Thursday, March 22, 2018

From the Manger to the Mafia

From there, we walk back to the bus station, the smell of diesel fumes thick, bringing back a memory of Toronto’s bus terminal in the 70s. On the way, our young guide, a Greek Orthodox man of Palestinian origin, tells us of where Jesus is mentioned in the Koran, and what Muslims believe of him. They believe he came only to predict Mohamed's arrival and that He is mentioned more times than Mohamed.
In front of our bus, a young entrepreneur seeks extra cash for photos.

No visit to Bethlehem is complete without a trip to the shepherds’ field. There is a small chapel nearby. Inside, my friend plays Silent Night on her harmonica. The acoustics are lovely here. We also sang, ‘O Come, All Ye Faithful.’. We walk down to a small cave where first century remains showed it had been used by shepherds. They would have kept the sheep inside and watched the cave entrance by night, guarding against animals. 

The shepherds' field. See the Jewish settlement in the distance?

Curiously, our Palestinian guide starts talking about Jewish settlements across the small valley field ahead of us. He shows us a picture from a few years ago, when none of the apartments had yet been built. He talks about Syrian passports, and how valuable they are. The Mafia steals them and sells them. With a Syrian passport, you have access to any country that takes refugees. 
But now, those countries are quizzing people on where they live, intimate questions about neighbourhoods. Previous refugees are so many, that most countries now have extensive knowledge of cities before the war. 
His talk turns to Israel. Jews and Palestinians share the same blood. He feels there is no solution to the troubles of his country, except to strive for peace. He reiterates what Yossi has said often. They must learn to work together, build a common economy, in order for both to survive and thrive. He is a Palestinian and a Christian of the Greek Orthodox religion, who can trace his ancestry back to Bible times. As he talks, my gaze goes beyond him to the field behind him, but now it’s slowly being swallowed up by condos. 
We had stopped earlier at a souvenir shop, but not seeing anything I wanted, I slipped next door to the market for anise tea, herbs, and a small bottle of wine. 

Anise tea and poor man's saffron

I return a few minutes later with several others who wanted similar things. 
We return to the hotel, my husband and I sitting at the back of the bus. I find it’s hard to understand our guide's heavy accent, and being at the back of the bus doesn’t help, but I like the space. Our team leader’s brother-in-law has taken to sitting back there and I wonder if he's there to keep an eye on us.   
Oh dear, we're the bad ones!

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I shouldn't have left her alone!

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