I checked the news this morning and was really excited to see the following headline on CNN.com: Obama - "New Walls Need Tearing Down."
My heart actually skipped a beat. Immediately, this incredible fantasy popped into my head: Obama came to Israel and then visited Palestine - he saw the apartheid wall on his way to Ramallah and he, like all who see it with their own eyes, was so offended and disgusted by it that he realized it must, must, must be removed. So when he arrived in Berlin - arrived to speak to a people preeminent in their familiarity with the pain of apartheid walls - he chose this place to speak of his new-found commitment to freedom in the Holy Land.
And then I read the actual article.
How sad. And predictable.
No one in Israel/Palestine seems to have any love for Obama. He completely alienated the Palestinians when he spoke of a Jerusalem "united" for Israel. Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine! East Jerusalem is filled with Palestinians. This has only served to embolden the Israelis in their ethnic cleansing of East Jerusalem. From the beginning, Jerusalem was to remain neutral - a holy city to serve as a capital for all nations. The Palestinians made the mistake of taking this seriously, and located their capital in the city. Israel doesn't want to share the city and are using the apartheid wall and home demolitions to move the Palestinians in Jerusalem out to the West Bank.
Conservative Jewish friends of mine who live in Israel have heard it said that an Obama victory would be "the end of Israel." I don't know why this would be - if you go to Obama's website (I won't link to it here) and read his detailed vision for Israel, there is practically nothing in there to guarantee the safety of the Palestinian people.
So nobody likes him. And I have to say, his comments regarding the "unification" of Jerusalem have me a little worried for my Palestinian friends who live in Shuafat, in Bet Hanina, and in other parts of East Jerusalem.
I made several interesting trips this last week - I visited the Galilee and Nazareth - I saw Haifa and Akko - I traveled to Jenin and Nablus and up to a tiny little village in the north of Palestine called Rammaneh. I saw the site of the destroyed village of Tantura. I also visited an unrecognized Arab village outside of Haifa. I have updated my photos - if you see a picture and I haven't adequately described it please make a comment and I'll clarify.
I spent two days exploring Jerusalem and really familiarized myself with the Old City. At this point, I think wandering aimlessly through the narrow passageways and souqs of the Old City is my favorite past-time. It's quite easy to get lost, but the entire place is bordered by the massive walls of Jerusalem, and it's only one square kilometer so it's not like you have to worry about wandering off the edge of the map.
We have finished the construction of the playground at Dar al'Kalima! With the cooperation of numerous volunteers, the playground is complete and the site is ready for landscaping. Another beautiful structure for Playgrounds for Palestine and for all the children of Bethlehem. Read more about Dar al'Kalima school here.
Our volunteers were provided by the International Center of Bethlehem and Christmas Lutheran Church.
That guy on the lower right is Payne - he's a new friend at the Siraj center here with his mom and sister. He's worked diligently with me on this project nearly every day - in the hot sun and dusty build site. He doesn't even mind when I make him test all the slides, climbing structures and everything else. (And those slides get hot. Seriously.)
Two more build sites to figure out - we'll see how far we get on the new designs before I have to go home.
It's been a pleasure, though, to work with all the different local contractors. We're trying to develop a design that can be built locally, using some recycled materials, and built multiple times to work and multiple sites. I think if I can come up with a model for future playgrounds and a team of local contractors to implement them at reduced cost I will have created something that will perpetuate the building of playgrounds in the Holy Land for quite some time.
Thanks again to all the volunteers at the Dar al'Kalima site. Onward to Osh Ghorab and the Arab Orthodox Club!