QUARANTINE - DAY 50 - 24th April 2020
Today, after 50 days of quarantine in Bethlehem and several weeks lockdown in the rest of the world, it is probably as good a good day as any to draw this diary to a close. Belatedly, it might be a good moment to mention how this project came about.
My name is Melissa Scott and about four years ago I decided that I would like to do something to support the Palestinians in their long-standing battle for independence and human dignity that they have faced for so long. It was no whimsical urging; My parents lived in the region throughout my childhood and I first visited Palestine in 1979. I have a degree in Arabic and have travelled extensively in the region since. In recent years I have visited Palestine frequently, partly working to support Alrowwad Centre for Arts and Culture, for which I founded a charity, Friends of Alrowwad UK, last year, and partly to support the remarkable work that the Hands Up Project do, bringing remote theatre to Gaza and the West Bank.
Bethlehem faced lockdown before most of us - another fearsome challenge in a day to day life that is already difficult. This diary sought to bring together the personal stories of a broad range of Bethlehem's residents and raise awareness. Today, the beginning of Ramadan - two Easter weekends have been celebrated - a significant time for both Muslims and Christians is coming to an end.
Thank you to all my friends across Bethlehem for helping me with the diary - from Beit Jala, Beit Sahour and Aida and Dheisha camps to friends from the centre of Bethlehem. Thank you to all the readers of this diary - for your many emails of encouragement and positive messages. Who knows what the future holds for any of us, but hopefully the world will emerge a happier place, where justice across the world is observed. Maybe when we emerge from our houses we will have more respect for climate, refugees and healthcare, and there will be less language of hate.
Thank you to Michele from Amwaj, Mohamed and Manal from Alrowwad and Hani from NET, as well as to all those who have asked to be anonymous.
I have been planning a celebration of Bethlehem for the UK in December for several months, with Amwaj choir in Bethlehem (Michele Cantoni, their director in Bethlehem, provided the first diary entry), and Alrowwad dabka group. On my last trip to Palestine I had many positive meetings in Bethlehem about the festival. When Covid-19 started creeping across the world I put these plans on pause and redirected my energies temporarily to continue my mission to highlight the significance of Bethlehem - where Christians and Muslims live side by side, often times celebrating each other's religious festivals. I will post any updates on the https://www.bethlehem-town.com/ website.
Every year across the world, we celebrate the nativity - a story based around Bethlehem. Every year we sing hymns about Bethlehem. Yet how many of us think about where Bethlehem is? What it is now? I hope this diary has gone some way to recording the thoughts and feelings of the citizens of Bethlehem.
We will continue our global virtual coffee morning on Tuesdays at 10am with Bethlehem, Gaza, UK, Australia, France and of course any other parts of the world - someone has even said they will join us from New York at 5am! Please email me if you would like to join us - firstname.lastname@example.org. This Tuesday we will be learning how to make humous