Not quite all quiet on the Western front
Fighting around the corner and not far down the road in Gaza, but life in the West Bank carries on.
Before I start, I want to stress that I am safe and I am not in harm’s way.
I can’t lie, it is not peaceful in Bethlehem and the situation hasn’t been getting better. With a 12 hour ceasefire seemingly holding between Gaza and the Israelis, one could be hopeful things will improve, but then this is the Middle East and things aren’t that easy.
Protests around the West Bank have been increasing over the past week and many of them have been violent. Bethlehem hasn’t been immune, but they are in a specific area of town, near refugee camps and the wall. I’ve heard them every night, but have never felt threatened by them.
Life otherwise carries on. During the day people are out building buildings, shopping for Eid and eating ice cream and falafel. If one didn’t know better, it’s not evident that things are not peaceful.
Other parts of the West Bank are being affected more by violence and there have been deaths. But nothing like the death toll in Gaza.
Being able to understand a small amount of Arabic I pick up when the conversation ends up at the conflict, but for the most part people are talking about everyday things. But then what else can you do other than carry on with your life?
I noticed a lot more police and soldiers in Jerusalem and a lot less tourists. This time of the year it is usually teeming with them, but people are staying away.
Of course, it would be more sensible for me to stay away as well, I realise this. But I have been looking forward to visiting friends for months. Yes, perhaps stupid, some might say reckless, but it is all a calculated risk. I know how to get out, I know where to avoid and I have people here to help me do all of that.
So, I am safe, but I am looking forward to a quieter time in Turkey.