Once upon a time…I accidentally went to Palestine. It was in the Spring of 2014.
I went with a program called Birthright. They paid for my tickets to and from Israel and provided a 10-day tour of the country, giving me the option to extend my stay beyond the scheduled program at my own expense, which of course I elected to do, since I was in no hurry to return to my job as a sushi waitress back in Capitola village.
This would be my first solo travel experience. I thought up a little plan to WWOOF around the country after the birthright program, to learn about how they farm in the desert. I knew very little about Israel and thought it was all desert.
2.5 months later…after spontaneously travelling to Jordan to see the historic town of Petra, I found myself on a bus on my way back to Israel…or so I thought.
Wait what? This bus is going to Palestine?!
Come to find, the bus was heading to Palestine. Its confusing, though, because some people don’t call where I went Palestine. They call it Israel. Some are more precise and call it the West Bank, which is a territory under Israeli control for the most part. I’ll hash out the details as I understand them with you later. Some people even say Palestine does not exist. Technically, I don’t think it does anymore. When the state of Israel was created in 1948, maps changed and what was formerly know as the British Mandate of Palestine became Israel. Here’s a map courtesy of
showing the progression in the last century. For the record, I call where I went Palestine and I think its just plain rude when people deny its existence. It reminds me in a way of the Native Americans in the US. More on that later too.
It sure wasn’t like the Israel I had experienced in the 2.5 months leading up to my accidental arrival in this controversial land. The people spoke Arabic. Muslim prayers blared from loudspeakers a few times a day. People said “inshallah” all the time. Israeli soldiers could be found a checkpoints both on the road and in towns, screening pedestrians and drivers and either allowing them access to the other side of the checkpoints, or not.
I had one experience of being harassed by Israeli soldiers when I was walking into a Jewish settlement in a Palestinian town. Well, the soldiers weren’t harassing me, but my tour guide, a 17 year old Palestinian kid.
Anyway, my point is, since going to Israel with the birthright organization, I have been confused about the Israeli-Palestine relationship. People I met on both sides of the wall were wonderful, and there was a real sense of comraderie especially among the Israeli people, probably because they had all gone through the mandatory military training experience at some point, basically, the whole country is militarized, pretty much everyone is or has been a soldier, which lends itself to a very familial vibe. But, I wonder, for being so nice and brotherly with each other, how can they each be so hostile to their neighbors?