Chapter 1 The Allenby Bridge
Wait what? This bus is going to Palestine?!
Stomach drops, vision tunnels…NOOOOOOooooo!
This is exactly the place I did NOT want to be going. I was scared. People had warned me not to visit Palestine. I had been curious, but I dared not go. I wasn’t curious enough to jump right in like this. Sure, I’d ventured into the farthest northern corner of the West Bank a few weeks before, to volunteer on a eco-building project in Rotem, but that was only for a few days and I wasn’t really sure if it was in Israel or Palestine to be perfectly honest. It had been a rural area and I definitely didn’t have to cross any walls or military checkpoints to get there. I would have noticed that.
But this. This was different. I was definitely going to Palestine, although I had intended otherwise. My directions had gotten lost in translation, literally, so instead of crossing back into Israel from the North, I was at the Allenby Bridge, the only entrance Palestinians can use to access their own country. Oh sweet baby Jesus.
Remaining calm, I began to speak with some of the other passengers on the bus. Amongst them was Hanan, a beautiful woman I had noticed earlier carrying a US passport. Turns out she was on her way to Palestine to visit her parents and plant olive trees in an act of defiance against Israeli settlers.
I was intrigued. Everything I had learned up to that point was from the pro-Israel perspective. I had, after all, come to Israel via a program called Birthright, which sends young Jews from all over the world to Israel for an all-inclusive, highly insulated, 10-day bus trip to learn about Judaism. I was one of only two people (out of forty) that opted to stay longer, hence my current predicament–single white female on a bus, accidentally heading to Palestine.
Through a long journey that involved a goat boy love triangle, immortals, farming, the Red Sea, and then crossing into Jordan on a whim, I had somehow gotten myself on a bus with Hanan, headed straight for Palestine.
Was this a cosmic thing, or mere coincidence? I know not, but I sure know a lot more now, having had this experience. And I am grateful, for to leave Israel without seeing the Wall from the other side is to leave without understanding the country at all.