Today the ladies slept in. I, however, was up at 6:30 am. My sleeps are deep, but I am unable to sleep late. When everyone had finished breakfast and checked out of the Retno, we boarded vans to Qalandia checkpoint. There we decided to walk through on the Palestinian line.
A man carrying a child, who could have been no older than one, asked me if he could go ahead of me. The child’s both arms and one leg were in casts. As he got to the border police, he had to take out his permit card and hold the baby at the same time. Then the soldier took the child, who began to cry, to examine the cast, butting it with the end of his rifle. What an outrage. I asked the soldier what he was doing and he told me to mind my own business. When he continued to knock on the casts with his rifle, I said loud enough for the solider to hear, “I must take out my camera and get a picture of this. No one at home will believe it.” Immediately, the soldier handed the baby back to its father and allowed the two to pass through. I went next, and though I wasn’t required to, I opened my valise for inspection.
Once through the checkpoint, we boarded vans for Jerusalem. Upon arrival, we checked into the Gloria Hotel, owned by the same people as The Knights’ Palace. We were the only guests staying at the Gloria, so we had a choice of rooms and run of the hotel. We dropped off luggage and left, in a variety of groups, to roam the Old City. My group consisted of Carol, Stacey, Gail, Eileen and me. We’d not had lunch, so we stopped at a fruit and nut kiosk and bought fresh figs, dried fruit, and almonds.
Sunday, a day to refresh and reflect, we broke into groups and strolled the narrow, winding streets of the Old City souks, absorbing the sights, sounds and smells of Old Jerusalem.
We continued on our way to explore the crooked pathways. Along our wanderings, Carol bought two handmade shawls and Gail, Eileen, Stacey and Carol bought Bedouin silver bracelets. As we continued our walk, we found ourselves near the Western Wall. Gail was happy to pass it by and I had seen it before, but Carol and Stacey wanted to see it up close. So we visited the Wall and took some photos.
We exited the square to the Jewish side and continued walking around the outskirts of the Old City. The view was magnificent, but the walk was uphill for most of the way. We passed a religious wedding celebration just as the wedding party and guests were dancing and clapping their way from the ceremony to their cars. Singing men surrounded the bride and groom, as the women and children marched behind. I couldn’t help remembering a media report I’d received from an ISMer who’d witness a Palestinian wedding party approaching Qalandia checkpoint. The bride and groom, he’d reported, had had to get out of their car and stand at the checkpoint to have their papers inspected. Suddenly every Palestinian at the checkpoint, particularly the children, gathered around the bride and groom and began clapping and singing. They danced the bride and groom through the checkpoint. At the Israeli wedding there was pure joy and happiness, an abandon lost for the Palestinian bride and groom.
Carol rests for a moment outside the walls of the Old City on our way back to meet the rest of the group.
Carol and Eileen caught a taxi to the Jaffa Gate and Gail, Stacey and I continued to walk to find another cab. We met the other two at the Jaffa Gate. We decided to stay nearby our hotel for dinner, so we ate across the street in a wonderful restaurant. The food was excellent, moderately priced, and the portions were large. We met everyone back at the hotel, where we had a go-round. One of the resolutions was to start meetings on time.
As we retired to our rooms, I received our first phone call from Ann. It was reassuring to hear from her. We offered our support; she made a few requests. As I was falling asleep, I couldn’t get Ann out of my mind, imagining how awful the conditions in the jail were for her.