I can't even begin to describe the atmosphere in Dheisheh as the camp prepares to receive the Pope tomorrow. It is so exciting to be here....so exciting.
The public library in the camp has been turned into an 'operations'
room (this is what we're calling it in Arabic here) and the place is a
In one spot you see a couple of young artists from the camp painting pictures of the refugee experience on large hard cardboard. These paintings will be displayed along the seven stages that are being erected down on the main Jerusalem-Hebron Road where the Pope's procession will pass right before it enters the camp.
In another corner, you see a group of people writing the names (in Arabic and English) of each of the 46 destroyed villages that Dheisheh's refugees came from on pieces of colored cardboard......
Someone is sitting at the computer and writing the program of events in Arabic.....
Someone else (guess who!) then takes over and translates the program into English....
A third person makes copies of the program to hand out to the press....
More than one person is helping the tens and tens of journalists who are flooding the camp.
Another person is hanging posters on the walls.....
A group of young guys go out with spray cans to write slogans on the walls around the camp. Some of the slogans: DHEISHEH, JABLAYIA, SABRA, Al-WIHDAT, YARMOUK ARE REAL EVIDENCE OF HALF A CENTURY OF INHUMANITY; SORRY Pope!!! WE WILL NOT NAME ANY OF OUR STREETS AFTER YOU ..CAMPS CAN'T LAST FOREVER; NO PEACE WILL ENDURE WITHOUT OUR RIGHT OF RETURN; DHEISHEH, AIDA, ARROUB, BALATA, EIN El HILWEH..WHO WILL END 52 YEARS OF HOMELESSNESS?
Another group of artists are drawing pictures of the refugee experience on the camps' walls.
UN sanitation workers from the camp remove the garbage and debris from
the street inside the camp where the Pope's entourage will pass.....the
women watch and tell the workers: "We wish we had an important visitor
everyday so you would clean our streets all the time."
The boxes with all the T-shirts that the kids are going to wear finally arrive. Young guys bring them in and stack them in a corner. Some t-shirts talk about the right of return, others show the Pope and others show the Pope and Arafat.
Everyone plans to be there today (Tuesday, 21 March) for the March of
the Keys. The march will start off from the camp at noon and kids will
carry the keys to their homes in 48-Palestine, as well as placards with
the names of their villages......
Then tonight, everyone will be out on the main road where the stages were erected.....to play music, sing, and hang out.....peddlers selling falafel will make a decent buck.
And last night, they tried out the Pope's car to see how easily it can
drive inside the camp. The street where I live was chosen as the road that
the Pope will take......I'm thrilled. We'll get a front-row view.
For the past three to four days, our street has been packed with reporters.....filming the route that the Pope will take.
After Israeli extremists vandalized a helicopter pad to be used by Pope in Jerusalem, members of the Israeli press tried hard to get someone...anyone in the camp to say something negative about the Pope's visit. They were disappointed, while we were glad that the world could see who the real extremists really are.
But what has really been the most wonderful experience is the group effort that has gone into getting ready for Pope.....camp residents, young and old, male and female (not as many women as I would have liked to see) are all doing their thing, each in his/her area of expertise.......really wonderful to watch the team effort being put into this......makes your heart smile with pride.
More later folks.....but read on: program and performances follow. If you want to read more, check out Dheisheh's website at: http://www.dheisheh.acrossborders.org
We shall return someday,
Schedule of the Pope's Visit to Dheisheh Refugee Camp (22 March, 2000):
1- The Pope arrives at the eastern entrance of the camp at 1600 hours.
2- Representatives from the Bethlehem area and from various refugee camps in Palestine will be on location to receive the Pope.
3- A group of refugee children will participate in the reception. They'll
be wearing T-Shirts bearing the names of Palestinian villages destroyed
in 1948; as well as photos of the Pope and President Arafat. They'll also
be carrying Palestinian, Vatican and UN flags.
4- Seven stages will be erected along the way (on the Jerusalem-Hebron
Road parallel to the camp) where the entourage will pass. Folklore performances
articulating the refugee experience will take place. Paintings and other
artistic work reflecting the suffering and pain of the refugees will be
5- When the entourage arrives at the Martyrs' Monument, located near
the Boys' School, another group of camp representatives will be there to
receive the Pope.
6- The Pope will drive through one of the streets in the camp.
7-The Pope will then stop at Dheisheh's School for Boys, where the main
reception and celebration will take place.
8-The reception will start with a welcoming speech by a refugee from
9-The Pope will then deliver his speech.
10-Under the Slogan 'We dream of return and peace', three young people
from the camp will greet the Pope and start a bike tour around three continents
(Asia, Africa and Europe).
11-The Pope's visit will end at 17:00.
Stage Performances and Exhibitions
Seven stages will be erected along the Jerusalem-Hebron Road (parallel
to Dheisheh) where the Pope's entourage will pass on its way inside the
1.. Stage One: Will be erected on the eastern entrance of Dheisheh.
When the Pope appears, a group of children at this stage will release 52
pigeons (symbolizing the years of dispossession), as well as balloons bearing
the names of Palestinian villages destroyed by Israel in 1948.
b.. Stage Two: Located 50-60 meters from the 1st stage, a group
of children carrying Palestinian, Vatican and UN flags.
c.. Stage Three: This stage will include two tents. One tent
will display the names of destroyed Palestinian villages, and the second
will bear the names of all Palestinian refugee camps in Palestine and in
d.. Stage Four: This stage will display photographs portraying
the suffering of Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli prisons.
e.. Stage Five: Performances articulating the suffering of Palestinian
refugees will be presented at this stage.
f.. Stage Six: A Palestinian folklore dance will be performed
at this stage.
g.. Stage Seven: Located inside the UNRWA School for Boys, artistic
performances will be presented from this stage.