Journey to the Holy Land – Day 2

[Ed.: Elaine Wiatr is a member of a Franciscan parish from Hartford, CT and participating in the annual Franciscan Peacemaking Pilgrimage and Witness in the Holy Land.  She is using our blog to speak about her experiences and offer reflections. Here is her post from today’s trip:]

October 25, 2010

I arrived safely and 40 minutes early to boot. That was a good thing because 30 of those minutes were taken up going through Israeli passport verification. The good part of the wait is that when I arrived at the luggage area, my suitcases were already going ‘round and ‘round! The next challenge was to find my ride. I was told to go outside and wait and he was told to look for me inside. Eventually, we did connect and off we went to Bethlehem.

I assumed we would be going through the only check point that I was familiar with from my pilgrimage last year so I asked if I would have to show my passport. My driver said he was taking a different way to Bethlehem so I would not be asked for ID. To my surprise, what I interpreted as a “slow down” construction zone was, in fact, the checkpoint. We were not even stopped. There was only a small booth and after we passed through I saw a high tower with a security guard in it. A very different experience from passing through the most used entrance between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. I didn’t even glimpse the “separation wall.”

I slept very little on the airplane, and when I arrived at the HCEF office, I unpacked and rested for a couple of hours. At 2 p.m. I met with many of the staff members and we immediately began to plan my work assignments. Will hit the ground running tomorrow—as soon as they bring in a replacement keyboard for my assigned computer. The sticking space bar just isn’t going to cut it with all the writing I will be doing!

I was taken to a local fruit and vegetable market to stock up on those items. It was interesting to see the bananas hanging from a branch of the tree from which they were cut. Khalil used his knife to cut the bananas, which are locally grown, from the limb. Then off to a grocery market, which is about the size of a 7-11, and purchased some staples to keep me going for a few days. Last stop was to the bakery for some fresh whole wheat bread. Although some items are quite pricey, 5 shekels (about $1.25) was very reasonable for the bread.

The office staff provided me with a cell phone so at least if I get lost on my jaunts out and about, I will have folks who I can call to rescue me.

The Church of the Nativity is about a 10 minute walk from here and I will probably head up that way for my morning exercise tomorrow.

I would love to write more but my eyes will not stay open any longer. Tune in tomorrow….



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