8.2. Bethlehem – Separation Wall – Palestine










‘Separation barrier’, ‘West Bank barrier’, ‘Apartheid Wall’ or ‘security fence’? // Food for thought: “Although the graffiti artists felt that they were making a statement with their pieces to bring attention and help to the Palestinians, many Palestinians feel that it turns the wall into something beautiful… a work of art instead of an aggressive prison Wall”



p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica; min-height: 14.0px}
p.p2 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica}

I find it interesting that there’s a Banksy shop here. It did attract my attention though, as a tourist. I was tempted to purchase the magnet. 















p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica; min-height: 14.0px}
p.p2 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica}

Frankly, it’s all too easy for countries to stand on the path that says ‘no’ to the wall – we are not the ones who may be implicated, who bear the consequences of otherwise. Is it fair for me to say… it’s easier to play the victim, and it’s easier to take sides with the victim? We stand behind our screens and wave ‘no!’ but we aren’t the ones living the lives here, with the real fears and concerns for their lives. I suppose I feel this way perhaps because well, statistically it seems, terror attacks did fall significantly after the wall, and I saw a video of the random stabbing which may have influenced my perception. This may also be amplified by how I felt when walking around Jerusalem – I would have wanted the wall, and the security checks, to ensure my safety. I am glad for it. Why? Is it because I distrust the other side as well, and I fear terror attacks too? Is it because I am influenced by my hosts? Is it because of the media? Is it because of the contrast I felt in the levels of development between Jordan and Israel? Education? And the fact that I did read about the suicide attacks? Perhaps all these factors did shape my views. I understand the rationale for the wall, though the implications are indeed problematic and in a sense, unfair to the other side. How do you reconcile the trust? Who knows? I briefly wonder if I’ll live to see the day the walls get torn down, reminds me of events like the fall of the Berlin Wall, and other walls around (apparently in Cyprus the Greece/Turkey North-South border has one). 
























p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica}

I remember the man who offered to drive us to the checkpoint. He was pretty well-dressed, a car that looked new and big, and an expensive camera. I asked if he was taking photos as a tourist. He said he was Palestinian, and was taking the 360 degrees photo around Bethlehem; we could check it out on 360degrees.ps. I find myself caught by stereotypes of Palestinians I suppose. I had assumed he was a tourist, I thought he worked for some media outlet in taking photos. Well it could be that he doesn’t live in Bethlehem and perhaps other cities, but it’s also a reminder to myself that Palestinians are not a single identity nor social class, they are also in other parts of the world, with their own hobbies, and not solely the image of foreign-aid recipients I had found myself drifting towards. 




Thank you to Khader for Banksy-graffiti spotting with us!

Advertisements

8.1. Mar Saba Monastery, Bethlehem, Palestine

It’s been more than half a year since Bethlehem, Palestine. As I look at these pictures again, I am sometimes slightly surprised at how time flies, and these remain fresh in my memories, yet somewhat foreign. Sometimes I catch myself thinking – wow I was really there?

We met Khader, whom I contacted the night before, and arranged to meet outside of the Church of the Nativity. We split the petrol cost and he drove us to one of his favourite places – Mar Saba Monastery! I had read about it somewhere, and was open to any place anyway. It was lovely to have been there, we likely wouldn’t have visited it if we were on our own.

driving along the Judean desert

Tada – the desert monastery

We didn’t enter though, but took a short hike around the area.

‘Saba was further influential in reshaping the customs and living habits of the monks, and the monks of Mar Saba are reputed to live an especially strictly regulated life. Until today women are not allowed to enter the main compound and have only access to one building, referred to as the Women’s Tower.’



^ Hmm. Khader might have explained this, so we didn’t enter.


As I revisit these photos and look at this long empty stretch of road ahead, I think to myself: what if? What if we had been driven to a deserted land? In this vast and foreign space, calling out wouldn’t save us. But I left the contact with my sister, so I did have a backup plan. Of sorts.

But I’d say we were in good hands. If we had more time, we’d probably head to Jericho with Khader and his family. Someday, perhaps – you really never know.

The word Sumud ( in Arabic: ‫صمود‬‎‎) means “steadfast perseverance” and resilience. Our Palestinian friend from CS shows us around. He hopes we spread the word about the beauty Palestine has to offer to its visitors. ‘What do you think is one thing special about Palestine?’ I ask. He thinks for awhile. ‘The thing about Palestinians is that we never give up. We never give up.’
 

 

8. Crossing over to Bethlehem, Palestine

Palestinian flag in the distance
wah
 
Khader is a hairdresser in Palestine. He was very chatty, very bubbly and reminded me of some friends. Laughed readily. Oh right, reminds me of Russell, a little bit. Hahahahaha. Actually I quite like chatty people, that way I feel less awkward / tired (self-conjured). Heh
We took a bus from Jerusalem
It was pretty easy, we basically followed http://wikitravel.org/en/Bethlehem#Get_in and asked some locals, who readily directed us to the bus stop from the tram station at Damascus Gate
On the tram we spoke to an Israeli man who’s jumped off a plane and parachuted so, so many times in the dark from his army training
such friendly people, no wonder i have good feelings about Israel 🙂
Upon reaching the bus station in Bethlehem, there were many taxi touts that offered us tours around Bethlehem – sites readily accessible by cars. We said no, and walked. I did read that tourism is a key source of income in Bethlehem. A part of me feels somewhat guilty, sometimes, knowing that I am probably more well-off and in a far better position than any person here, and that this sum may mean less to me than his income of the day. Nonetheless I didn’t want a tour, and would rather walk around by myself instead. There are probably so many tourists everyday, and many other places / developing countries where others are worse off, I contemplated.
We walked for at least half an hour, trying to find our way. Kind locals helped us to find the Nativity Church, while I tried to navigate using the Google Maps offline.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was rather nervous when I first crossed over to Palestine, examining the streets of a border I’d seen on the news quite often. Everyone went about their daily routines. The Christmas lights (sponsored by the UN, a sign suggested) lit up the streets. Outside the Church of the Nativity, we took a last picture before we walked back to the bus stop (asked for directions) and found our ways back home.

 

7.1. Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem

Jerusalem is an interesting city. At this point, I have read many Wiki articles on it. Contested as the capital.

A Canadian tourist who believed he was the Biblical Sampson and tried to tear stone blocks out of the Western Wall, a Christian tourist who tried to burn down the al-Aksa Mosque. Oren tells us about the ‘Jerusalem Syndrome’ – Sufferers are afflicted with the delusion that they are characters from the Bible, the Torah, the Koran or some messianic figure. Here’s the only city in the entire world held sacred by all three major religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. No wonder the Israeli authorities take ‘Jerusalem Syndrome’ seriously.




Oren told us about King David and Jesus and Judaism and the Torah and religion in general. I find it hard for me to retain these information, and if you asked me to repeat them I can’t. At the Chuch of the Holy Sepulchre, It’s interesting how this must be such an amazing sight and experience for the Christians, and yet for me… It was.. nothing much. What I care to appreciate is the way they responded to a stone. The place where Jesus was supposedly buried. To them, it must be ‘wow’ and they must feel a surge of emotions. For me, it was ‘oooh, okay’. But if I saw a volcano however, I would be completely in awe. It’s the sense that the things we read about the study about are actually real, and coming so close to that.

The Holocaust museum (Yad Vashem) was also really interesting. I’ve been to a couple now, Germany and Poland and Anne Frank’s House and this. This was extensive, it explored the different concentration camps then, and talked about the Jewish Resistance Movement which I was not aware about from the other museums. It also drew links to the establishment of the state. Land of Israel. Eretz Israel. The Jewish stereotypes were mean, can’t believe they were printed on games and cups and stuff. 😦
We spent some hours there.


In order to enter the Dome of the Rock, we had to go through some security scanning.

 

 

 

photos photos photos

 

 

7. Jerusalem, Israel

One of the oldest and holiest cities in the world.

What I learnt today: In a place steeped in history, the past is much intertwined with the present. Oren, our Israeli host shares: 2 years ago they planned to build a new tram line. In the midst of the transport project, they found a coin from the times of Alexander the Great when digging underground. Before long, they called in a team of experts to conduct greater archeological research and excavation in the area. 2 years on… the line is still under construction.

Shabbat Shalom!

‘This blessing gives thanks for the Sabbath, a day of rest, and recalls the importance and holiness of resting

In accordance with the Jewish calendar, the Sabbath begins on Friday evening at sunset and ends on Saturday night with the appearance of three stars

All Jewish denominations encourage the following activities on Shabbat:

Spending time with other Jews and socializing with family, friends, and guests at Shabbat meals (hachnasat orchim, “hospitality”). The customs associated with Shabbat are many and varied. First and foremost, it is a day of rest, on which all productive work is forbidden. According to Jewish law, any activity connected with fire is forbidden, and religious Jews do not turn electricity on or off on Shabbat and do not travel. Many other Jews, who define themselves as traditional (and who are moderately religious), also partially avoid traveling, using electricity or performing other types of productive work. Many of them do not answer the telephone on Shabbat.

Shabbat is a time with no television, no rushing to the demands of the telephone or a busy work schedule.

People don’t think about work or other stressful things.

It’s an oasis of calm, a time of stillness in life.

The idea of a day of rest comes from the Bible story of the Creation: God rested from creating the universe on the seventh day of that first week, so Jews rest from work on the Sabbath.’

Street called the United Nations – ‘until we fell out and then we changed it to (some Zion name)’

 

 

6. Rimonim, Israel

​20 minutes away from Jerusalem, we are invited to a Shabbat dinner with a group of Israeli students in the contested settlement of (West Bank) Rimonim. We heard many stories tonight but this one stayed with me: One stormy night it was raining heavily on her way home; she drove past this Arab and really wanted to stop to offer a ride. It could be a nice person, a genuinely good person, she knows. ‘But the thing is we have heard stories and you never know for sure. I feel bad thinking about it – I want to help, but at the same time, I’m afraid, and I can’t.’

‘And these stories are not like last year, they’re last month or two months ago.’

Parallels the guilt in the voice of the security guard – he doesn’t want to check them that way, he tries to explain its for security but he feels bad Everyday, for Arabs that get angry

presents for soldiers in schools, placed in a box – ‘All my current underwears are from the last war in Gaza’

‘Forget what the tv and the movies tell you. It’s not for the country, the religion, etc. In reality the only reason why a soldier would go forward to fight and confront the enemy is when they see their friends get hurt.’

Arabic as official second language but not really – more of English

Rimonim wasn’t quite part of the plan. I didn’t expect it to be this little town(? place? settlement.) pretty far from Jerusalem, with no clear transport but I really love how CS brought us to it. It made for good memories because of the interesting conversations with university students. I felt that it was here with Eres and friends that I learnt more deeply about the conflict and their perspectives.

 
At Rimonim, we witnessed Shabbat (how lucky!) and I’m amazed at how they can do this every week. Set aside time for sleep, time for rest. Then again it does seem like they sleep pretty late in general, my hosts. I mean, isn’t 10pm preparing for bedtime already? Hahaha. Hmm I wonder if it’s a cultural thing or if I’m over thinking, I should ask heh. 
The guilt in the Arab-Israeli security / apprehension 


Animal ethics. Learnt a little more about the contested settlements. Going past the checkpoint. Seeing the Palestinian taxi with its green plate for the first time, how it headed to the other direction where it was allowed. I asked if Israelis are allowed to enter. I would personally be scared / afraid, but apparently some Israelis went into the Palestinian areas to buy groceries because it’s cheaper. 

thank you, Eres and friends 🙂

 

5. Eilat, Israel (Red Sea)

Crossed from Aqaba to Eilat
At Aqaba we shopped for dead sea products, bidding our last Jordanian city goodbye.
The kind shopkeeper who offers us tea mentions that tourism in Jordan has fallen significantly ever since the Arab Spring (2010); ‘people either don’t come, or those who come have little money’ (like us 😛). Can’t help wondering about those who work in the travel industry. As we cross over to Israel, I feel thankful for all the beauty Jordan has offered in our encounters, and the warmth of the Arab hospitality.
Reached Eilat in the evening. Amitay picked us up from the border. Ate falafel for dinner – our first meal in Israel.
Noted the structured layout of the streets, the neatly drawn zebra crossing, the clean photographs placed at the border checkpoint as we crossed over. Notable enough.

Hello to the Red Sea!

Snorkelling within the spreading center of the diverging African and Arabian Plate.
 Known for its rich biodiversity, thriving coral reefs, and clear waters year-round, it gets its name from the rich population of algae that apparently give the waters a red tinge 


weird people who were stupid enough to NOT have brought a towel, when going to snorkel on a WINTER’S DAY

at night we talked about… many interesting things – about sunsets and dust that made some more colourful than others, about other random things I never really asked or had an answer to
we talked in the dark, and then we slept
we had those tea in wine cups
we ate some chips
we slept


Haven’t been writing much this trip, though I feel that I learn quite a bit everyday. A little disappointed with myself in a sense.
Talked to Amitay – fishing, caning (cultural), YouTube videos and learning, why sunset nicer than sunrise (particles in the air reflect light), figuring out the plate boundaries while we lie in the darkness.
Pablo Escobar and the one hour lecture on the animal ethics thing – ask eres!!
Sabbath –

 —
skydiving



when you pay $500 and refuse to look at what you pay for……. LOL
kidding, wouldnt have missed the view for anything

Eilat – skydiving. Free-falling. I was nervous on the plane. But at the same time I knew I was mentally prepared. I thought about the Vietnamese-Danish girl I met who said she wasn’t scared at all because she was like, thinking about it for too long already. And the NZ girl who got it as a birthday present. I tried to mentally prepare myself, but still I felt my nerves jumping. I was excited and anxious on the plane, but at the same time a wave of calmness gripped me when I saw just how beautiful it was – the blue of the sea, the sand of the land, the little structures that grew tinier. I was in awe. It was absolutely beautiful. The undulating desert and its terrain. We went higher. I wish I could take more photos with my eyes. I wanted to remember it.
And then the plane door opened and my heart jumped again. I grinned for the camera and laughed, an outward expression of my release of anxiety. Goodbye Lyn, I thought to myself as she disappeared. After awhile we went to the edge, where I tried to stick my long legs out. Got a little stuck, so I was occupied with adjusting and didn’t think about the height, and after I was adjusted and my feet were dangling, shortly after we  f e l l 
f
e
   l
      l
   .
 . 
    .
   .
It felt like… falling. Haha, yeah such an attempt to describe it. Falling in a way that I can’t stop. I shouted until I was tired of shouting – it requires energy to scream, really. The cold of the wind. And then the parachute opens and we slowed. That part was lovely and beautiful. I was safe, I felt safe. We hovered over Jordan – he was going to bring me there, he said. We swung that way. ‘We’re in Jordan now!’ he says. I laugh, but briefly wondered if I would get shot by the military. Hahaha. We swung back. He pointed out to me the various areas – this, that, …
And when I landed I felt so happy. So happy because I did it, hurray. 🙂
I’m really glad I did. 
Was it scary? Many things related to fear is largely in the mind. 
The fear of danger is 100x scarier than the actual fearful experience in itself – that spanish quote i read about before.

p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica; min-height: 14.0px}
p.p2 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica}

4. Wadi Rum, Jordan



Wadi Rum was one of my favourite parts of the trip, because of the many natural landscapes we got to see.


I liked seeing the camels, and the lonely olive tree.
there is it
i like the scrambling up the rocks
the view of how tiny everything can be from a larger perspective

i liked the running up of the dunes


camels

another siq


rock climbing up, to receive unexpected pictures

rocks






sunset


Khazali Canyon – a deep fissure in the red sandstone Khazali Mountain. 
Over time the beautiful shapes were formed by wind and rain.



I suddenly recall the events that took place. We had shared a ride with the Slovakian girls to Wadi Rum. The moment we got off at Wadi Rum the many guides came to us; the Slovakian girls got a really good price compared to what we were offered by the hostel. We thought of cancelling the booking with Beduland Camp Wadi Rum but our host convinced us that this good price would probably pose greater danger to them / exclude some things / different from our tour. Later in the evening it turns out these girls were at the same camp as us………… seems like they all actually operate in the same camp, first-price discrimination perhaps. Theirs even included dinner.


Note to self: Try not to pre-book. I should have known actually, hmm. 


Wadi Rum was great. We met Georgia who was heading to Beirut. Now that it’s been planted in my head, I would like to visit Beirut someday. 

p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica; min-height: 14.0px}
p.p2 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica}

At night, I was so tired I didn’t feel like talking at all. I wanted to lie in the bed under my comforter, quiet. When we finally reached the room I remember feeling so relieved, and it brings to mind the time in Bolivia, when I had the whole room to myself and it feels SO GOOD. Times like this just brings so much comfort. I finished reading When Breath Becomes Air in the cold, and slept.