May 5. Wednesday was another really full day.
We spent the first half of the day in Jerusalem learning about the current situation in Israel and Palestine. At the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, we met Abir, a woman from Gaza who works for the UN. She hadn't been out of Gaza in 3 years because the Israeli-controlled checkpoints are nearly impossible for Gaza residents to cross. They also showed us a PowerPoint presentation discussing the humanitarian issues created by road and checkpoint closures and the wall that's being built to separate Israel from the West Bank.
After our time at the UN, we were able to visit Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in the Old City of Jerusalem. It's one of six Lutheran churches belonging to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL). Ashraf is the Vicar of the Arabic-speaking congregation there, and shared with us some of his experiences as a Palestinian Christian.
We enjoyed lunch on a rooftop that had a view of Dome of the Rock, Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, and Church of the Sepulchre before catching a public bus to Bethlehem.
Our evening in Bethlehem was spent at Christmas Lutheran and included lively conversations with both young adults and participants in a wellness ministry of the church geared toward men and women who are 50+. (This ministry was one of the options offered through our church's Alternative Gift Fair this past year.)
A great introduction to Bethlehem!
Re-post from http://www.bethlehem-church.org