Another very good day full of activity and learning. It was nice to sleep in a bit later this morning. We didn't have to be ready to leave until 8:30. The nice thing about breakfast time is we sit and chat about things while we are eating. We also tend to sit with different people than other times because you just sit next to whomever was already there. So we have gotten to know different people a little better.
After breakfast we headed out to the West Bank and into Hebron. Hebron is a very torn city with Palestinians having a very difficult time making a living. The Israeli government is working very hard to drive them all out of the area by making their lives more and more difficult. We toured the old city and walked the bazaar and many of the shops were closed. It is one of the few if not the only place where the Israeli settlements are within the Palestinian city proper. We walked to the Tomb of the Patriarchs where Abraham and Sarah, Jacob and Rebekah, and Isaac and Leah are buried. The area has been divided into a mosque and a temple and the graves are divided too. Both Jews and Muslims can see Abraham and Sarah's but then only the Muslim can see Jacob and Rebekah's, while only the Jews are allowed to see Isaac and Leah. Even tourists cannot go on the Jewish side. It was in this mosque that the Israeli army officer gunned down people during Ramadan prayers. You can still see some of the bullet holes.
After leaving the mosque we walked up hill, very steep hills, to meet with a Christian Peacemaking team run by the Mennonite church. They help the community deal with the Israeli occupation. One of the things they do is stand at check points to watch and make sure the kids and teachers heading to school are not hassled too much. The woman who spoke said sometimes they detain kids or teachers just to make them late for class. The organization has volunteers from the outside come in for different stints but also have locals who are working with them. After seeing some pictures showing what all they do we went on the roof top for a very good view of the city. One of the roads that was a main road has been closed to Palestinians for quite some time. They said it was for "security reasons" which is pretty much the reason they give for everything. This road is a direct shot for kids going to school so now they have to go way far around just to get to school.
When we left we walked again through the market place and witnessed 5 Israeli soldiers surrounding a Palestinian youth. Of course I had no idea what they were saying (if they'd have just been speaking English I could have figured out what was going on) but they detained him for a bit and then let him go. One of the people we spoke with said the climate changes greatly with the changing of the army personal assigned. Usually they are in 3 - 6 month rotations so things can be good or bad and change every 6 months. As we walked through we stopped at a Women's embroidery co-op. They had beautiful things and yes I have shopped some while we have been here! It was good to support the locals especially when they depend on tourist trade and yet tourists avoid the area. I know the West Bank is in the news a lot over things happening but all we witnessed were hospitable and friendly Palestinians and armed Israeli soldiers.
We hurried on up some very steep hills to a family's home where we had lunch. The seated us in 3 separate rooms and we had a wonderful meal of chicken and rice. We had plenty to eat and they were very gracious hosts. After lunch we trekked back down the hill and back to our bus where we drove to a place called Tent of Nations. It is a largish farm/orchard. The Palestinian family that lives there has owned the landed for almost 100 years. The first thing we did when we got there was hike to the place because a couple of years ago the Israeli army had moved huge boulders with bulldozers over the road to keep people from being able to drive on it. Once we got there we went and picked our either an olive tree or a grape vine to plant (this was optional but we wanted to). I picked out a very cute little olive tree. Then we walked to the field that had been somewhat turned and were told where to plant our tree. We used pick axes and sharp hoe type things to hack at the extremely rocky soil to dig our holes. I swear there was more rock that soil and am now amazed that anything grows there and that so many trees have been planted! We finally got the trees planted and then we had a little dedication for one of the trees for one of the Women's grandson who had died a year ago and she was feeling bad about not being home for her daughter during this time. Afterwards we met in a cave and her the granddaughter who still lives on the farm talk about their struggles. They have no running water (they only use a cistern), no electricity until a couple of years ago and it is all solar and no outside structures (they all live in caves on the property). The caves they live in do have doors and stay a nice temperature. The Israeli government has forbid them from building any structure on the property and has tried through the court system to get their land so that they can build another settlement on it. Luckily her grandfather had filed the proper paperwork on the land all those years ago unlike so many Palestinians. They have been in and out of court since 1997 jumping through hoop after hoop. So far they have been successful in maintaining the land. While we were in the cave it rained very hard which is much needed and we were happy it gave all of our new trees a drink.
Loading back on the bus we left the West Bank and headed back toward town. As we were going through town we came upon a meat market that had full camels hanging from meat hooks out front! We know they were camels because the heads were still on them! It was rather icky looking but then I am not fond of full carcasses of any kind suspended on giant hooks. We ate dinner at another different place and had a wonderful meal. Of course we had the huge salad course with plenty of hummus and this time warm homemade bread (pita). Off dinner we had grape leaves stuffed with rice and meat (think baby cabbage rolls) and little zucchini stuffed with rice and meat! It was all wonderful and they had arak to drink which is Palestinian ouzo. I didn't have any since it is made from anise and smelled like licorice just alcoholic licorice. Most said it was good but then they like licorice.
We had an early night tonight since we are to pack up and be ready to checkout and leave tomorrow morning for the Judean wilderness! Hopefully to bed earlier tonight than last night (stayed up talking to people and celebrating Glenn's birthday).