The water is back on, the tank again is partly filled. What a joy! I did have a bottle of water in the fridge to tie me over. Most everyone here drinks bottled water. It isn’t that I’m cheap…, but I drink from the tap and after a couple weeks the “effect” wears off. I eat plain yogurt every day to aid my stomach, etc.
Speaking of water, and its value, as I again read the gospels, I realized that baptism, born out of the ancient tradition of ritual cleansing, was less to do with turning, repenting from an old life, as it is about responding to the call to journey into new life, with one’s specific, individual character. That’s why Jesus was baptised – why didn’t I ever get that? Baptism is less about that moment of recognising God’s acceptance, than of moving forward to pursue what God has in store for you, and you for God. It is about being called, no matter our ability to respond at that moment in time, for all time.
I had never wandered Bethlehem at night, so thought I’d wander up. The old city is dead, no one around. The traffic on its periphery is heavy, mostly due to Eid-al-Fitr (End of Ramadan), celebrations taking place all this week, (Bethlehem is now 65% Muslim) families out for a meal, (kids stay up really late when there’s no school) young people speeding around in their cars and pre-teens hanging out in the streets giving me high-fives, intrigued by me being American, saying “pizza”, “hamburgers” and ubiquitous expletives they don’t understand, yet no doubt know from American films.
A trick I use when trekking the Bethlehem hills is entering the garage level elevator of a hotel and going up to the lobby street level, saving climbing many flights of stairs. They know I don’t stay there because no one is staying at the hotel. The hotels are virtually empty except for an occasional bus load tour. The majority of tours come in and out of Bethlehem in a ½ day and usually Israeli run to keep business in Israel. Last night I went up to the top (7th) floor bar for the view. It was empty except for one couple, in a modern, relatively high end space that easily holds 150. Throughout my stay I’ve passed numerous unopened restaurants. So few people come that they don’t open. An owner of a really nice restaurant told me he didn’t open until 3 pm because he couldn’t afford to refrigerate the drinks all night. He asked me to keep them in my prayers.
Today I had a chance to spend time with Professor Mazin Qumsiyeh, a Christian who teaches and does research at Bethlehem and Birzeit Universities in Palestine, is director of the main clinical cytogenetics laboratory and director of the Palestine Museum of Natural History and Institute for Biodiversity Research. He previously served on the faculties of the University of Tennessee, Duke, and Yale Universities. He published over 130 scientific papers on topics ranging from biodiversity to cancer. He is one of the Palestinian “M.L. Kings” (my words) and co-founder of the BDS (Boycott Divestment Sanctions) movement.
He spoke of how the Zionist enterprise, like all other exclusive and racist regimes has already failed. As occupiers, their primary goal is to so completely humiliate those occupied that they will respond with violence as a declaration that indeed they have human worth. He describes Israel‘s behaviour as pathological, a sickness that can no longer help itself stop, so dependent upon its past behaviour. Israel as occupier likes the dialogue, the meetings, conferences and camps from both parties, as if conversation alone will bring peace. But the occupier’s “normalization” experience with the occupied maintains the status quo and because they really are not equal parties, it is a sham. He encouraged only talk and relationships that lead to concrete action.
He has been arrested countless times and while he is Palestinian and has an American passport, he is not permitted into Jerusalem. However, he sneaks in. He is constantly monitored by Israel’s Shin Bet intelligence service. (By the way, Israel also reads all these blogs.) His son lives is in the Mission district of San Francisco and works for Google.