Hello Dear Readers!
I know you’ve all been waiting with bated breath for this post. Who doesn’t want to visit Palestine? (Don’t answer that).
I signed myself up for a couple different tours during the week, one of which was a day trip to both Bethlehem and Ramallah. Now, there is a way to get to Bethlehem via bus or taxi from Jerusalem, but as a single female (I know I say that a lot), I didn’t feel especially safe just wandering the country alone. Thus, I joined up with Green Olive tours, which I would highly recommend.
My tour mates were a German family of five, whose youngest was still in a baby carrier. I have no idea what they were doing there, but they seemed pretty stoked to be on vacation.
The day started early, meeting at 08:30am to start the drive outside the city. Originally, we were supposed to head to Bethlehem first and then Ramallah, but our tour guide switched it up so we made our way to Ramallah first.
It’s an interesting place. I’m assuming most of you have heard buckets of things about it. For those of you who haven’t, it serves as the de facto capital of the Palestinian state. Because of this, I was envisioning some dystopian nightmare, where electricity was nonexistent and trash drifted freely through the city.
To my complete surprise, it wasn’t like that at all. It was actually pretty…well…nice. Most of it is new (since it is constantly being rebuilt), and once inside it functions much like a regular city. In fact, it reminded me greatly of Amman, minus the Palestinian flags flying everywhere.
Nationalism is strong here.
Our tour guide was obviously an Arab, so I spent most of the time chatting with him (half in Arabic, half in English) as we wandered the streets of the city. We walked through a busy street market and wended our way about town, eventually stopping for some 10am ice cream at an apparently famous shop.
Yes, it was delicious.
We also saw Yasser Arafat’s grave, which is given a place of honor in the middle of Ramallah’s capital building.
Pause for a moment here. As you have probably all figured out, much of what I know about the Middle East comes from an Arab perspective. And yes, I’ve studied a lot in college and done a lot of research, etc, but still- most things I know come tinted with the taste of Arab culture.
So, it was a shock to me when I learned that Yasser Arafat is considered a terrorist by many- and most especially by Israelis. This may sound obvious to some of you, but the only things I’d ever heard were praises singing of his desire for deconflicting the Israel-Palestine situation and his efforts to create a solution for the both of them. Upon learning this, I went online to look- and yes- there it was, his history as a supporter of violence and his youth spent battling Israel. Of course, this all culminated in his recognition of Israel as a state and his further efforts to create some peace…but it’s just another radical example of differing narratives. Israel/Palestine is a study in those.
Anyway after Ramallah we made our way to Bethlehem to go visit some Jesus-y goodness. It’s a long story, so I’ll post it separately tomorrow.
See you guys soon!
-Carissa “There Are Always Two Sides” Rawson