Palestine’s Fine: Chapter 2

The Waiting

As soon as we all unloaded from the bus from Jordan and waited in another line to cross the boarder into The West Bank, I could tell something was up. There was tension in the air as we queued up to have our documents reviewed and to proceed across the boarder. It was taking forever.

A Palestinian man waiting behind me made disgruntled comments about how long it was taking for the officials to review another person’s documents ahead of us. I nodded as if I understood his sentiment, even though at that point I hadn’t witnessed any injustice. Beurocratic processes are notorious for being painfully slow everywhere, I thought, so I wasn’t that disturbed by the hold up. I did notice it was a Palestinian person the man was referring to, but again wasn’t sure if it was a coincidence or discrimination and didn’t have enough experience in the land to pass judgement.

Inching along, I finally made it to the counter to present my documents. The officials were Israeli, I came to find, which is strange since we were entering the West Bank, a Palestinian territory.

Technically the West Bank is part of Israel, so I suppose it makes sense to have Israeli government controlling the boarder, but its still a strange situation if you think about it. Usually when you cross into a country, the officials are of that country. Like I said, the land is technically Israel, but we were passing into Palestinian territory so it would have made sense to have Palestinian officials at the boarder. Just sayin’. Especially since the Allenby Bridge is the only border crossing point Palestinians can use to enter the West Bank.

If a Palestinian travels abroad, they are not permitted to fly to Tel Aviv and enter the West Bank from the Mediterranean Sea side like Israelis and other human beings. They do not have the same privileges. Palestinians are only permitted to pass through the Alleby Bridge, which is only accessible by way of Jordan, so Palestinians are restricted in how they can travel abroad. Its a pain. They cannot go through any other border crossing point from the Jordan side either, which there are two of, one in the South via Eilat, and another in the North near the Sea of Galilee. No, all Palestinians have to come through the Allenby Bridge, where I was at the moment being described.

Its a bit confusing but I digress, when it was my turn to step up to the window and present my documents in order to pass through, I was surprised at the way the officials conducted themselves. There were two officials, young military women. The official took a long time to review my passport, passing it to her colleague and the two of them talking between themselves without cluing me in as I stood there, wondering what the issue was, waiting for further instructions. It wasn’t very human, but I suppose any country could have grumpy, jaded border patrol employees. I wont count that as a strike against Israelis, but its worth noting. They were not friendly.

After deliberating and having another soldier come look over my passport, the officials directed me to a waiting area.  I didn’t know how long I’d have to wait or why. Apparently, I was not in the clear to pass through and I had no idea what made me suspicious. As I sat there waiting for the next step, the seats around me filled with Palestinian families. Eventually, Hanan came to meet me, as she was also sent to the waiting area for further review. I was glad to have met her, otherwise I would have been much more anxious and confused waiting there alone.

It was a half hour before my name was called. I went into an office with an Israeli man who questioned me about what I had been doing in Israel and what I would be doing next. In the end I think the questioning was related to my visa, as my re-entry into the the country from Jordan would result in my visa being extended another 3 months.

Since I already had a plane ticket out of Tel Aviv a few weeks later, it was a non-issue and I was allowed to continue through the boarder. Simple fix.

So I went through, first stopping to confer with Hanan. I told her I’d wait for her on the other side, not knowing how long that would be. And guess how long it ended up being, by the way….

7 HOURS.

Seven.

With no clue where I was, no idea where to go, and no gumption to set off on my own, I waited the entire time for Hanan to pass through, even though I barely knew her.

While I waited, I observed the people passing through. I had never been in a Muslim country before, save for Jordan, and was mesmerized by the clothing people wore, especially the women covered head to foot in black, with only slits for their eyes to see. I found it strange, but that’s just the way things are there.

Allenby Bridge Boarder Terminal

During my hours of waiting, two noteworthy things happened. First, I met a man from South Africa on his way to Mecca with a group of 13 others. I had never met anyone from South Africa before, and never met anyone going to Mecca, a pilgrimage I had learned about in religion class back in my Catholic School days. The concept had seemed quite mythical, but turns out lots of people really do that, including my new friend, the South African.

The man was wearing a funny little pillbox hat and a white linen tunic and was very nice to talk to. I sat with him for about two hours as he waited for his party to pass through security and collect their bags, one by one. I asked him about South Africa, the wild animals there (chimpanzees and monkeys, of course). He entertained my chimpanzee fantasies and gave me pointers about good beaches to visit, but I forgot all that information because I didn’t write any of it down. Eventually everyone in his party made it through security and they moseyed along, leaving me with my bags to wait in the figurative dark for Hanan to come through.

It had been several hours already and I was beginning to doubt if she’d make it through. Of course she would, but it was taking so damn long the worries began to creep in. I staved them off as I continued to observe the flow of people coming through.

The second noteworthy thing to happen was among the funniest scenes I’ve witnessed in this life. Funny in a peculiar and irreverent sort of way.

It went like this: I had my big backpacking backpack propped up in a corner and was sitting a bit away from it in observer mode. Then all the sudden a pair of devout looking Muslim folks laid down mats in front of my pack and started bowing to my backpack. Well, actually they were doing their prayer ritual in the direction of Mecca, but it looked like they were bowing to my backpack. I found it very funny and wanted to take a photo, but didn’t because #1 my camera was in my backpack and #2 that would have been oh so rude.

I’ll draw a picture and include it here someday.

Finally, after 7 hours of waiting, Hanan came through. She was surprised and glad that I was still there. It was dark out by that time and we took some sort of bus van out of the terminal to where Hanan’s parents were waiting for us. They had arrived hours before, not expecting to have to wait until 9 pm to pick us up. No one expected it to take that long.

In the drive to Hana’s parents house I gazed out the window into the night as Hanan’s father talked about life in Palestine. I got my first glimpse of the wall and learned that inconvenience and waiting are not at all unfamiliar to Palestinians living in the West Bank under the Israeli occupation, which is what the situation is, I was learning for the first time.

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Palestine’s Fine Excerpt: Peace in the Middle East Tea

Sunrise in Palestine

I learned about this tea recipe while volunteering at a goat farm in Jerusalem. The farm was within a village called Moshav Zafririm, which was probably once occupied by Palestinians but invaded/apprehended by Israel in 1948 when the country was established. Out with the old, in with the new it would seem.

Unlike in Hebron, there was not trace or retelling of foul play in this village.

Propaganda in Hebron

Israeli Propaganda

It was quiet and rather empty, with no banners or propaganda to be found, just an unmanned military check-point at the base of the village to ward off intruders. Unfortunately I have no photos from the village to share.

The tea on the other hand….

Peace in the Middle East Tea Recipe

This tea was made on a daily basis at the farm and we enjoyed it throughout the day, hot and cold. All the ingredients were picked at the farm or gathered in the nearby hills.

Today I drink it as a reminder of the crazy experience I had in “the Holy Land,” encouragement to continue telling the story, and nourishment for the soul.

Ingredients:

Geranium

Pelargonium ‘Citronella’ : Large citrus-scented leaves on a robust plant. Lavender flowers.

Sage “Culinary Sage”

Sage. One of my favorite culinary herbs and one of the herbs people have easy access to no matter where they are. Salvia officinalis – even the Latin name gives us an idea of the respect this Mediterranean beauty has earned. Salvia in Latin derives from the word salvere which means, “to save.” Historically, it has been used in many ways from a facial toner to a plague remedy, as well as drying up breast milk and easing a cough. Sage is a well-loved and well-used herb throughout the ages.

and

Mint (any variety will work)

mint grown in pot

Process:

Steep a few leaves of geranium, a bunch of sage, and a cluster of mint in hot water for any amount of time, add sugar or honey to taste (or not), and serve hot or cold.

Enjoy the pleasant pink color and floral taste of a tea that will sooth the senses, calm the mind, and bring peace to the middle east in your heart, which reflects the world. Enjoy with friends for greatest therapeutic benefits.

Cheers!

KB

 

 

The Birds, the Bees…and the Bats: Rooftop Meadow Restores NYC Nature

http://www.kingslandwildflowers.com
Kingsland Wildflowers – Rooftop Meadow/Habitat Restoration Project in Greenpoint, Brooklyn

Rooftop Meadow in Greenpoint, Brooklyn brings native species back to the city, but not where you might think…

Continuing the quest to find out what “sustainable living” looks like in a big city, I found myself this past Friday at Kingsland Wildflowers, a rooftop meadow in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, right next-door to New York City’s wastewater treatment plant. See this surprisingly beautiful facility below:

Site for a Valentine's Day Date
Waste Water Treatment Plant in Greenpoint, Brooklyn
View of Kingsland Wildflower native plants restoration Project
Rooftop Meadow View

I was very happy to learn about this project through this giant list of things to do in Brooklyn, which a friend shared with me on Facebook.

Friday was the first “Field Day” of the 2018 Season, an opportunity for community members to explore the roof and learn about the project.

I was particularly fascinated by the history of this site, which I learned from a knowledgeable bird-loving photographer who works for the NYC Audobon Society (go figure) and was at this event to dispense information and take pictures.

According to this man, the Dutch were the first people to settle this area in the 1850s and described it back then as a marshy, shrubby landscape much like the photo above. Today, that marshy environment no longer exists, having been replaced by concrete and buildings over the course of the last 150+ years. Now it looks like this:

150 years ago, these buidlings were not here
View from Kingsland Wildflowers overlooking Newton Creek and Cityscape

I was pleased to learn there is still a prominent waterway that runs through Brookyln and Queens called Newton Creek, which unfortunately was majorly polluted by an oil spill during the 1950s. Due to the buildings and the spill, the creek habitat has suffered and the native species that once inhabited the ecosystem have diminished.

Before it was polluted by the spill, the creek had been an important habitat for native plants and insects and was a stopping point for migratory birds and bats. After the oil spill however…not so much. Guess who was responsible for the spill by the way…. remember the Exon company? Exon Valdez ring any bells? Same company. But we didn’t hear too much about the Newton Creek Spill, did we? Curious.

Anyway…

Today, the Creek is a superfund site, which means the US Government recognized the extreme environmental damage that had occured due to the spill and set up a fund to fix it. That is how the Kingsland Wildflower project is receiving its funding. Exon was sued for damages, and the proceeds of the lawsuit are being used to restore the nature that was damaged by the oil spill. Since space is limited, and people are smart, this project was developed to provide a home for native plants, insects, and animals that once thrived in the Newton Creek environment.

Kingsland Wildflowers is a wonderful project that exists soley to give back to the Earth. The project began a few years ago and is already proving successful. Data is being collected to show the increase of native species both at the creek and on the rooftop. Today, this is one rooftop with about 1/2 acre of space where plants and grasses have been planted. The concept is that the rooftop is replicating what would have existed on the ground if the building were not there. Imagine the good that could be done for the planet if more rooftops were like this in the city. The benefits would be great, species would have a home, maybe bees would start coming back, plus, what a pleasant escape for people it would be, and is. My short visit to Kingsland Wildflowers reminded me of the nature I have been missing while living in a primarily human and concrete environment. I was reminded that there are birds other than pidgeons passing through in their seasonal migration, that there are insects other than bed bugs and flies, and that this whole city used to look so different, that its waterways had so much influence on the ecosystem, that it is an ecosystem today!

Anyway, I could go on and on but I wont. For now I just wanted to share a great project and hope for the future with everyone.

Lots of Love,

Kelly B

Rockaway view 9/11 tributary park
Friggin’ plastic bag

Palestine’s Fine: Chapter 1

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The Allenby Bridge

It was March and I had just finished a short trip to Petra, Jordan, where I had visited a woman named Sandra I had met on a bus earlier in my journey. She had instructed me how to get back to Israel, and I was arriving via taxi at the border, heading to what I thought was the North of Israel.

I thanked the taxi driver, saddled my bags, and walked towards the Allenby Bridge border terminal. Everything was unfamiliar because I was in Jordan and spoke no Arabic. I did not realize I was lost at this point. I was just the normal amount of confused, being in a foreign country and not speaking the language.

Once inside, I looked around and was surprised to see in the carpeted waiting room a woman in a hijab, breastfeeding–a sight that was quite unexpected and pleasantly surprising, not in a perverted way, but in an “oh, cool, they can do that here too” sort of way. I was under the impression Muslim women were majorly repressed, but this sight made me think otherwise.

After a bit of waiting, I was ushered over to buy a ticket for a shuttlebus that would bring me across the border. Thats about the time I realized something was amiss.

While I thought I had been at the border between Jordan and Israel in the north, it turns out I was at a different border crossing.

Instead of being in the North, on my way to a farm in Galilee, I was in the middle at the Allenby Bridge, entering the West Bank…which is Palestine…which some people assert no longer exists.

I was a bit off course, to say the least.

Although turning around was an option at that point, I needed to get to Israel eventually for a flight and didn’t really have anyone to turn to in Jordan, so I figured I might as well charge through on the current course. At this point I was in a state of panic, yet remained calm and composed.

Boarding the bus, I looked around at the other 8-10 people and struck up a conversation with Hanan, a woman I had seen at the terminal holding an American passport. Our discussion confirmed we were going to Palestine and that I was lost.

As we crossed a dry, sparsely vegetated no-mans-land, about 20 minutes to the next border, the discussion continued and I met a few more characters including a disgruntled Brazilian man who was going to meet his brother, and a lovely Dutch girl who had been in Jordan painting murals at a refugee camp.

Mette, a hard worker
Mette on a later date, so you can put a face to one of the characters

By some random stroke of luck, it turned out that Hanan was on her way to plant olive trees as an act of resistance against Israeli settlers in the West Bank. Hearing my story and finding that I had just completed a some-what brainwashy Birthright program, she invited me to come along and offered to let me stay with her and her parents for a few days, help me see the other side of the story. I was saved!

But what was the next border? Was it Israel, or was it Palestine? I still ask myself this.

If it was Palestine, how come the border patrol officials were Israeli?

Chapter 2: The Waiting

 

 

 

 

 

Monkey Business

Hello All,

This time last year I was leaving Germany, California bound.

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Saying goodbye to all the strange foods, people and places….

Cue dream sequence sound bite (click here):

There was the..

German foods with Jello 

 

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Gimmicky American packaged food at Netto 

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Ewok messages, vintage scooters, and clever business combos

 

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 Spock-packs

 

elfie hair and outfits

 

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Silly street signs

 

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American politics from afar:

 

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Peace efforts

 

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Ape art, Windmill, and a special pumpkin

 

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Which leads to more recent ape art…

a postcard I found in New York

tushita.com
Cool Relation – Gute Beziehung

made in Germany.

Tis the season! Cheers to the passage of time.

I tip my hat to you.

❤ KBelly

Palestine’s Fine: Introduction

This is a story about when I accidentally went to Palestine in the Winter of 2014.

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“Wait what? This bus is going to Palestine?”

Surprised, yet not utterly shocked by my circumstance, I was both intrigued and alarmed by the situation at hand. How did I get myself HERE? I wondered.

No stranger to pickles, this was definitely my most unnerving to date. What had begun with a free trip to Israel two months earlier now had me alone, astray, and headed straight into the West Bank via minivan.

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.

“Hm,” I thought, “a twist.”

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.

Palestine’s Fine: Chapter 1

Why I started this blog and my intentions

Hello out there,

I have thought about starting a blog for some time now and just decided to give it a try, to see what happens.

I am not a very big fan of technology, or being on the computer, but alas, it is a good way to reach many people and share ideas.

This blog is a platform to share short stories of life’s experiences. I will also share creative projects and develop ideas to promote ape conservation through electronic waste recycling and tap dancing, somehow.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to ax on here.

Best,

Kelly