So I left my apartment at 12pm to get to Augusta Victoria, 5 miles or so away, to attend to some business and stay in the guest house overnight. First I walked for 10 minutes to get to a taxi stand. Then I waited for a cab, and took a ride to the Bethlehem checkpoint. Then I began to walk through the long series of steel-caged chutes, partly in concrete outdoor areas and partly in bare concrete wall rooms, which makes up the checkpoint. There is one restroom for each sex, and no heating. There were a few Arab men and women going through but I was the only international. 9 or 10 men were waiting with me at a turnstyle. Above it, through the grate which served as a ceiling, we could see the soldier with his machine gun, watching us. The light above the turnstyle was red and so we could not pass. Beyond it, a young woman in hijab and long coat was trying repeatedly to get through the metal detector, but it kept alarming.(it’s the typical dress of Arabic Islamic women, besides which it’s about 50 degrees out, and raining) The soldier on the other side of the metal detector, who was sitting in a glass booth, kept yelling at the woman over the loudspeaker. The woman partially opened her headscarf to show that she had no metal under it. She had already removed her watch and earrings and shoes. The men on my side of the turnstyle took off their jackets and belts in preparation for their turn. They kept crowding the turnstyle to watch as the woman tried to pass, undoubtedly wondering if they would also be yelled at and harassed. Finally the woman was permitted to go through and the men began going after, the turnstyle allowing one at a time with long waits in between. One of them motioned for me to take my turn but I said, “Lah, shukrun,” meaning “no, thanks,” and then added in English, with gestures, “I am watching, and then I will go.” I wanted to watch a few more of them to see if they would have trouble. But they did not appear to have any problems except that it was so slow. I showed my passport through the glass and it was given a couple of glances to verify that it was mine. Then I went on further to the second identity check. There an Arab man was going through. He used the palm identification a couple times, showed his green ID and then pulled out some other identity papers. A couple people inspected them and then he was allowed to go through. While I waited for him I glanced around. Once again the grate ceiling with the soldier above, armed with rifle, looking down at us. For me, a wave of the US passport and I was through.
Next to get a bus. The bus driver of #124 said he would drop me off at Damascus Gate of the Old City, where I could get a shuttle to Augusta Victoria. 4 skekels fare, or about $1.25. But when we got to Damascus Gate he had forgotten what I wanted. I had noticed that when people rang for the bus to let them off, he just slowed down and opened the door. He didn’t go to the curb or come to a stop. I asked him about the shuttle to the hospital and he didn’t understand what I was talking about, but then a nicely dressed Arab man came over and talked with him for me. He was on his way to an office near the hospital, he said, and I should come with him. He would show me where to go. He was a nurse, commuting to work from Hebron, a long way away. He took the next bus with me. It was crowded and I lost track of him, and wondered where I was to get off, but then he came and sat next to me and advised me.
Finally I arrived at the Lutheran World Federation complex. I asked at the gate where the guest house was, but when I arrived at it there appeared to be no reception. Upon asking, I realized that the security guard spoke very little English, but then when I said “Lutheran” he perked up and said I needed “Mr. Mark” (Pastor Mark Brown) across the street. I went there and met the reception people and they sent a security person with my key to the guest house to let me into the room. And so I arrived, completely tired out from the rain, my luggage, language issues,the checkpoint and the mass transit, too tired once actually getting here to go down the Mount to see any of Jerusalem today, and took a nap. It’s hospital cafeteria for me tonight, followed by a long rest. There’s a heater in the room, but I don’t think it’s late enough in the season for it to be working. Up here it’s colder than in Bethlehem and there is a howling wind. Thank God for blankets.
If I were sick this would have been quite a trek. People suffer so much all the time. We don’t know. The trip I made was 5 miles in 3 hours. What if I had come from Nablus or Ramallah or Jenin, for chemo instead of sightseeing?
I’m studying tonight, a publicatin of Oxfam about the illegal Wall and its effects across Palestine. Have a great evening!