Peace in the Middle East
It's the war that has lasted for ages and a sight all too common.
"As one speaker said, 'We used to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Now we don't even see a tunnel'" said Kevin Clark, a member of the delegation made up of representatives of Eastern Mennonite University and local churches.
They hoped to give reassurance to those under Israeli guard and in return bring back understanding to us.
"Everytime we hear the news, Palestinians and terrorists are always in the same sentence and you begin to equate the two," said Daryl Ritchie of the Bridgewater Church of the Brethren. "You forget that there is a whole society of people trying to live there and not as terrorists."
For more than 40-days, Israeli forces had the city of Bethlehem under arrest. If people showed their faces in windows or doors, it was likely they'd be shot. When the delegation arrived, a similar situation occurred.
"It was hard to imagine that soldiers would come in while we were there," said Shirley Yoder Brubaker of Park View Mennonite Church. "Maybe I was living in a dream world."
After negotiating with the Israeli soldiers, permission was granted for them to leave their hotel and go to a local church. For safety sake, they had to wave a white flag and speak in English so the soldiers would know they were not Palestinian.
"It was a spooky experience to be out on the street to know the Israeli soldiers are somewhere, not to know where they were, nor whether if they heard sounds, if they'd shoot before they looked, " said Dorothy Jean Weaver, an organizer of the trip.
Through work projects and lending a helping hand, this group feels as though they made a difference. They add that even though this war has been fought for centuries, the people remain hopeful.
For more information on the trip, and to read personal accounts from the delegation, visit the International Center of Bethlehem's Web site at www.annaadwaa.org.