Friday, June 28, 2013

Visiting the West Bank

A friend of mine was working in Ramallah for the summer, so I planned a short trip to visit. It brought me back to reality, social, political and otherwise. Travelling by the Palestinian mini-buses, we passed the giant gray bleak wall, separating the West Bank from Israel. Entering the checkpoint, there is a sign reminding Israeli's that it is illegal to enter and warning visitors that entering is a threat to their lives...the checkpoint is massive, tall and decorated with barbed wire. Once in the city center, all fears evaporated. It was a scene I was used to, the Arab world. Women with their children, scurrying among shops with bags full of fresh food, men huddled into a smoke filled nargilla shop, and numerous dessert stores with store displays of baklava mountains dripping with honey.

I was surprised by how few mosques I saw, only three or four, though I am sure many more exist. Usually minarets decorate the skyline with little green lights and sonorous voices that call people to prayer. There were several churches in Ramallah though, and a friend and I were able to go inside one of them. We were lucky enough to run into the manger of the church, who opened the doors for us. It was a church cut out of white Jerusalem stone like the little cave church in Bethlehem with stars carved into the stone roof. The church was simple, with stained glass windows of the Virgin with child as well of pictures of Jesus, the way I imagine he looked, with dark, Mediterranean features. It was nice to chat and learn that Ramallah was originally (centuries ago) a Christian village until the Muslims conquered the area. We wandered over to a faux-Mexican restaurant that my friend loves covered in palm trees. Playing through the speakers was an Arab rendition of "Happy Birthday" which more or less includes singing 'Happy Birthday to you' for four minutes, interspersed with runs in Arabic and Arab beats. It felt surreal to be eating hummus and quesadillas in Ramallah. It was actually quite good.
City square of Ramallah

the little cave church

downtown Ramallah

me and Shay

Sunset over the West Bank

We ended our little trip with a drink at a rooftop Hotel restaurant overlooking the West Bank, stretching all the way to Tel Aviv and the Mediterranean. The ride back was a little depressing, I guess going through the checkpoint is always depressing, alas. 

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