Tuesday 18th March
We started the day with a new guide, Ra’fat Salsa, whom we found to be very good and helpful. A walk in Wadi el Quelt was much appreciated, and afterwards we had a lunch and a guided tour in Qumran. Before heading for Bethlehem we still had time to bathe in the Dead Sea (Kalia Beach). A much expected experience for those who never had done it before! In the evening we arrived in Bethlehem and accommodated us in Abu Jubran Guest House and Grand Hotel.
Wednesday 19th March
Siraj had arranged for a bus that took us to Jerusalem for two meetings: in the Swedish Theological Institute and with Bishop Munib Younan in the Lutheran Church. We had some time to browse around in the Old Town before our dinner at Azzahra Hotel. The service and food was good and the place is to be recommended!
Thursday 20th March
This was our Bethlehem day! The Nativity Church was somewhat of a disappointment as we did not manage to visit the grotto due to mass after mass in the place (some of us came in, though, and some made it afterwards on their own). A visit to the Lutheran Church and school in Beit Sahour was actually too short but it was good anyway to see the good work our sister church is doing there. A quick falafel lunch near the Nativity Square gave us energy for the rest of the day – thanks to our bus driver we found a good place with good price!
The rest of the afternoon we had a lecture and a guided tour in the International Centre (by the Lutheran Church) and some of us visited Dar al Kalima University College.
In the evening Siraj had arranged for dinner with local families in Beit Sahour. This was much appreciated and a good way to learn to know people and see how they live.
Friday 21st March
We had planned to go to Jerusalem today, with Kjell Jonasson as our guide (he is an old friend and also an authorized guide). The Jerusalem Marathon stopped us, though, as our bus could not make its way from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. Kjell used his contacts and he managed to change place for Friday and Saturday programmes. After a waiting time for one hour, the whole thing was sorted out, another bus came sent by Siraj, and we could continue.
The programme started by the checkpoint where we met an EAPPI-accompanier Ragnar Svenserud. He was able to guide us in Swedish and we learned more about EAPPI’s work (we already heard a lot while still at home). Next stop was the Biblical Garden in Environmental Education Center in Beit Jala, run by the Lutheran Church. Ruth’s Field restaurant by Shepherds’ Field was yet another token of effectiveness and once again we obtained our lunch in no time at all! Having visited the Shepherds’ Field – or what is left of it – we drove to the Tent of Nations for yet another experience of mixed feelings: hope and despair.
Saturday 22nd March
We spent the day in Jerusalem with Kjell as our guide and came home to Bethlehem early enough to pack our suitcases and prepare us for dinner. Tent restaurant with Dabkeh Dance was a great experience and a good finish for a week full of impressions.
Sunday 23rd March
We travelled back home, by two different flights again and two transfers to these.