being totally contained behind a giant wall, the west bank is like a different country, but even though it was much poorer and dilapitated it felt extremely safe.
this monk was getting quite frustrated continuously shooing the same people out from the roped off area where they insisted on getting their kids to kiss the baby jesus doll.
we then had a fantastic christmas dinner of falafel sandwich, hummus and mint tea. venturing 2 blocks away from the big churches, the tourist crowd fell to almost zero and we were in the middle of a mass of celebratory palestinians (a large fraction of palestine is christian) and being wished merry christmas left right and from behind.
on our way back to the checkpoint an older man named jebeel noticed us consulting our map and stopped. we asked "which way to jerusalem?" jebeel initially pointed, but then thought better of letting us out on our own and hailed us a taxi, paid for it and took us right to the checkpoint. to our surprise, he then pulled out his pass (most palestinians cant leave their own city) and after removing half his clothing and being fingerscanned with a crazy sci fi laser like device, escorted us through the checkpoint and jumped in a cab on the road which took us all the way to jerusalem. all this even though jebeel doesnt speak english and we couldnt even communicate!
in short, we love palestine and are enjoying israel more. the arab hospitality/inherent friendliness is tough to beat. hope you all had a good christmas.