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DannyWhatmough.com
6th November, 2012

Could Jerusalem be one of the most overtly cosmopolitan cities in the world?

As with Bethlehem, Jerusalem is a city uncannily familiar to anyone that has attended Sunday School or read an illustrated bible. It’s also seen as the epicentre of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

So I was unsure as to what to expect.

We crossed into Jerusalem through the ‘Bethlehem 300’ checkpoint on foot – experiencing firsthand the challenge that Palestinians looking to reach Jerusalem face: a 30 minute wait with no explanation and a tense passport/ID check.

On exiting the checkpoint we were greeted by a welcome party of Israeli IDF soldiers. These soldiers – many still teenagers can be seen throughout Jerusalem. Compulsory military service means you quickly have to get used to seeing young people carrying rifles. The most startling example of this was when I walked into a toilet at the Central Bus Station only to find four IDF soldiers with rifles around their necks at the urinal. Never has such a simple task felt so tense.

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continue reading: The peace of Jerusalem?...

5th November, 2012

On our second evening in Bethlehem, I was invited by a friend of another volunteer to stay in his aunt’s guesthouse. Situated in West Bethlehem it is near to the Bethlehem 300 Israeli checkpoint – the connection for internationals and ‘permitted’ Palestinians between the city and Jerusalem.

I wasn’t ready for what awaited us.

In 2002, during the Second Intifada, Israel started to construct a 700 kilometre barrier around the West Bank. The wall violates international law and fails in numerous places to match the ‘green line’ – the West Bank zone that was agreed after the 1967 war. The majority of the barrier is fenced but, in sensitive places, a concrete wall with watch towers was created.

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continue reading: The walls and refugee camps of Bethlehem...

4th November, 2012

For the last eight days or so I’ve been traveling as schools in Nablus have been closed for the Eid holiday. I’ve written a number of blog posts about the places I have visited that I will try and post as soon as I can get to some decent WIFI and upload some photos.

It’s been a fantastic opportunity to visit a number of places across Palestine – Ramallah, Jericho, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Hebron and Yanoun. There are fascinating and humbling stories to tell from each and I will endeavor to tell these stories in the next few days now that I am back in Nablus.

In the meantime, I came across this video that was created a few months ago by a former volunteer at Project Hope. It’s great overview of the work of Project Hope and introduces you to some of the local volunteers that are still involved.

Project Hope – Peace and Education in Palestine from Catarina Oliveira on Vimeo.

continue reading: Project Hope – Peace and Education in Palestine...

31st October, 2012

Located two hours from Jerusalem (via bus), Masada is a 400 metre plateau that houses the ruins of a great fortress built by Herod the Great in 37 BCE.

Words and pictures are unlikely to do justice to the dramatic experience that Masada provides. We decided to walk up to the summit (perhaps foolishly considering the 30-degree-plus heat) rather than use the cable car. The views across the southern tip of the Dead Sea and Salt Ponds across to Jordan are simply breathtaking.

Masada has a dramatic story to tell too that makes it particularly significant to Jews. Following the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans, a group of extremist Jews fled to Masada. After sieging the fortress for months, the Romans eventually reached the summit, only to find that the 960 Jews had committed a mass suicide rather than be captured.

Masada

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continue reading: Masada...

29th October, 2012

Being woken up at 4.30 am is never good, but there’s something hypnotic about the Islam Adhan or ‘call to prayer’ that seems to make it ok.

The call to prayer is recited by the muezzin at five times a day and is amplified from the minaret of the mosque. The words are prescribed but the singer can alter the melody adding melissmas and ornamentation.

This is the adhan that wakes me up every day in Nablus. It is made all the more magical by the reverberations you can just about hear on this recording – the sound echoing off the hills that surround the city. Sometimes there is a nearby cockerel that also joins in!

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continue reading: Adhan in the West Bank...