The Garden Tomb in Jerusalem is believed to be the site where Jesus was buried and resurrected however, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher has historically been the only location until around the 18th century.
As I come to the end of my two months in the West Bank, a common theme has been recurring in our discussions of our time here. I remember when I first arrived, I wanted to be THE person to solve the Israeli-Palestine conflict. My parents had to keep reminding me that I was here to learn and listen, not spearhead the end of the occupation. There was a sense of Western naivety and a touch of orientalism in my expectations. What could I possibly do that thousands before me haven’t already tried. You come here with a false sense of idealism, then a crushing helplessness followed by disillusionment. But now, I understand that coming here was mutually beneficial to the community and to myself. I will not exaggerate my involvement in the community, but I am hoping that I, a long with the other international students, was able to show our commitment to a just and free Palestine.
I am struggling with the prospect of going back and having to document my time in Israel and Palestine with my friends and family. I have seen and learned so much that deciding even where to start is a daunting task. I hope that I will be able to shed light on a conflict that is overshadowed by pundits and news outlets with their own political agendas. There are not enough documentaries, articles, news outlets or academics that can fully encompass the narrative of the Palestinians and Israelis. I strongly encourage everyone to come and see for themselves.
The lack of preservatives and high fructose corn syrup in food here has my body and taste buds thanking me. The family that I am staying with use fresh mint from their garden in our tea. When you go out to eat, hummus is made fresh. Fruit actually tastes and looks like fruit.I always found it disconcerting that fruit in the US always looked perfect. All the fruit I buy is locally grown in the West Bank, and delicious!
The hospitality and genuine kindess of everyone here. I have shared cabs with women and couples who have invited me into their homes to have tea. Once while I was looking for a restaurant, I asked an elderly women if she knew where it was and she offered for me to come eat with her family because they had “plenty of food” to share. If ever in the U.S. a stranger invited me into their home, no matter how sincere, my “stranger danger” rader would go off. If you have the chance to visit a Palestinian bakery, ask for one cookie, they’ll usually give it to you for free. No matter how many times you go back. Not that I would know…:)
That it is socially acceptable to eat hummus with every single meal, I’m not even exaggerating. And how my obsession with tea is highly encouraged and facilitated, I’m talking 5 cups a day…minimum.
As we approach the last full week of the program, we have managed to fit in one last overnight trip to Tel Aviv. Today, we had a free day to just relax, explore the city and bum out on the beach. The picture below is a view from my room in the hostel. We have a ground floor balcony that overlooks the beach. Tomorrow, we head to the outskirts of Tel-Aviv to learn more about the Arab villages that are legally unrecognised by the Israeli government. It’s going to be a very busy weekend but I’m looking forward to it.
I can hardly believe that I only have two weeks left here in the West Bank. As excited as I am to return to my family and friends, this has been an incredible experience that is ending too soon. Before I become too sentimental, I’ll mention some things I did during the past week.
‘Awful photo but I was able to attend a lecture, in Jerusalem, by Ilan Pappé the author of “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine” and “The Bureaucracy of Evil: The History of the Israeli Occupation”. He is an Israeli author, activist and historian who has been praised (by some) for his eye opening work relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Very informative talk!
A picture of me standing in the southern city of Hebron, West Bank. The street I am standing on has been completely evicted of stores (reasoning by the IDF below). A complete ghost town.What was fascinating about the road leading up to the settlements was there were lots of signs like the one above as if we were in a museum . This road is completely segregated. The right side of the road is Arab only and the left side is Israeli only. Foreigners could choose which side they wished to walk on. There were IDF soldiers on both sides enforcing this rule.
A picture of fencing covering the old city market in Hebron. Israeli settlers live above the market and have thrown trash, dirty water and other items onto people below.
Hundreds of students flooded the streets yesterday morning to celebrate the results of their high school examinations called “Tawjihi”. The exams cover 11 topics and are the deciding factor on whether they attend university or not. A 65% is considered a passing grade on this rigorous exam, but receiving anything below disqualifies you for university. I cannot imagine the immense amount of pressure high school seniors are under. It was great seeing the celebrations on my way to work. There is no way anyone could have gotten away with this in the U.S.
Today is the beginning of Ramadan! Ramadan is the Islamic holy month in which Muslims fast from sunrise to sundown every day. Since I am living with a Christian family, I will not have the opportunity to directly experience Ramadan. However, I have been invited by my friend’s families (who are Muslim) to take part in Iftar (the breaking of the fast at sundown). Seeing as the West Bank is predominately Muslim, Ramadan will undoubtedly shape day to day life from now on.
One interesting aspect about Ramadan is that they set the time back one hour only for this month, then change it back again at the end of the month. To me it makes sense, the weather is unbearable and having one less hour makes a huge difference. However, I have heard many non-Muslims complain about having to change the time. I even know one person whose office who will stay on non-Ramadan time. Israel obviously isn’t changing its time so I hope I will remember to keep that in mind when catching my flight in 3 weeks!!