Bethlehem, Aida, Ibdaa, Deheisheh

Nina’s Blog:
It is Monday morning, and despite yesterday’s tragedy, we are on schedule to visit Bethlehem and Ibdaa Cultural Center. Ziad Abbas of Middle East Children’s Alliance in Berkeley has kindly arranged for us to meet his friend Areej, who will give us a tour. Later Areej will take us over to Ibdaa Cultural Center in Dheisheh Refugee Camp, where I visited one afternoon in 2007. Also helping guide us is Shadi, a warm, fun and informative man who makes sure that all our questions are answered.

Areej is young, political, articulate and incredibly passionate about community organizing; getting the word out about life in this small part of the world. She has been persistent in getting a hold of me, no small feat as my cell phone has not been working reliably since I arrived on this trip! Areej grew up in Dheisheh Refugee Camp just outside of Bethlehem, living with her family of 9 people in two rooms that are approximately 100 square meters apiece. She and Ziad have arranged everything for us; taxis to get to the Nativity Church where Jesus Christ was born; lunch in a local shawerma joint; another ride to Ibdaa Cultural Center; and a warm send off back to Ramallah.

Nasr, our church tour guide takes us through the 3 chapels contained within the Church of the Nativity (Greek Orthodox, Armenian and Catholic). We see the place where Jesus was born, and the manger. How amazing that millions of people around the globe have had their lives changed by the events that took place here…

Areej accurately predicts that Nasr will avoid telling the story of the April 2002 Israeli siege of this very same church. Burns and bullet holes still riddle the inner walls of the cloisters. It is hard to imagine the many weeks of fear and gunfire that this now serene sanctuary once saw.

Next we tour Aida Refugee Camp, a crowded ‘slumlike’ area with about 5,000 residents. The words ‘refugee camp’ conjure up images of tents and mud for me, but this camp is full of grey concrete, and has existed for over 60 years. The residents print calendars that number every single day since leaving their homes. Palestinian camps are among the longest standing refugee camps in the world. Aida, Dheisheh and other Palestinian refugee camps are administered by the United Nations, and while the U.N. employes some of the local residents, it appears to me that they are regarded somewhat more as tenement landlords.

~ by ninahaftandcompany on April 28, 2010.

4 Responses to “Bethlehem, Aida, Ibdaa, Deheisheh”

  1. I just wanted to thank all of you for taking this trip and for posting about it while you are there. Every post has moved me.

    By the way, the UC Berkeley and UC San Diego student governments are both voting on divestment tonight I think.

  2. “The biggest obstacles to change are the ones we take everywhere with us, from the inside out.”
    Beautiful and so true. Thank you Nina for sharing your journey.

  3. I miss you Nina and Co., and am so pleased to be reading about your journey along the way. Love, Sima

  4. Been wanting to write – and now you guys are back! =) Still I have to state with every post I sat in awe of the powerful images and stories conveyed – and in your cases, lived. I’m struck by how much humility, dignity, and compassion is expressed in the work and lives of your hosts. This amazing journey of peace, art, and humanity will always inform the rest of your lives. Thank you for bringing us along for the ride. So happy that you are all home now! Much love … Ann

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