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camera - link to photo gallery Photo Gallery (Beit Sahour)

We've started a totally new phase of the trip: the Eagle has landed. We're in Beit Sahour.

It was a long trip to get here, though. Got up at 0500, left the Bedouin encampment by 0615. Drove across Jordan with only occasional stops: Madaba, to see a mosaic map of the Holy Land in an old church; and Mt. Nebo, to see where Moses died and previewed the Promised Land. On the way in it doesn't look so promising--more like the Sand Hills of Nebraska than the Garden of Eden. In the US, wilderness is green and civilisation grey. Here, where every tree needs human attention, it's the opposite. Villages and settlements are islands of green in the dusty land.

Spent a shorter time in Israeli customs than we might have, but it was still pretty high-pressure. I underwent a special luggage search when my Palm Pilot triggered some alarm, but no interrogation. We had our first glimps of Jerusalem from the side of the Mount of Olives. Incredible! The Dome of the Rock catches the sun just like on the postcards.

I'm now with my host family, a young couple, and their 18-month-old daughter. Also, the husband's parents, brother, and sister-in-law downstairs. My host father and his dad make stone countertops, including their own. My host mother is a social worker at the local YMCA, dealing with people who've been injured physically or emotionally in the violence. For instance, a boy who lost both brothers and both legs to a land mine. War is always against children.

The house is small but well-furnished and clean. Christopher Friesen and I get a room and a bathroom to ourselves. The food is delicious, but my host father heaps our plates so high I can't finish. I'm going to have to try to politely control how much I get.

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Second day in Beit Sahour and all's quiet on the West Bank. Mostly. Latest news: two suicide bombings in the last two days, both in northern Israel. Rumours of a new curfew are floating about, but nothing certain. Hope we don't have to pull out early...

Spent some time in Bethlehem University's library after Palestinian Literature class today. Dan Umbel and I were pleased to find John Howard Yoder's "The Politics of Jesus" in the stacks and "Sojourner" magazine in the periodicals. Read yesterday's Jerusalem Post--Bush wants to go ahead against Iraq even though they're submitting to inspections. Now the BBC and CNN are full of the five Israelis killed in today's bombing. My host father says 75 Palestinians were killed last month, and no one blinked.

Now Christopher and I are watching "Ghostbusters" (in English with Arabic subtitles) with our host family eating huge roasted sunflower seeds, a great movie snack.

"Ghostbusters" was interrupted by news in Arabic: the Israelis have re-occupied Ramallay (about one hour away) and captured (or targeted) Arafat. Don't know what that's supposed to accomplish, but pray it stops there.

Movie finished. Our host parents show us their wedding photos. News as of now: Arafat beseiged in his office compound, two of his body guards wounded in shooting. CNN has more brouhaha about Iraq. Bush seems intent on attack no matter what Hussein agrees to do.

- Jeremy Yoder