There are two kinds of people in Israel: those who are excited to visit the West Bank and those who would absolutely never visit there! While it’s not allowed for Israelis without a second passport to visit, most of them would never visit. The responses I get when I tell them about it are typically …Why??? And Oh my gosh, why would you do that? No one was intrigued and wanted to know what I thought about it. People here are frightened to death about visiting.
When I visited Palestine the first time a year ago, I felt an incredible calm that was completely unexpected. “Isn’t it unsafe? Isn’t it unsafe especially for Jews?” I entered with those ideas and found something completely unexpected. Why did I feel so calm? Why did it feel so peaceful? Why was I not experiencing the fear that I held in my mind previously? Instead of the terrorists, I met people with helping hands, generous offerings, and large smiles. Instead of bitterness and hatred, I met kids with bright laughs, curious questions, and bounding spirits. I met people who lost land, piece by piece over time. Palestinians with many generations of family living in one area, deep and interconnected roots, had to move and they’ve not be allowed back yet. They pray for the return and strongly believe it will happen. As it is now, in Palestine, I saw homes bulldozed multiple times. When they rebuild, they’re deemed illegal and dozed again. Who wants me to believe that these are the fearsome people I learned about? “Ah yes, but there are good people and bad people in every group.” I hear that all the time. But it’s always said about “them”, about the other, never about us, our own people. We’re the good people and we’re just trying to handle the bad ones. Meanwhile if the good ones over there are crushed in the process, well, is that the price for maintaining peace for us, the good ones? And what about the “bad ones” here? What about the good ones there? The more I learned about people’s thoughts, the less value I found they held.
I thought Palestine would be a fun trip. The first time I visited a year ago, I was taken aback to find it was still, calm, and peaceful. I felt it in the air. I saw it in the people. It was everywhere. For the record, Palestine is safe.
I was thrilled about this trip for days before going. When I got there, I felt heartbroken for the first few hours. The wall cuts through villages like a blunt soldier who’s just “following orders.” The wall is gross, obtrusive, and a huge annoyance. 9m high and a constant reminder that those inside are despised. This is not the path to peace.
Palestine is beautiful land. The highways are excellent. They’re new, direct, and very easy to access. Except that they’re for Jews only. Palestinians must drive on the side roads which are not in good condition. They are second-class citizens in their own land like the help who feeds the masters and eats the leftovers in the kitchen.
Palestine is also Biblically cultural. The site of Jesus’ birthplace in Bethlehem is massively touristy and is full of tour groups like Jerusalem or any other major tourist site. Rachel’s Tomb, however is blocked from general access. Rachel from the Bible is Jacob’s favorite wife. While I can see it would take a few minutes to walk it, it’s actually takes an hour to get there by car and foot. The 50m journey takes an hour. Why? Because Jews must enter from Jerusalem and pass through security checkpoints.
There is no plan for peace. Watch. There are water storage tanks, massive tanks that site on the house. Water is controlled by the Israeli government as are all utilities in Israel and Palestine. Palestinians buy water from their land from the Israeli government. They buy it once ever one-three weeks and must ration it. Forget to buy or run out early? No problem. You can buy extra from the settlers who get their water (from your land) first and get water on demand 24/7.
I thought peace was the goal. I felt this goal nowhere. Palestine is safe. But there is no enduring peace. I would challenge you to tell me otherwise after going to see it for yourself.
I met Palestine head on and found no rudeness or unkindness. Instead, I found a world of people war weary and tired from endless tears. I walked in a land of people that just want autonomy, self-rule and a return. I saw and I cried. I felt and I lost my ideas. I had my ideas and after I visited, I felt clarity, compassion, respect, and honor for all the people who live here.
I don’t want to tell you what’s right and who’s right. All I wish for everyone who is curious is that they visit and find out what’s the truth for themselves. You’ll not be unchanged, I can promise you that.
All you are is very important. What you are is perfect. Leave no stone unturned.