Sorry for going so long between posts - I've been fighting some kind of virus or something and its sapping my will to type. Hopefully I'll be feeling better tomorrow.
Last Tuesday I passed my EMT examination with the Red Crescent and began work with the Beit'Lehem ambulance service on Wednesday. They're really cool guys - it was good to visit the different clinics and hospitals on calls and work with some fantastic professional EMTs. These people really know the West Bank better than anyone - I'll be working three days a week (8 hours shifts) and I'll keep you all updated.
Playground update - George has found a really wonderful project already in the works in Rammaneh, north of Jenin. It's about as far north as you can go and still be in the West Bank. The school up there really wants a playground. Furthermore, they need to develop the land (despite it being privately owned by the school, if it sits idle it will be walled off and claimed by Israel). I'll try to head up there this weekend and take some photos. I think this is the most promising location - there are also some local contractors who have built playgrounds in the past and it would be good to keep the money for the playground in Palestine if possible.
Speaking of taking photos - my camera broke. I mailed it home, in the mean time my mom mailed me her camera - as soon as it arrives I'll start taking photos again. Nevertheless, I still have my flip. Several relief agencies have been using them to assist people in developing nations with their documentation needs. It takes low-quality, youtube type video. I've posted some to my youtube account and will post them again here.
Stephen and I traveled to Bilin, near Ramallah, on Friday. We went there to view the illegal wall. There was a peace march which I was excited to witness from a distance. The march took place in a private orchard after Friday prayer services. Nevertheless, as the marchers approached the wall, IDF soldiers began firing CS gas canisters and rubber-coated steel bullets at the marchers. Here's a video of the march:
And here's a video of me running away when the soldiers started firing gas canisters. The white stuff is CS gas. Nasty.
I had my jump kit with me and tried to help a few people (I was especially worried about Stephen) but the gas was really thick and they kept firing the canisters in front of us as we were running away - to try to keep us near to the wall and the tanks. The canisters started several fires in the olive orchard - as internationals went to put out the fires the soldiers targeted them with canisters. At about marker 1:50 in the video you can see them firing the gas cannons - really scary stuff.
Anyway, here's a video of my friend Stephen making it out of the gas - huge relief.
On Saturday we spent the day touring the ancient city of Hebron. We visited the Tomb of the Patriarchs - Ibrahim Mosque. It was absolutely incredible. The city is amazingly old and beautiful. Unfortunately the influx of settlers has made it into something of a ghetto - most of the streets are barricaded off and if you are on the "Palestinian Side" you have to wait until certain times of day for the guards to open the gates. Some of the streets are one-way pedestrian streets for Palestinians, which was incredibly weird. The idea of a one-way street for pedestrians is completely foreign to me, but the parts of the city where Israeli settlers have claimed houses or built up condos is off-limits for Palestinians. Here's a shot of the city from a rooftop:
and here's a video shot I took of one of the razor-wire barricades that limit movement in the city:
Most of the barricades are concrete and steel-doors - this one was really imposing because of the barbed wire fencing.
Anyway - I had another chance to visit Jerusalem on Sunday and say hi to Basel and Stephanie and their adorable baby. All is well - I finally have a phone and when I get an international calling card I'll be able to call home.
I love you all.
One last picture of me vs. the gas canisters - Stephen took this and I think it looks awesome: