Day 4. Yesterday the plan was to visit Jerusalem. We got up early so that, before we left the city, we could take photos of the Patriarch leaving the gate which Den painted.

“The police display is impressive, and the delegation’s cars are luxurious; these people really have money. There are as many cameras as there are weapons. Afterwards we meet up with the rest of the group and decide that a few of us will cross the check-point on foot. When we get there, they make us pass through in groups of 3 or 4. We put our things through the scanners, and they let us pass without a second glance. We’re fortunate to be tourists; it’s horrible here.”

“We leave and then catch a bus which takes us to the centre. We get off in front of the Damasus Gate, in the city’s old market. It’s huge, kind of similar to Madrid’s Rastro market, or Barcelona’s Els Encants market, but much bigger, with millions of people yelling at us, trying to sell their wares. On the other side is the Wailing Wall, and to get to it we have to go through another check-point. Once inside the impressive wall, some of the mysticism is lost to a wooden bridge which cuts through it. We walk up to it; the men and women who are here to pray are separated by their gender. It’s intense.”

“We want to see the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, but we can’t. The rest of the group had a mishap, and people have thrown stones at their bus. No one was injured, but we have to regroup. All together, we return to Belen, and begin to prepare for Christmas Eve. The Nativity square is packed full of people. On the roofs, snipers watch, making sure that no one acts up. We eat an uninteresting variation of what we’ve been eating all week. The night washes over us.”

“The morning afterwards, we head to a refugee camp, known as Aida. It’s a very depressing place, where at least five thousand people live. The paintings on the wall brighten up the place. On the wall’s gate, there is a colossal key, fit for the Guinness Book of Records, which represents the hope that the people here may return to their homes some day. All we want to do now is paint; let’s see if it’ll cheer us up.”

“The person in charge of the hotel wants us to paint the wall. This wouldn’t be very important, except for the fact that it belongs to Al-fatah. We paint the wall as soon as we finish eating. This time we do whatever we want to. Den paints the face of a child leaning against a wall, with ‘Amarillo Fiesta’, ‘Blanco’ and ‘Verde Luz’. Underneath, she paints a ‘Top Cat’ face in ‘Magenta’, ‘Amarillo Fiesta’, and ‘Verde Luz’, drawn over ‘Gris Lobo’. Makoh paints the upper part in ‘Verde Esmeralda’ and similar tones. Yubia and I paint the bottom part. She paints using ‘Verde Luz’, ‘Esmeralda’, and ‘Amarillo Canarias’. My piece, as always, is a party.”

Text: Musa. Pictures: Mambanegra.

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