Easier day today. Wonderful lunch with Janet Michael, the Mayor of Ramallah the first Woman Mayor of a major city on the West Bank (are there many in the Middle East?). She describes their problems, and like all the people we meet stresses the need to lift the European sanctions. It is interesting that the Hamas councillors voted for her to be Mayor, against the Fateh candidate, she stood as an independent. We then head off to the Al Amari camp again, to see the parents of the children, to confirm that they are happy with our plans. They explain that after the last group of kids came everybody wants to come, and they trust us, in fact they say why not bring the mothers. It looks clear that we have managed to steer clear of any particularly group, in relation to the picking, and therefore have developed this trust. Back to Ramallah, for a Mozart Concert in the Boys School, and performances by the London Choir with the Jerusalem Choir. A far cry from the streets of Nablus.
We often use the term twinning, but the conference is clearly about linking, people to people. There are over 30 delegates from the UK, plus a touring football team. There are about 70 from Palestine. This is the fourth such conference, and it has clearly taken off. The only person stopped by the Israelis at Tel Aviv, was held for three days, she was a Moslem woman. Janet Michael opened the Conference, and there were speeches from a political unity organisation, and from an NGO. The first workshop was on the Wall, which though good meant that the conference took a while to get going. But once the practical workshops started it was clear that there was a great enthusiasm for this kind of work. In the report back discussion there was some debate as to whether one includes all political parties, or concentrates on the left. A final statement was made, and contacts exchanged. There will be a full report on www.twinningwithpalestine.net.
Got taxi from Ramallah hotel to city centre. Main road was blocked off by the preparations for a huge Hamas demonstration, and rally. Walked to bus station. We then got bus to Jerusalem. At the Qualandia checkpoint all the Palestinians have to get off, and go through luggage check, as we have a lot of luggage we decide to stay on board this time. The guards come on the bus to check international passports. Five elderly religious black South Africans, two of them nuns, don't have stamps on their passports, because they came from Saudi Arabia and there is a policy of not stamping these. So after going through several different levels of 18 year old guards, who cannot understand why nuns would wish to go to Jerusalem on Good Friday, they are made to get off and join the Palestinian checking procedure. So when we got through the Palestinians were waiting for the bus, and we never did connect with the S.Africans again. They must have felt they were in a time warp. The result of this was an hours delay. As we got close to the Old City in Jerusalem we were stopped again, and rechecked. Another delay as the soldiers phoned through about some of the identity cards. This is meant to be a half hour journey, but without any real incident it took over three times that.
Meet unemployed workers in the morning, they need computers, and any other help. Any ideas would be welcome. It is possible to bring over second hand laptops. The unemployed get no social security, just sometimes maybe a thousand from each region get 100 dollars a month for 3 months, and then a different thousand. The state used to give a couple of thousand social work for a month, again for three months, but this policy has stopped, and they are trying to get it reinstated. we then went to the Easter religious march through town. This is led by huge Scout Marching Bands, including muslim troops. At the front of one of the bands are pictures of martyrs, who were in the band. All are highly nationay, led by Palestinian flags. (These were the only kind of processions the british used to allow). Then came all the religious dignitaries, on their way to receive the flame from Jerusalem. Now head off to camp for final meeting with the kids, and photo shoot.