It’s time for yet another update and series of pictures from my time in the Middle East. Today’s series aren’t quite as striking as those in Hebron but I have around 520 pictures so far and thus can only fit a couple here. I spent yesterday seeing the sights in old Jerusalem that weren’t open the day before such as the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Dome of the Rock, walking around the city walls and then going to Bethlehem.
It’s actually only around 15k south of Jerusalem so a very short ride by service taxi. We got through the checkpoint rather easily with waving our ID’s being enough (everyone was Arab but me) and then were let out to walk into the city as cars aren’t allowed to go in. The one thing I did see immediately is the infamous wall, which partially encircles the city. It’s about 9 meters, or around 30 feet tall, unimaginable. I walked up and down the wall on the inside for a bit photographing the loads of multi lingual graffiti. Then I set off down the mostly empty road headed in the general direction of the nativity square.
As is the usual custom in all of the Middle East, a pesky swarm of taxi drivers immediately began asking if I needed a cab and making of various lies as to why I couldn’t walk such as that hte center was 5k away (which was nonsense of course). I shrugged them off and continued walking while one slowly followed in his car behind me yelling at me in good English to get a ride. The original price was 15 shekels or around 3 EUR and after walking for about 5 minutes with him driving slowly along side me, I got it for 5 shekels, about 90 EUR cents. This was already a sign of the desparation I’d see due to tourism having been cut to a trickle.
Once I made it to the nativity square, things had brightened up. There were loads of people out and about and even a few tourists. All in all I observed 1 bus load of Germans and 1 bus load of Americans who both only went from th ebus to the Church of the Nativity and back to the bus. I briefly checked out the church and then set my sights on lunch.Afrer I walked around into the bustling souq in which I was the only foreigner. There were no water pipes, inlaid chess or backgammon boards and so forth. Only practical household items and food. Nothing at all for tourists.
I wandered around though didnt find much of interest to see. There are loads of churches in Bethlehem but otherwise not too much of interest. I ran into a few Palestinians, one of whom discussed the unemployment and poverty problems they had and remarked that life was better with the Israelis there as there were more jobs and prosperity and that the only way for anyone to have a chance in the city was to go and work in Israel and bring the money back. Yet, anyone ever arrested during the intifada, whether for throwing rocks or shooting, is blacklisted and never allowed inside Israel again, and thus it’s difficult to impossible for many to get in.
All in all Bethlehem was a lively place with lots of businesses and shops, though few enough customers to fill them. Being so close to Jerusalem, most people, as I did, need only stop by for a few hours or a day as there otherwise isn’t too much else to see and thus it was quite easy to
I fly back to Germany very very early Saturday morning and will try to select the top 8 or so pictures overall and post them sometime this weekend.
Jerusalem’s Wailing/Western Wall. Here, Jews in full attire pray and sway back and forth vigorously on Rosh Hashana.
The infamous and enduring symbol of Jerusalem, the Dome of the Rock.
There is hope for the West Bank. This was taken at nativity square in Bethlehem.
This one speaks for itself, also in Bethlehem.
One example of many different instances of graffiti. Taken in a refugee “camp” in Bethlehem.