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> Het netwerk
> The network
> Under, through, over the Wall
> Onder, door, over de Muur
> Trails and maps
> Bussen en bewegingsvrijheid
> Buses and freedom of movement
> The permit issue revisited: toward the Easter...
> De schoolbus
> Liberation seeds
> Impressions of Gaza
> The Mad Permit Game
> Verdwijntruc: landeigenaars in Betlehem
> Vanishing Act: Land owners in Bethlehem
> The Crow Cries - Bethlehem 2006
> Sylvana Giacaman
> Odette El-Sleiby
> Sandra Nasser
Bethlehem June 2012
Toine van Teeffelen
In hot weather we eat cold watermelon topped by white cheese. Mary and Jeanet make their delicious apricot jam. The apricot, mishmish, has a short harvest season but should not be missed. “Take care to buy only apricots from Beit Jala!” warns Mary. Each Palestinian village or town is known for its particular fruit or vegetable, and celebrates it with its own agricultural festival.
Mary is presently much busy with food. She coordinates a Bethlehem University cooking course for teenagers. Jara is among the participants and tries out her new skills at the family dinner. We all are much satisfied. The teenagers join an excursion to learn about traditional agriculture and the environment. They walk in Battir, a garden village on a 15-minute drive to the west of Bethlehem. It is famous for its agricultural terraces, old water canal system, Roman archeology, and not to forget its pride: the aubergine. Battir’s ecosystem and beautiful views will be destroyed by the Wall which is expected to be built there. The village will be also cut off from Bethlehem. The Palestinian Authority has proposed to UNESCO to protect Battir by labeling it a World Heritage Site.
The youth sweat profusely from the 1,5 hour walk with breaks. Mary encourages them: “Look at those old houses, they are really more interesting than the modern ones.” The newly established “Landscape Eco Museum” in Battir – with a drawing of the aubergine as logo – has issued a map of the area. The hiker can follow trails. A great development, such maps. There are barely any readily available maps of the environment around Bethlehem, whether in the village or the desert areas.
Traditionally, the people are used to follow their memory instead of maps.Moreover, many maps are complicated. They may mark the Wall, the Green Line (the invisible border between the West Bank and Israel), the settlement areas, and so on. Few areas in the world require such complicated geopolitical maps as the West Bank. Or rather, the colonization has made the maps and reality complicated. Now at least a few guides with trails and local maps are available.
A local organization has started to guide a trail in the Maghrour area to the west of Bethlehem where recently the Israeli army destroyed a restaurant. In fact, fifty years ago the Maghrour was a famous picnic area. In the summer the town dwellers from Bethlehem and Beit Jala used to stay there for weeks, to harvest fruits.
Two weeks ago, I joined an open-air Mass to the west of Bethlehem, on the rocks and under the olive trees. The Mass is weekly organized to pray for justice and peace. It is near Cremisan, the monastery. The monastery’s forest is also threatened by the Wall, and by the further southward expansion of the Gilo settlement. Mgr Michel Sabbah, the former Catholic patriarch, said in his sermon that the Holy Land was made into a land of theft and hate instead of a house of prayer but that the moral and physical presence of Palestinians and Palestinian Christians cannot be eliminated.