the period when general permits are given around Christmas so they can have a concert. One woman is not permitted to come here for lack of a permit because of the policies, but she sneaks in to sing with the group.  A person can be put into prison indefinitely for such a thing.  She is going to pray with me in Gethsemane next week.  Another woman has thought about emigrating but has found that many countries will not accept Palestinians because they think they are all terrorists.  It is a sin to damage the reputation of an entire group of people by journalism and I see the effects of this sin here.

My hosts will not let me pay for anything such as yogurt, juice, etc. Most of the shop keepers speak a little English.  Thank you is shukrun.  The reply is afwan – your welcome.  I feel it is quite safe to walk alone in Bethlehem. People greet me and children mimic picture-taking in hopes I will take their pictures. It is wise, of course, to ask the parents first.  My publicity has made my name known so I hope I do not disappoint these good people.  But I think they are so happy to have someone here who listens to them even though she is an American who speaks only 5 words of Arabic.

Tomorrow is the exhibit opening. We could not bring frames and the ones they have here do not fit.  So we have jury-rigged some fishing line and tape to hang them. The largest will just sit on an easel. I must think about pricing and I am quite confused about it of course.  And this evening I must begin preparing for my class on Saturday.  Next post I will try to add a picture.

Love to all.  Asalaam aleichem!


6 thoughts on “First impressions from Bethlehem

  1. Chris, I’m so glad to hear things are going well there! And glad to know you’re surrounded by lovely people; sounds like the gifts will be flowing in both directions. Much love from your worst student ever (remember the top-heavy fuschia tree?), S.

    • you can call me, the phone works fine. I just can’t pick up internet with the aircard. But my landlord gave me a cable for the internet.

  2. Of course, it makes sense that watercolor would not be common in a place where water is scarce…

    … your post reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend last week, in which I was trying to discuss the pernicious effect of the stereotypes that all palestinians are terrorists, and she simply told me, matter-of-factly, that “most of them are.” I was absolutely flabbergasted… this was somebody who had no personal knowledge, has never been there, but was absolutely certain that ‘most’ palestinians are terrorists. What do you even say to that?

    • I don’t know what you can say to someone whose ears are not open that will make any sense. I guess you could try, “Yeah, that’s what we said about the American Indians and that is what the whites in South Africa said about the blacks, and then again that’s what the Nazis said about the Jews, but hey, if that’s what you believe you have a lot of company in the closed-mind department…”

  3. I lost your blog info. and just retrieved it. When I was in Bethlehem years ago, I discovered a language common to me and the people there was French. Have you tried that?

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