Today has been spent learning about the settlements in the West Bank. We started with a gentleman this morning who goes by the nickname Mikado (not explained to us). He gave us a current history of the settlements in and around Jerusalem, then took us on a tour of various locations. What he really wanted to get across to us is how the settlements are currently being structured. He took us to this gas station, really out in the middle of nowhere as an example. There were several hills around us. On top of three of them housing had been built. On a fourth, a commercial complex is being built. And we were in the gas station in the valley below. By building this way, hilltops, then one gas station in the valley, the settlers are laying claim to all the land in between. It is a lot of land – pretty much as far as the eye could see. The settlements are spread out this way to claim as much land as possible.

In the evening, we had a meeting with Gershom Gorenberg, an author and journalist, who has written an extensive history of the settlements, going back to 1947 and 1948. How all of this started and what the motivations were behind those first settlements is amazing. Our second speaker was turned away at the front desk. She is a former deputy speaker of the Israeli Knesset. When she arrived, she was told that there was no group at the hotel from Earlham College – even though we were in a conference room not 50 feet away. So she left – and we missed out on another perspective of the situation here.

News Muse note: Beth Sullivan is the bookkeeper for DisciplesWorld and has served as board member of the United Christian Missionary Society and the Disciples Divinity House at the University of Chicago. Sullivan is visiting Middle Eastern holy sites on a trip with her alma mater, Earlham College, located in Richmond, Ind.