The Pope arrived . . . on Monday, I think. With his visit, Israle mobilized 66,000 police officers and soldiers for his security. Can you believe that? 66,000! Because he is staying next door, the south side of our building and grounds were taken over by Israeli soldiers, and a headquarters of sorts (I'm sure there are more and bigger ones elsewhere) was set up inside of our center, in one of our southernmost rooms. Whew. There are soldiers everywhere. They block off the streets that the Pope is to use several hours before and one after he uses them, so every time he moves, basically the whole city is at a standstill for three or more hours and students outside the center can't get back in unless they go all the way around the block, which is quite large, basically around and up a small mountain.
I was watching the sun go down on the terrace with Brad (and a few Israeli soldiers) when I looked down for a moment and saw a commotion on a side street about two hundred yards away, about one hundred yards from the lower gate of the center. It was riveting, for me: A group of twelve or so Palestinian men (I couldn't really tell their ages, but none of them were younger than 16 or 17, I think) ran toward the street blocked by Israeli soldiers. I did not see why. Ten or eleven soldiers formed a barrier, and a great deal of pushing and shoving started, followed by a great deal of shouting. The groups sort of broke away from each other as the Palestinians backed away, and then someone shouted something I assume was very rude and provocative, and the soldiers began moving up the sidestreet, about ten or fifteen yards, pushing all of the men back and yelling at them. One Palestinian man tried to hit a soldier and was immediately beaten and patted down. He was released, and another younger man started kicking a soldier. He was likewise beaten down and then arrested. It looked as though they drove him away. The groups parted, and the soldiers stayed where they were.
My heart aches to see the conflict in this land. Politically, I have no opinion as of yet as to the justice of each sides' claims, I am reserving making that opinion until I live here for several months and learn what is really going on here, for myself. Theologically speaking, I believe each of the sides are the sons of Abraham and are all entitled to the blessing of living in this land. There are good people on both sides, trying to live according to their faith and tradition, and it is just heartwrenching to see the animosity first hand.
But alas, such is life, until we fix it.
Governor Huntsman of Utah spoke to us on Tuesday, and his message was pretty inspiring. He talked of optimism and hope and faith in the next generation and the people in the room. He answered a good question about his support for homosexual domestic unions very well and did not evade as much as many politicians do. He was very personable, and I got to speak to him alone for a minute or so in my capacity as a host for the center, which was fun. His entourage was great; we split each of his staff up at dinner time and had each of the twenty-five or so eat with students. It was a lot of fun, and I learned a lot. I know very little about the governor, I am much more involved with CA politics than I am with Utah politics, so it was nice to know more about the government of the state that I went to school in.
Life is good. Two midterms this week; one of them is tomorrow. Hoorah.