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Wi’am is a reconciliation center in Bethlehem supported by a Swedish group. It offers  several community programs, including activities for children on Fridays, which is a holiday in Palestine. And a double holiday the Friday we were there because the Orothodox  Christians, of which there are many in Palestine, celebrate Christmas this weekend.

Outside in the courtyard where we would be spending the morning with the children, we were shown the purple and white flowers at the entrance. And the olive tree decorated for Christmas. The flowers were white but during the recent troubles, they turned purple from the tear gas. Decorating the tree are shells and cans of tear gas, tied to the tree with red ribbon. But most heart-stopping is the Israeli wall that is the backdrop to the playground and defines the lives of these Palestinian children.

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About 70 children came. We told a story with the puppet and then did crafts, snacks and spent time on the playground. We brought soccer balls, which they don’t get to play with often. We left several with them. The staff at Wi’am (it means Come and See) tries to keep the grass in the playground green because it is the only green space most of the children get to play in. Many of the children speak English, especially the older ones, and our young people spent much of the time talking about music groups and video games with them. There were exchanges of emails, the last photos taken and as the morning ended, we said our farewell.

The Wi’am staff prepared a wonderful lunch of local cuisine. We love the Palestinian hospitality!