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July 2004
Diary of an artist in Bethlehem
Children protest at Ayda Refugee camp.
Children protest at Ayda Refugee camp - a picture by a Palestinian child.
Leicestershire artist Paul Gent is spending the summer in Palestine working with families whilst creating some stunning art - read his diary.
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Paul Gent is an artist from Leicestershire who has travelled to Palestine to work with families and children

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Sunday 04 July

I went to Abu Dis today, a Palestinian village to the west of Jerusalem. Not expecting to need a passport for the 10k journey, I was surprised to come across two checkpoints.

The first one was simply a Land Rover and a few soldiers preventing the majority of Palestinians from reaching their destinations.

Instead of showing signs of irritation, the Palestinians sat around in groups, as if they were there for a picnic. My service taxi was sent back and I had to negotiate with a soldier to let me through.

I could of taken the invitation from some Palestinian young men, with towels and T-shirts on their heads to protect them from the sun, to trek across the semi-desert hills to avoid the checkpoints.

I decided to use the power of my passport that I had left at home. 'But I don't know who you are' said the soldier irritated, but he soon let me through as I wasn't showing any signs of returning back to Bethlehem.

The elderly Palestinian man with identification, who was in front of me in the queue, was still being questioned as I made my way up the hill.

A service taxi soon picked me up and after another checkpoint, I reached Abu Dis. The best way to describe the small town of Abu Dis is 'Berlin'. A local man greeted me as I arrived and invited me to sit down in the shade.

'The wall has cut our village in two, I have family on the other side and I can't see them. When the wall is finished I won't be able to even look at them, it is a prison here. It is like the Berlin wall, but two metres higher," said the man.

The wall has already got graffiti on it, as Abu Dis is a popular spot for international protest. I have considered the idea of a large mural covering the full 687 kilometres of the partition wall, but somebody warned me that to make the wall look beautiful might contradict the effort of those fighting against it.

Paul Gent

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