Sunday, May 26, 2013 | By: Jake

Three Seconds

After morning prayer, we traveled on towards the Checkpoint to get into Bethlehem. I was impressed that the Checkpoint into Bethlehem is no more than a two-minute walk from Tantur Institute. I was pleasantly surprised that Notre Dame was able to get such prime real estate. The Checkpoint seemed to be the most talked about location that we'd be going to. Again and again, we were told to be extremely cautious when going through the checkpoint. No photographs. No jokes. No trying to be a "social justice activist" and stand up for the people being treated unfairly. If we were in the back of a line and were told that we could skip to the front, we were to warmly accept the invitation. This pilgrimage was not a time for us to live in solidarity with victims of oppression.

I'm one of those people that like to take's really a problem. My mom is probably singing praises of "Alleluia" right now because I'm admitting this. Anyway, I tend to be the person that leads the group, that walks to the front of the group...even when I'm in a different country for the first time. I guess I can also blame this on my fast-walking.

Anyway, I quickly travelled to the front of our pack and headed through the first gate at the checkpoint. I had no idea that you were supposed to stop and show the soldiers your passport and stop for questioning. As I travelled through, one of the leaders of the pilgrimage called my name, implying that I should turn around and show the guard my passport. However, the guard motioned me forward, implying that I didn't have to show my passport--I guess there are a lot of benefits to being a blonde-haired white kid that doesn't know what he's doing. On the one hand, I was delighted that I could easily walk through, but on the other hand, I was getting a privilege that many people were denied. 

What usually took up to two hours for some Palestinians (literally two hours), took me a matter of three seconds.

The rest of the pilgrimage group followed through, but as I continued on down the path only to bet by about thirty taxi drivers all fighting to be our cab driver. About this time, my "need to lead" simmered down a bit and we followed behind Hannah, one of the pilgrimage leaders who also runs the Notre Dame Jerusalem Program. Twenty clueless and ignorant people following someone that clearly knew where she was going---I'm pretty sure it was clear as day that we were Americans.

The roads of Bethlehem were not exactly what I thought they would be like. I guess I was expecting dirt roads, people with head coverings, really old buildings, etc. Something like this...

But in reality, it was pretty modern. I mean, it definitely wasn't a city like Chicago, but it kind of looked like a run-down once-urban city...there were some nice buildings, there were stories everywhere, people dressed in jeans were walking around...more like this...

And aside from the giant checkpoint wall that made the city look more like a jail from the outside and aside from the Palestinian guards at some corners stationed with their firearms, it really didn't look anything like I was expecting. 

We quickly walked through the streets, hurrying to get to Mass on time....


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