Day three of the Hebron camp was exciting and nerve wracking — we were going to try to take 120 Palestinian children through the checkpoint into Jerusalem to take them to the zoo. We didn’t know if it we would succeed because, although legal for children under 16 to cross into Israel, it really depended on who was managing the checkpoint whether they would let us cross. Many people were praying.

I was in the first of three buses with Shadia, who it had been decided was the best person to negotiate with the guards. Since our Palestinian adult leaders couldn’t come with us it was just foreigners and lots and lots of children. We held our breath as we approached the first checkpoint. We were prepared to try another if we were not allowed through.
By the grace of God, it took us no longer than three minutes to get through. There was no searching and no questioning. We were just asked whether we had arranged the visit ahead of time, and with an affirmative answer that we had an invitation from the zoo all three buses passed through with no problem.
When we got to the zoo, we were met with other people connected to our organization, who were ready to help with the kids. Each leader had six excited children in their group. Most of us know little Arabic, but with lots of “yalla” (let’s go) being shouted we managed to communicate with the children. I quickly fell in love with my six — five boys and one girl between 6 and 12 years old.
This is my group! 🙂

One thing that really stuck out to me was when all the groups were still close together it was hard to identify those in my group quickly. I followed the example of some other leaders and drew something unique on each kid’s hand. I chose the first thing I thought of, a five-point star, and put it on a few kids’ hands. When I got to one of the older ones, he didn’t want me to put it on his hand, concerned that it is Israeli symbol. It actually isn’t — but I realized this kid was on high alert. Coming into Israel he certainly did not want to be manipulated into being identified with “the enemy.” I wonder what kind of pep talk he was given before coming on the trip, and what pep talk I would have given if I was his mother. The stars became funny looking smiley faces, and I realized how real the conflict is for these precious little ones.

Here are some pictures from the day at the zoo:

The kids excited to go!


The kids were so funny taking pictures of everything with their cell phones.

The boys loved getting close to the beautiful tropical birds.

The Jerusalem zoo is really cool. We were just feet from this leopard.


Enamored with the animals.
This is what everyone looked like on the way back to Hebron. I was trying to keep them seated, and it was like a hammer head game but the second one kid sat down five stood up!

We continue to thank God that we were able to do this trip!