I have had the wonderful opportunity to celebrate Shabat the last two Friday evenings with Israeli friends, which has been really fun. I mentioned in an earlier post that it is really neat to understand a little bit better what Jesus was doing at the Last Supper… just from observing a related tradition with bread and wine.

I really like this weekly tradition to have a special meal with family and friends and remember the provision of God, and to speak blessing to God and each other. Blessed art Thou, Lord our God, King of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth… My understanding is very dependent on what is explained due to my absolute lack of Hebrew. What I do understand has been really cool.

So thank you, Ronit, for the invitations, and for some good times with new friends.



This is where you walk into the checkpoint. Image from here.
I live in Bethlehem, which is part of Palestine, and work in Jerusalem, in Israel. Sometimes, I go to work (which is only a few miles from home) by taking a group taxi to the checkpoint, walking through the checkpoint, and then taking a bus to the office. My experiences going through the “checkpoint” between Palestine and Israel have been some of the most eye-opening and frustrating parts of my move to Bethlehem.
Last week, I got on to my group taxi, confident about crossing over because the day before had been no problem. The process should be simple: go to the checkpoint, pass through, get on bus, get to work. I thought it would take ten or fifteen minutes, and I would probably arrive about five minutes late to work (still working on the timing).

This is very a very orderly version of the line. Image from here.

When I got to the checkpoint, I heard a lot of noise from the area of the security checks. This is never a good sign. It means that things are going slowly, there is backup, and men are upset to be late to their jobs in Jerusalem. I got in line, knowing it would take a while, and proceeded to wait patiently for a half an hour for about 50 people ahead of me to get through. There was only one open line, and any time someone had trouble everyone had to wait.

I was about ten people from the front of the line and talked to a coworker to tell her I’d be late, but expected to be in shortly. About then, with a lot of yelling, pushing, and frenzy around me, I learned that the line we had all been waiting in would be shut down and everyone would have to go through the one which had been closed. It was a shame for those of us at the front of the line, because whoever was closest to the other line would, of course, get there first. Feeling frustrated, I got in line again, at the back (because I’m an American and that is what we are taught is fair from a very very young age). By this time the pre-9am rush had started and the line was growing quickly. Anxiety grew.

See the guard overhead? Image from here.

I joined an English speaker who I’d met the previous week while trying to get through the checkpoint. A guard (a young Israeli woman) with a big gun walked over our heads, casually taking in the scene. After another half-hour or so, the guy I stood with yelled to her, “Open the other line!”

After a few words in her walkie talkie, she motioned that the first line would once again be opened. People madly rushed to get in the front. My friend and I joined them, but my my pushing skills are decidedly sub-par. We made it into the line, me behind him, and he negotiated with our line mates to get me where he was, closer to the front. People are often gracious to foreigners.

We waited for another ten or twenty minutes, hoping that our line would move. We heard beeping from the other line indicating that it was, excruciatingly slowly, letting people through. Finally, the guard looked down to us and indicated that the line we were in was not going to open. After an hour and a half, too bad, get back in the other line.

My friend told me it would be another hour before we got through, based on where we ended up in line. By this time I was bruised, tired, frustrated beyond words, and very tempted to call it a day and just go home. I looked around and reminded myself that many of these men go through the checkpoint every day to get to work to support their families. I shouldn’t be so selfish.

Image from here.

People cut shamelessly in line, every man for himself. Tensions grew. Fights nearly broke out. I was upset with the behavior of the people in line, but even more was upset as I began to think that the whole thing was intentional. There are so many ways the process could be efficient. But why make it efficient? The goal is to keep people out, not make it easy for them to come in. True or not, it felt increasingly intentional as the guards lazily meandered around watching people get more and more upset.

There was a lot of pushing to finally get into the final part of the line which has metal barriers to funnel people. Once I was in, multiple people ducked under the barrier, jumping the line. One man’s anger boiled over, and he began a passionate speech. “You should be ashamed of yourselves!” was the clear message. “I can do it too, see?” as he climbed up on the barrier and crossed to the gate, right over my head. Although no one got out of line, I think they did look ashamed by the end of it.

Finally, I got through. After security, you show your papers (passport in my case). I was in line behind a woman with two children who looked to be under two. She cried and pleaded with the guard who told her she couldn’t get through, she didn’t have the right papers. The guy next to me said that she was claiming that her husband is dead, and she needed to go to the hospital or something. She was waved aside and I’m not sure if she ever made it through. I hear that most of the time people are given leniency even without proper papers in such cases.

Finally I got on my bus in Jerusalem and made it to work — about 2 and a half hours late.

Although thankful for these experiences which, although not the everyday occurrence do give some insight into the feelings of oppression of the Palestinian people, I am very thankful that I am able to go to work with a coworker most days. We drive to Jerusalem through a much easier checkpoint which caters to Jewish settlers in the West Bank so they are not prone to hassle us much because they assume we also are settlers.

Before I sign off I want to mention that this is one experience I had, and how I felt as it happened. There are multiple sides to every story and I don’t intend to make a statement against anyone in this post. Since I live in Palestine, many of my initial experiences have been seen from a Palestinian perspective. I look forward to sharing as I learn more about Israel as well.

As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one…”

But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.
– Romans 3:10, 21-22

Note: The pictures in this post were taken from the web to give you an idea of what it looks like, but are not from the day I was there and were not taken from me. For proper credit, see the links.

Arrival in The Land

Arrival in The Land

This is a street near my house in Bethlehem.

I arrived in Tel Aviv on Tuesday and met my driver outside of security. With three bags and operating on very little sleep, I was very thankful to have someone there for me who knows this country and who could take me where I needed to go. He had a Jesus fish on his dashboard, but I’m afraid that, in my sleepy state, I didn’t manage to make conversation with him about our shared faith.

The drive was beautiful! As the sun set, we went through rocky but green hills, and overall I was very surprised at how nice I found things. We pulled into Jerusalem around sunset and I went to Ronit’s (a new co-worker of mine) house to stay the night with her.

Although I was pretty tired by the time I got to the house, Ronit was having some Israeli friends over for dinner and hanging out. It was good to get to meet them and I’m actually really glad to have gotten a little taste of Israeli-believing culture before heading to Palestine. Many of the people I met are are Messianic Jews originally from America and have attained Israeli citizenship and served in the army here. Very interesting!

Wednesday, Ronit and I came to the office in the morning and I got to experience my first daily prayer time and staff meeting. I walked to the store with Ronit to buy some office supplies (the good kind: coffee and tea) and then went to pick up my bags and run some other errands around town with another coworker. I think I expected there to be more signs in English, but I should be able to get around anyway.

In the early afternoon, Salim brought me into the West Bank to meet my family. We weren’t hassled at the border. We just drove through, showed our passport/papers through the car window and continued on our way. My first impression of Bethlehem was that it seems peaceful! Not nearly as congested or seemingly intense (stressful) as Jerusalem. This really surprised me. I also was interested in the walls of separation between Israel and Palestine. They are huge and thick and bleak (ugly concrete) but, on the Palestine side, covered by all kinds of graffiti, including some really amazing art which Salim said is famous around the world. Someday I might spend some time hanging out at the wall looking at all of what is there. If I can, I’ll post some pictures.

We went to Bethlehem Bible College, where Salim introduced me to some Palestinian young people. Then I met Ana, who is the mother in the family I’ll be living in for my time here. She is in her thirties, full of energy and well educated, currently finishing a MA and teaching school, co-leading a 50 member youth group, and caring for her family of 5, and now me as well. She told me that she is happy to have me and dropped me off at the house, showing me my new home on the way to one of her final exams.

I was thrilled to see my room. It is big, on the roof, simply furnished but private, and with a private bathroom. So much nicer than expected! I was thrilled to unpack all of my things and start to see the room become my own.

Now I am pretty set up, and am settling in. Since moving in I have had several more experiences which I will write about later! Thanks for beginning this journey with me.