Palestine (Part 3 of 4)
Trip Start Jan 18, 2008
44Trip End Ongoing
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The views were amazing from up top. The land stretched for miles, with the Dead Sea looking so small and my temporary home of Jordan staring at me from a distance
After walking around the plateau for probably two hours I headed back down, ready to catch the bus. As I was buying water at the museum I saw the bus coming in the distance so I bought my much-needed water and then started running down the long, steep slope. Unfortunately, the bus came too quickly and my flight down the mountain went too slowly so I missed it. I was sopping wet from how much I had been sweating and the sun was not letting up so I wasn't in the mood to sit in the sun for another hour. There was a little office at the circle where busses and cars come so I asked if I could sit in there with them until the next bus came. They thankfully said yes so I slumped down on the broken couch and we hung out. Turns out one of them spoke Arabic and the other a bit of it, plus they both spoke a little English so we got along alright.
Then the bus came, I boarded, slept almost the whole way, and didn't have to pay (long story...but it was a nice break since I had already spent so much money that day.)
That night Mohammed and I went out to a place called Snobar. It's a bar in Ramallah that is located in the woods, has a campfire, and wooden furniture everywhere. It reminded me of the Black Hills of South Dakota. We had one drink there and then headed to his friend's apartment. He deals with all agreements made between Palestine and Israel...kind of a big deal. We had interesting conversations and he was extremely nice and amiable. Then we headed out and I went to bed.
On Monday I woke up at the crack of dawn again to take a bus from Ramallah to Jerusalem, to the central bus station, to Tel Aviv. When I arrived in Tel Aviv I took a city bus to Jaffa, located just fifteen minutes away, and heard some old women speaking Arabic which was nice to hear. Once there, I toured the town. I saw the wishing bridge which supposedly grants you a wish if you hold your zodiac sign, I saw a beautiful view of Tel Aviv, the clock tower, the souq, and ate lunch at an old famous restaurant.
Then I decided to walk back to Tel Aviv instead of take the bus
When I got maybe hip-deep in water, my hand suddenly felt something rub up against it. I looked down, and there was a jellyfish! So I got out of the water as quickly as possible and decided to just sit on the beach close enough so I could at least feel the end of the waves. As I looked out onto the Mediterranean I saw two jellyfish floating along. One was quite big and kept getting closer to where I was so I completely got out of the water at that point.
There were two guys hanging out on the beach so I asked them what was being said over the loudspeaker
One thing that was frustrating in Israel, especially in Tel Aviv and Haifa, is that most of the signage is in Hebrew only. There is no Arabic or English, even though they have Arabs living there and many tourists visiting. It was as if they are trying to spite everybody and make it known that this land is Israel and if you want to be here, learn Hebrew. If they don't want to put up English signs, that's really fine by me. But to not put up signs in Arabic when they have residents who do not speak Hebrew and were there before they were is too bad.
After my beach experience I walked towards the center of town, went to another souq, then found a bus to the central train station as I was now headed to Haifa. When I got there I had to go through security, but the lines were moving very quickly so I didn't think there should be any problems
Then she started looking through my bag. If I had a bag in a bag in a bag, she would open them all....this has never happened to me anywhere-not even at the Israeli border. Then she found my Arabic flashcards that I always carry with me. She said in her now-familiar rude tone, "What are these? I don't understand this language. What is this?" So I told her they are my Arabic flashcards. "Why do you have Arabic flashcards?" Because I study Arabic. "Why do you study Arabic?" I was starting to get annoyed because of this woman's disrespectful attitude and demeanor but especially because of the questions she was starting to ask, so I replied, "What is the problem here? Why are you asking me all these questions and searching through my bag? I was checked at the border very thoroughly already, so why are you doing this again? You're wasting my time, I just want to take a train to Haifa." She made faces at me but stopped with the Arabic questions and search through my bag. She asked what I was going to do in Haifa and for how long I was staying and then let me go. After being the only one to hold up a line, I reorganized my bag that she had completely destroyed by her "search" and then was on my way.
The train ride was uneventful and when I arrived in Haifa I took an expensive taxi ride to my friend Heba's grandmother's house
When I first got there her grandmother, aunt, and great aunt all warmly greeted me. Her grandmother asked if I needed food, water, anything, and so I ate a bowl of tabouleh and drank some water. It was refreshing to be back in an Arab home with Arab hospitality and Arab kindness. I loved her family right away.
Heba and I first went for a walk. Her grandmother's apartment is located next to the Bahai gardens. The gardens are the focal point of the city. They stretch from the bottom of Haifa, near the Mediterranean Sea, up to the top of the mountain. The Bahai (they are a religious group, look them up they are very interesting) have their world headquarters here surrounded by acres of magnificent gardens. It's quite a sight to see.
We left the apartment building near the top of the mountain and started walking along the side of the mountain going up even more. Along the way, Heba and I had some fun conversations about old times in Amman and all the students who were in our program
This has happened many times throughout Israel. Arabs will have a house or land and big businesses and contractors will come in and take it from them. The family can go to court but it is a huge headache and the process takes years and years so they are forced to go along. This is just one example of Israel trying to push out Palestinians and assert their authority.
The view from the top of the mountain was breathtaking. I absolutely love the combination of sea and mountains so Haifa and Beirut have been two of my favorite cities. We took some pictures and then headed down as we were going to dinner that night at her relatives' apartment.
I had an amazing time with her family that night. The food was great and my favorite dish was specially prepared for me, as I'm a vegetarian. It was a little square pastry with some mushroom stuff on it and was so flavorful. They continued to feed us with fruits and desserts and coffee and tea and I loved every minute of it. Being away from generous Arabs and surrounded by cold Israelis (not all of them, just some of them that left a bad taste in my mouth) was taking a toll on me. We stayed there late into the night talking about a variety of topics, including the Palestinian situation, their children and the society they are growing up in, how times have changed, etc.
It was interesting for me to meet both Palestinians living in Palestine and Palestinians living in Israel. I don't know how either of them do it but I'm glad they're sticking it out; it definitely would not be easy. I asked the family I was with if many Arabs here had relationships with the Jews. They said that some Arabs have Jewish friends, some Arabs won't even talk to Jews, and some will be friendly to Jews just not be great friends with them.
I've heard that in thirty years or so Arabs will outnumber the Jews in Israel primarily because of birthrates and a dramatic decrease in immigration to Israel. This is going to be a huge problem for Israel in the future, especially if they are a true democracy.
After dinner and conversation, which ended around midnight, we went to the bottom of the Bahai gardens to see it at night, and then headed to bed. I slept so long and well but desperately needed it due to all of my early mornings and late nights.