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Published: November 29th 2010
In September I went to Israel/Palestine for a week.
Amanda and I, along with a Palestinian-American friend, took an overnight bus from Cairo to Taba. There we got off the bus and walked for about 10 minutes to the border which is where all the "fun" began! We waited in line forever - the security here might possibly be tighter than security for the U.S.! By the time we finally got to the immigration officials, as we had already talked to a few others, who would allow us in, we had already been there for about an hour and a half. Well, the Israelis don't like people with Lebanon and Syria stamps in their passports - both of which Amanda and I had - just like, if you have an Israeli stamp you're not allowed to enter Lebanon, Syria and many Gulf countries - which I now have..thanks SO much Israel - I asked them not to stamp it, which they can do, but they did it anyways...so now I'll have to get a new passport (even though I just got one before I left Qatar) if I wish to continue living in the middle east at the end of my program.
"You went to Lebanon?" - Israeli girl
"Yep" - me (obviously, I went there - there is a stamp in my passport isn't there?!)
"AND SYRIA?" - ridiculously young girl said again
"Yep" - Me (as though Israel is the center of the universe!!!)
"Come with me" - young girl, again, as she took my passport away to the head of immigration and I took a seat next to Amanda and Abe who were in front of me in line and had begun to wait - fyi - we had already been warned that we could have to wait up to 8-9 hours ebecause of those stamps. Apparently, us being American, Israel receiving more aid from the U.S. than ANY OTHER country in the world - aka - your tax dollars and mine (well, at least when I lived in the States) pretty much paying for the clothes these 18 year old immigration and military personnel are wearing and all the guns and security camers in the country - doesn't do anything to help you get through any easier. A few minutes later another ridiculously young girl (I should explain this "ridiculously young" part of my rant - all Israelis have mandatory service that they must serve so most of those serving this time are right out of high school "kids" who end up toting around guns all over the country) came out and called our friend's name - he got up and she proceeded to tell him that he was Not Allowed to enter into Israel. When he asked why, she replied, "The Ministry of Interior will not allow you to enter. To find out why you must go to a consulate." Abe, a Palestinian-American (born in the US with a US passport) was denied to visit his homeland - denied the right to see his family - his parents and siblings - that he has not seen since 2004. Amanda and I were in shock - more so me beacuse this was my 1st time and Amanda has been there before so she already knew what we would encounter. I couldn't believe it and I was just devestated because I can't imagine not being able to see my parents for that long - and not being "oh i can't afford a flight home or I don't have the time" but an actual inability to see my parents because of politics.
We had to take a taxi to Jerusalem because it was an Israeli holiday. Jerusalem was an amazing experience because 1) the biblical sites were just amazing and extremely emotional and touching to see: place of Jesus's birth/manger site, Mary's tomb, Temple Mount, Mount of Olives, stations of the Cross, site of the cross, etc. 2) you could feel the political situation in the Arab quarter - we even saw an Israeli man twist the arm of a lil Palestinian boy when he accidentally "crossed his path" while playing with a toy, the Palestinian men quickly surrounded him and the Israeli military guards quickly separated everyone. We also went to Bethlehem to see the Nativity church (site of manger), Ramallah and Hebron which are all in Palestinian territories. Our last night in Jerusalem we stayed with my friend Carolina, good friend from Argentina, who is now married to an Israeli. It was quite an experience staying with her as we got to experience the "other viewpoint" of the political situation.
Our last full day we spent floating around at the Dead Sea - highest salt content in the world - crazy experience floating around because you can't sink - no matter how big or small you just can't!
All in all, whatever you read/see in the news is nothing compared to whats really going on over there. We went to bed a number of times to sounds of guns but we were at least "safe" in our beds - what about those on the other side to whom those bullets are heading towards? Its a war zone and a place that everyone should see so that we can all advocate for the injustices that are occuring on a daily basis.
Check out the photos here:
Jerusalem and the Dead Sea:
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