Friday, August 18, 2006


This is something I wrote for our parish mag about my recent travels:

“What difference do you think you can make?” the short young intelligence officer said, “You're only one person.” It was eight o'clock in the morning and I was the only traveller attempting to cross the Sheikh Hussein bridge from Jordan into Israel.

Before long, and after several more confused questions (and bizarrely taking a photo of me in my crumpled cricket hat), I was let through. In half an hour I had completed a crossing that in 2005 took all day.

[oops - the parish mag contained a typo I didn't notice until I saw a copy. What an idiot]

My tired eyes once again took in the landscape of the land We Once Called Holy. Past the small enclosed city of Jericho. Through the bustle of Jerusalem. Past the flags, the fences, the security walls, the soldiers and guns, the children with goats, the roadside fruit stalls, the ragged refugee camps. The miles and miles of nothing very much.

Eventually we reached the town of Bethlehem. I was visiting the suppliers of our clothing, small family-owned factories amongst the flat-roofs. In the midst of the troubles in the Middle East, these are not terrorists or even helpless victims, but workers with families to support and bills to pay.

In recent years, the tourists have stayed away and the hotels are mostly empty. Many of factories have closed leaving 25% of people unemployed. With the travel restrictions in place, trade is extremely difficult and nobody can go far without stopping at numerous military checkpoints.

Hope is an extremely rare commodity in the Palestinian territories. Many people have been living on savings, most seem to have stopped believing that things can get any better.


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