I’m on the plane that is going to Tel Aviv. I am stressed.
I am about to spend three months in Palestine. Yes, yes, in Palestine. Some people think I’m crazy. Maybe they are right, I don’t know. In fact, I don’t really realize what’s waiting for me, I prefer not to think about it. I know that reality is never really as we imagine, so try not to imagine it.
Besides, that’s not why I am nervous. It is the passage of the airport that stresses me: this is what happens when you spend too much time on the internet reading stories of people who need to stay more than five hours in an interminable interrogation about the reasons of their presence, after which some are sometimes sent back to their country. Israel, I’ve been told, has the best intelligence services in the world. The best. And I’m supposed to go through their customs, lying completely on the reasons for my stay. I even bought a plane ticket outside of the country for a cheap price, so that my story holds water. I have prepared an itinerary, and I’ll give them the name of my Israeli friend that I plan to visit.
That’s it, the crucial moment has arrived. The air is warmer, here. The wait is rather long at the passport control, which gives me time to imagine the worst scenarios in my head. Yet, once in front of the smiling woman who takes my documents, things are much easier than expected. She asks me a few questions: “Why are you here? Where are you going ? Do you know anyone? Where did you meet him? “. And now, a few seconds later, I am free, a huge smile on my face. I passed the first level.
I make my way to the hostel where I booked a night, after taking a train to the center of the city. The place is a pleasant surprise: there are plenty of travelers from all around the world, the atmosphere is very nice and warm. Within a few hours, I meet and talk with many new people, and I even go for a meal with a small group in order to celebrate one of the guys’ birthday. Prices are high, it surprises me. At one point, we talk about our projects, and I decide to be honest: I mention to them that I’m about to go to Palestine. An American replies: “You mean,” Palestine” “, clearly miming the quotation marks with his fingers. Someone else adds quickly, ” Let’s not start talking about politics. ” I agree, I remain silent.
Later, I have the opportunity to talk with an Australian citizen. He has Jewish origins, he came here for a tour. Our exchange is very interesting, because we differ a little, but we can agree on one essential point: we are on the side of peace.
So I leave the next morning, grateful for these encounters. Things are getting serious for me. I go to the station where I take a shared taxi to Jerusalem. I hardly have the time to see the splendor of this city that I have to go and take another bus, to Ramallah this time. I will have to come back. We soon arrive at the Israeli-Palestinian border, I am fascinated and scared at the same time. There are so many soldiers, barbed wires. The bus has a special permit, it bypasses the line of vehicles, which surprises me; no one will check my passport. I see a sign: “The entry for Israeli citizens is prohibited. Dangerous for your lives and against the law. “, several times. On the other side, I can see graffitis on the wall separating the two sides, one attracts my attention: “One wall, two jails.”
Last change in Ramallah, to Nablus this time. The whole trip lasts three hours. The locals are all super friendly and help me a lot to find my way. When I get there, a taxi drops me outside the premises of “Project Hope”, the association that I will work with here. I am greeted warmly by members of the group, who introduce themselves and welcome me. Tawfiq, who is in charge of me for now, makes me sign some papers before taking me on a tour of the surroundings. He shows me the old town, a few steps away, where churches and mosques coexist. As we stroll the charming streets where the various local markets are, he tells me some stories about our cultural differences, and talks about the local specialities. We stop to enjoy “Kanafeh”, a kind of pastry made with cheese and honey. It is delicious. Tawfiq takes me to the main intersection of the town, and explains that the protests are often held here. We hear military planes fly over us, he tells me that it is the Israelis. He discusses several details such as the distribution of water, which is equivalent to 1 liter for the Palestinians against 50 for the Israelis. I still can’t get the extent of the situation, but I am shocked to learn, when he shows me the city from the balcony of his office, that in the top of the mountain overlooking Nablus is an Israeli military base, ready to open fire at any time. He also points me refugee camps around the city, one of them in which he lived until he was 20 years. He explains that he has not had the chance to receive an education, as a child, and he wants to give it to the future generation.
The girls apartment is on the lower level of the building, and my roommates have finally arrived after a day of work. I meet the team: the girls are from France, the Netherlands, England, Germany and the USA. The atmosphere is great, all the girls are very friendly and make me feel immediately at home. There are also male volunteers staying in another building, and I will have the opportunity to meet them later.
But for now, I still have to follow one of my online university class before diving into the arms of Morpheus. The day was long. I’m already starting to fall in love with this place …