Date: Mon, 12 Oct 2009 07:59:46 -0400
Subject: [ThePeaceCycle] TPC Cyclists Update: Day One

Day One
Saturday 11 October

Today the cycling starts! We headed out of Amman in convoy with a police escort, and down a busy main road through the dry and dusty landscape. It was a gentle start, and a good way to get mechanical teething problems sorted out!

Once everything was running smoothly, we pedaled in the sunshine with brown soil and occasional fields of olive and walnut trees by the road.

25km out of Amman is the Madaba camp, home to 30,000 of the 750,000 palestinians who still live in refugee camps more than 60 years since the Nakba (the creation of the Israeli state in 1948). We were met in the Alvada club; a three story building that provides sports and recreational facilities especially for young people. This didn’t seem significant at first, but then we realised there is nowhere else in the camp where activities can be put on for young people. It is badly short of money.

The president of the camp warmly greeted us, and told us about the camp before we had some lovely door and were shown around the camp itself. Because it started as a tent camp and the current breezeblock houses are built on the same sites, it is badly overcrowded and often dangerously built. But there was a fun and friendly feeling to it, with children everywhere and a market atmosphere.

The Jordanian government has provided basic facilities, but the 50-year old school is a UN one with 1,400 children taught in two shifts. The two teachers we met were from the camp – both hold M.A. Degrees and both are incredibly dedicated. They recently were unpaid for 6 months, and there have been no new textbooks or notebooks because of the UN financial crisis.

We were invited impromtu to the presidents house (a very modest building) to drink very sweet mint tea and talk to his mother. She and her family had fled Palestine at gunpoint in 1948 when she was 8 years old. An Israeli settlement has now been built illegally over that house and land. This seemed particularly poignant as among our group is Alexandra Darby, who happens to be 8 years old. She is Middle East Envoy Tony Blair’s niece. It is probably impossible for her to comprehend the story of this elderly lady, who at the same young age lost her home and everything she owned, and also lost part of her childhood.

We boarded a bus back to Amman, but stopped off at the Nebo mountain where apparently God showed Moses the promised land. Today, I wonder who thinks they were promised what and by whom?

The Peace Cycle 2009 is cycling from Amman to Jerusalem to call for justice and peace in Israel and Palestine.
For more information see www.thepeacecycle.com