Two driving values inform The Global Immersion Project’s Exposure Phase: (1) to create space for the spontaneous to occur and (2) to walk the neighborhood streets rather than the manicured paths of tourism. We recognize that the spontaneous moments are rich with potential for relationships to develop and that the neighborhood streets are the spaces where encounters with everyday people occur. In this post, TGIP Learning Community participant Kristen McCormack reflects on a moment of embracing the spontaneous in the streets of Bethlehem.
I don’t know how God sorts it, but I took my very first breath in a shiny-floored, disinfected smelling hospital room in the States. And that breath has gifted me an almost guarantee at food on my table, money in my pocket, and a little blue book that allows me the freedom to go where ever I want.
For the last 11 days I used that passport to zigzag back and forth and all around a country divided into a thousand bits and pieces with ease. A place by which even the name you choose to call it creates division.
In a failed search for my morning cappuccino in a culture that doesn’t open it’s doors for business before 11am, I poked my head in the only open little corner store in Bethlehem.
“What do you need?”, asked the gray-haired shop keeper.
“Sit. I’ll make.”
Knowing he was probably offering the same instant coffee as our hotel, I went to kindly decline, but found myself sitting instead. He disappeared back into his house and minutes later came back with two small cups of Turkish coffee. I asked, “How much?”
With a smile he sat down beside me, “It’s free.”
Adel is a Palestinian Christian whose family has lived in Betlehem for over 500 years. He is well educated and traveled, and is the proud father of four children who have followed in his steps. While many of his family have left over the years at hopes of a less complicated life, Adel and his family are committed to the land and their home.
Adel got a phone call. “My friends are coming over now for coffee in the garden. Come, I want to show you.”
Soon after Adel swung shut his shop front, it was myself and three old men walking around the back of his house, to his pride- his garden. He showed me tree by tree, slowly picking samples off of each, prunes, special olive-sized apples, almonds, and even grapes. We sat in mis-matched chairs around a dried up stone fountain in the shade under an overhead trellis of grape vines .
There as we sipped our second cup of Turkish coffee Adnan, a professor of history at Betlehem University, shared that he had traveled the world for his undergrad, masters, and PHD, but that he hasn’t been into Jerusalem, the Holy City, a 30 minute trip, in ten years. Every permit he has applied for- even for just one day- denied. The average Palestinian has access to less then twenty percent of a country that was with out walls, check points, and multitudes of armed guards just 65 years ago. Adnan looked at me, and not with eyes and a voice of anger, but with aged frustration he said “You’ve heard that the West Bank is a prison.” I shook my head, Yes.
“It is not a prison. It is a zoo. We are nothing but trapped animals for all the world to see as the multitudes pass through.”
Adel and Adnan, and centuries of their families took their very first breaths in this land, yet that means nothing to the ones who occupy them, but to Adel and Adnan it means everything.