The past two days, I’ve been alone for the first time in weeks.
I arrived in Madaba two days ago, after saying goodbye to my parents who came to visit me in Jordan. Before spending the past week with them, I did a roadtrip with my friends in the North of Israel and before that, I visited my friend Eyal in Beer-Sheva.
Many things have happened in the last weeks/months (or year, by that matter). It’s nice to take some time to be alone with myself for a few days, so that I can reflect on things…
Travelling is Israel has been a very weird experience for me, as it is undoubtedly for other people who have spent a long time in the West Bank. Nevertheless, it has been very fun and I don’t regret doing it. I think it is important to get a view of both sides, to understand the situation better. Jordan has been really fun too. Time to rewind a bit.
After saying goodbye to my dear friends in Nablus (and enjoying a last Kenafeh), I make my way down to Beer-Sheva, where lives a friend of mine that I have met last summer.
I fall asleep in the bus, and have the nice surprise to wake up with a beautiful view of the Negev desert. My friend is waiting for me at the bus station. After resting for a bit, he shows me his university, which seems like a pleasant place to study at. We have to go through security before entering, and my friend jokes: “See, we have our own checkpoints too…”
“The” political talk I wasn’t looking forward to but that was bound to happen soon arises, as it will several times during my stay. Although we agree on some topics, others just seem to be leading to endless talks. I won’t go to much in details, as I don’t want to provoke another one of these endless talks if he reads me… ( 😉 ) He also tells me about many Jewish traditions that he finds absurd, which reminds me a lot of the same absurdities on the other side.
Later on, we meet with one of his friends who is a really cool person. Though at one point, the conversation gets surreal for me; for some time, they share anecdotes from the army, that they did together for a bit. Stories between the same soldiers who point guns at me everytime I go through a checkpoint, who are daily dreaded by every single Palestinian, whose uncomfortable presence is felt all over the West Bank. And here they are, talking about in that light tone. I can’t really blame them; the army is part of everybody’s life, here. But gosh, it feels weird…
The next day, he takes me to the desert. We visit a lake and a crater before going for a swim in a spring. It is absolutely wonderful.
On the way back, my friend offers to give a ride back to the city to two settlers. By that, I mean Israeli citizens who chose to live or were born in one of the many illegal settlements in the West Bank. So, you can imagine that I am not totally at ease at that moment. In the car, my friend starts the conversation by telling them I have been living in the West Bank. That’s followed by a long conversation about the settlements, in which one of them states at one point that they were no Palestinians inhabiting the land before the creation of Israel, and that they only came to “get jobs”. That’s what they are taught in their schools. Once again, the conflict seems endless. The conversation leaves me with some tears in my eyes.
That night, we go bouldering. The guy who drives us there is a settler too, and he’s going back to the West Bank afterwards. The awkwardness is at its height…
After a few other beers and tense conversations that night, I’m starting to miss having people who share my points of view. The next day, I’m ready to meet my friends from Nablus, although I am really glad to have seen my friend again and spent a few days with him. I take a train and a bus that lead me to Nazareth, when the others (who were volunteers with me in Nablus) are waiting for me.
That’s when our epic road trip starts… In four days, we’ll drive to springs next to Bet She’an, before seeing the Galilea Sea, then through the Golan Heights, and along the coast, through Akko and Haifa, before going back to Nazareth.
Here are some highlights of the trip:
Camping next to the Sea of Galilea and enjoying the sunset
Visiting a kibbutz situated next to an old military base, where you can still see the trenches, with views on Syria and Lebanon
Staying in a yourte in the Golan Heights
Visiting an old Syrian village in ruins. Some Syrians also had to leave their homes.. You can still see bullet holes on the walls of the houses
Being so close to Lebanon, at the closed border between the two countries
Camping and swimming somewhere between Akko and Haifa, and discovering the next day that we were actually in a military area!
We also have our awkward moments talking with some Israelis, but generally meet really cool people. It’s an easy trap to fall into a very “black-and-white” pattern in this situation and it is important to acknowledge that things are not that simple. Everybody has different interests, but more importantly, everybody is in fear. And fear makes people irrational, on both sides, which just adds difficulty to finding solutions, in my opinion. That’s another problem: there are many, many different opinions, and without unity, it is difficult to make a change. Many Israelis are against the Occupation, many support it; some fight against it, some do nothing, and some encourage it. Many are against it but justify some of Israel’s violations of human rights with defence and security reasons. I don’t agree with it, but as I’ve been told many times, I haven’t grown up there, I can’t judge what I don’t know. Perhaps they are right, perhaps not. There’s no end to these thoughts…
Anyway, that part of the journey comes to an end, and I am ready to head to Jordan, where I am going to meet with my parents.
The border crossing goes fine, no questions asked, which is a relief. I join my parents in a hotel in Amman; I am so happy to see them!
Jordan is very similar to Palestine. The biggest difference I feel is something in the atmosphere; there’s more freedom in the air…
From Amman, we visit Jerash and Ajlun castle, up North.
We then head down to Petra. The first day, I get to ride up a mountain on a horse, it’s fabulous. We do a lot of hiking with my parents and on the last day, I watch the sunset with my new Bedouin friend. Petra is probably the most beautiful and fascinating place I’ve ever seen, and the photos don’t do it justice…
A couple of days at the dead sea, and this beautiful week is already over, sadly. I have really enjoyed travelling with my parents.
And now, I am alone, between worlds. My parents left me with a bit more of Switzerland in me, that coexists with the last impressions I’ve had of Israel, my presence in Jordan and of course, Palestine, and all the people that I miss there. I am supposed to cross the border again very soon, and I have no idea if Israel is going to let me in; if they learn I’ve spent three months in the West Bank, there’s no way they’ll accept me.
But for now, it’s nice to feel a bit freer again. I don’t have to care about the reputation of anybody, I don’t need to think to much about what’s “haram” (something forbidden by the religion) or not. I missed that. As much as I love Palestine, there’s not only good sides to it, and I recognize it. It’s an intense place that often gets to me deeply and it’s a lot to handle. Sometimes I’m not even sure it’s the best thing for me to go back. But it does feel like home, and I’d like to go home now. I have met some of the most incredible people in my life, I have been inspired every single day of my stay there. And I felt like my presence meant something. That’s important for me.
Anyway, I’m between different worlds, and this post is messy. I’m a bit confused, as you can read. Let’s see what the near-future has in store for me.