?

Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

pal3

"If we choose, we can live in a world of comforting illusion." - Noam Chomsky

The famous American-Jewish author, Noam Chomsky, has written a lot about the West Bank, but I believe this quote hits closest to my heart. I've already told you how I feel about Palestine in my stories from Ramallah and Sebastia. I think many Westerners live in some sort of "comforting illusion" about this region. Believing only what they see on the news. In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we see mostly horrific scenes from Gaza - dead children, bombed out apartments and buildings, extremists using humans as shields...Constant debate about Israel's military tactics in the area, yet also a strong understanding and justification for the defensive actions taken to protect Jerusalem and other parts of the country. However, the West Bank is much more than Gaza. It's a land filled with ordinary people, living in an undeniably oppressive environment. Colorful street scenes await your eyes around every corner, in a third-world sense. I felt the whole time that people on both sides of the Separation Wall are essentially imprisoned, but in very different ways.

1. Today, we continue with a lot of people photos. To show how people live in various parts of the West Bank. This shot was taken in the outskirts of Ramallah, in the middle of a busy workday. A young woman going about the daily chores of life, but with a colorful, rustic backdrop.

rural1

2. During the entire journey, we called Bethlehem home, staying at a fancy hotel known as the Jacir Palace Hotel. It's the largest hotel in the Central West Bank area. Massive in size and grandeur. However, it sits in the middle of a slum area of the West Bank, with a refugee camp right behind it.

I was invited as a guest, with a small group of other Americans, to stay at the hotel for free. They are desperate for more Western visitors, but most are scared to stay in Palestine. So, our mission was to provide guidance and feedback to the hotel managers about how to attract Western clientele. In all cases, the managers asked for our input on services and quality of accommodations to confirm the hotel meets the expectations of sophisticated foreign travelers. I have no complaints about the hotel. Everything is very nice. It looks like a palace inside, with immaculately kept halls, pools and meeting areas. But it sits in the hotbed of the Israel-Palestine conflict, and an assassination attempt even occurred from one of the windows. So, recognize that you're not going to some luxury beach resort here, and be aware of your surroundings at all times.

INTERB2

3. The hotel sits close to a checkpoint. On the first night, we arrived late, right as the sun was setting. I walked out onto the balcony to take a pic of the majestic scene with my iPhone, and immediately my eyes and throat started burning. At first, I thought someone was burning trash in the refugee camp below us. I found out the next morning that there had been a disturbance at the near-by checkpoint, and my symptoms were a result of the tear gas that floated down the hill with the breeze. Yes, it's a real possibility you will experience the same if you stay in the West Bank. I simply moved inside, shut the window, and all was fine.

pal1

4. What can I say about the Separation Wall? It's a huge atrocity and eye sore almost everywhere in the West Bank, and to walk alongside it creates immense sadness and discomfort. I remember in my younger years, frequently hearing about suicide bombers at Israeli cafes, bus stops and markets. The Separation Wall was built in response to extremist terrorist attacks, where the intent was evil and undeniable - to kills Jews and annihilate the State of Israel.

sepwall3

5. A reader once told me I sometimes sound like a history book, reciting basic historical facts. But, in case some of you don't know, the Separation Wall was commissioned by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2002, at the height of the Second Intifada. From the beginning, its construction was highly controversial. The route for the Wall changed many times due to legal battles in the Supreme Court, and the project has cost billions of dollars. However, the defensive impact is clearly illustrated in the decreased number of suicide bombings and attacks on Israelis. The precise numbers vary. During the Second Intifada, approximately 100 suicide bombings took place. Now there are almost none. Lives saved, absolutely. But the mental impact of this barrier on West Bank residents is also worthy of discussion, and draws the attention of human rights' activists throughout the world.

wall1

6. I think the Separation Wall now covers about 525 km. My understanding is that further construction has ceased at this point. The Wall is now a template for artistic and political expression, and it's worth the time to take a walk along various portions to read the inscriptions and view the drawings. Here, a homage to a leader of the Palestinian liberation movement. She is seen as a terrorist by some, a hero by others. Leila Khaled - female hijacker of several airline flights shortly after the Six Day War ended in 1967.

sepwall1

7. Weeping Lady Liberty...

sepwall2

8. One afternoon, I had the car drop me off after clearing the checkpoint. I walked the entire mile back to the hotel, talking to the kids and looking at the Wall. They pass by it every day, play on the walkways, and throw stones against the barrier. I wonder if they can really comprehend all the political and human strife embodied in the artistic images?

sepwall4 (1)

9. Do you wish to go for a stroll in this neighborhood? I will never forget this walk, and the sense of emotion that overcame me. You can tell by my posts that I'm quite sympathetic to the people of the West Bank. However, at the same time, I understand Israel's position in building this monstrosity. Honestly, I'm still undecided whether the security protection for Israelis outweighs the human impact on the other side of the Wall. So, this debate will continue onward into eternity, with no real definitive answers....at least not in my mind.

pal7 copy

10. Almost every foreigner traveling to the West Bank comes for only one reason - to see the religious sites. So, my group did that as well but I became so fed up with the crowds that I rarely went inside the churches or other religious monuments. For instance, the most popular spot in Bethlehem is the Church of the Nativity. This is the birthplace of Jesus. We visited on Easter Sunday. Can you imagine? I've never seen such a huge crowd of people crammed in a tiny place. The church is beautiful, filled with decorative paintings and artistic structures.

nativity

11. The religious were willing to wait hours in line to see the tiny room in which Jesus was born, but this has absolutely no emotional impact on me. So, in typical Shannon fashion, I left the crowd and went in search of locals. At the sight of a big camera, Palestinian children immediately flock to you. Smiling and eager to be photographed. As always, the first statement from their mouths - "Hallo, hallo, where are you from?"

palestine2

12. Beautiful, when souls are still innocent and pure, having no concept of hate or nationality.

palestine11

13. These young girls spoke perfect English. I'm now Facebook friends with Lara, the girl on the left. We still communicate on occasion.

palestine1

14. Next stop on the holy route, Jacob's Well in the city of Nablus, Palestine. It's the site where Jesus had a chat with a Samaritan woman. The well now lies within the complex of an Eastern Orthodox monastery. Visitors can drop pails into the well to retrieve water. Again, another beautiful church decorated in gold and lavish paintings. I stayed here a few minutes and then went outside while the others waited in line to dip their pails into the well.

ramallah7

15. The grounds of the monastery are lush, with a lot of flowers and greenery.

pal6

16.
pal9 copy

17. Step outside the relgious compound, and you're again in the heart of the West Bank. Cars drive on unmarked roads, there are no pedestrian crossings - zebras as you call them - :), and people weave in and out of traffic to go about their daily business.

pal7

18. Local female residents.

pal8

19. Goat herder.

palestine12

20. Neighborhood directly across from the monastery. People everywhere like zombies with their mobile devices, even in underdeveloped areas.

pal4

21. We travel onward toward to Jericho. The quality of photos in this report isn't always the best, as I was shooting from the front of the car window. But you get a general idea of the vast, open desert landscapes here.

palestine20

22. The main highway to Jericho is magnificent! Great serpentine road with stunning scenery the entire way. I've never been to a desert region, not even in the U.S. So, it was an entirely new visual sensation for me. The highway infrastructure near Jericho, and a lot of the West Bank, was built and paid for by the U.S. government.

palestine4

23. Everywhere, you see signs for USAID - U.S. Agency for International Development. There's an entire branch of the organization dedicated to the West Bank, primarily to provide humanitarian, education and infrastructure support. Israel - the largest recipient of foreign aid from the U.S. in recent years. On average, 3 billion dollars per year. To read more about U.S. aid in the West Bank, go here. This area receives huge financial support from almost all Western countries. I presume this sign is promoting some type of educational program established by USAID.

palestine5

24. In the Judean desert, the Mount of Temptation is worth a stop. Scenic area, with an odd mix of barren and green landscapes. This is the site where Jesus was tempted by the devil, although the exact location has never been determined by Biblical scholars. The area sits about 10 km from Jericho.

palestine16

25. Tourism infrastructure is semi-developed at the sight. A cable car runs high above the ground, but we didn't take a ride. If you look closely, you can see the red cars hanging from the air in this photo.

ramallah4

26. These damn camels are everywhere!! Heat radiating from their thick fur and smelly bodies. But this one was particularly friendly - even posed with a smile for the camera. :) I never had the desire to mount one and go for a ride.

palestine17

27. Local seller tries to pawn off counterfeit handbags and fresh fruits to tourists.

ramallah5

28. A resident walking the path...I wonder where it ultimately leads?

palestine18

29. Finally, another group of tourists! I think they were from Indonesia.

palestine19

30. I was surprised to see English language on almost all signs in the West Bank. Especially important when a country uses non-Latin script. I wish Russia would do the same for foreign guests. It would make travel and navigation in the country much easier.

palestine21

31.
palestine15

32. Small town on the way back to Bethlehem, but I don't remember the name.

pal5

33. I'm a horrible navigator! Easily confused by directions and maps. But everything in this area is clearly marked, a lot of signage to direct drivers. In the rural villages, absolutely nothing, and the road infrastructure sometimes non-existent. I showed you examples in the Sebastia post.

pal4 copy

34. Local mechanic.

palestine13

35. The peace sign again. A common sentiment when locals saw foreign visitors. Well, the men there are handsome in a very rugged way, though definitely unpolished. :))

ramallah3

36. Apartment complex en route.

ram49

37. Small bedouin village. Unfortunately, I didn't get to visit one of these communities. The local I was traveling with recently took a French film crew to one of the bedouin compounds, but they were not well received. So, he didn't feel comfortable bringing another group of foreigners to the area.

pal8 copy

38. Camel on the side of the road, waiting for the sun to set.

ramallah6

39. The West Bank's version of Seven-Eleven. :) Stop for drinks or ice-cream.

pal3 copy

40. During university, I took a class focused on nature writers. We read the famous book "Desert Solitaire" by Edward Abbey. It chronicled his work as a Park Ranger in the Arches National Park in Utah. He wrote eloquently about the transformative nature of desert landscapes, describing them as "cruel, clear, inhuman, neither romantic nor classical, motionless and emotionless, at one and the same time – another paradox – both agonized and deeply still.” He went on to write - "the desert represents a harsh reality unseen by the masses. It is this harshness that makes the desert more alluring, more baffling, more fascinating..." I understand these words, but I can't say I feel any close spiritual connection with desert landscapes. I prefer green mountains, the wilderness, or open seas.

palestine9

41. It's easy to understand why musicians, writers and philosophers like the desert. Some of the most profound thoughts, songs and written prose are inspired by these landscapes. There's nothing here for a man, except his own mind.

road

There's so much more I can say about the West Bank, but there's no time. I'm at work, and should be doing other things. I hope you at least have a better impression of how people live in this region. It will always be the center of intense humanitarian, political and military debate. However, we should never lose sight of the rich ethnographic, historical and cultural significance in this part of the world. It's a pity so few actually experience or see it for themselves. For me, this trip was mentally transformative. Perhaps more so than any other.

Related Posts

Streets of Ramallah, Palestine
590592_900

Sebastia - A Look Inside Rural Palestine
577439_900


Comments

( 76 comments — Leave a comment )
a_nimaida
Oct. 2nd, 2014 05:03 pm (UTC)
Now I will read)
very large topic
peacetraveler22
Oct. 2nd, 2014 05:08 pm (UTC)
Very complicated topic! :)
(no subject) - a_nimaida - Oct. 2nd, 2014 06:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Oct. 2nd, 2014 08:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - a_nimaida - Oct. 3rd, 2014 10:19 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Oct. 3rd, 2014 02:09 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - a_nimaida - Oct. 3rd, 2014 03:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Oct. 3rd, 2014 03:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - a_nimaida - Oct. 3rd, 2014 04:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - a_nimaida - Oct. 3rd, 2014 04:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Oct. 3rd, 2014 04:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - a_nimaida - Oct. 3rd, 2014 05:18 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Oct. 3rd, 2014 05:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - a_nimaida - Oct. 3rd, 2014 05:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
Жжёшь - andrey_kaminsky - Oct. 3rd, 2014 05:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Жжёшь - a_nimaida - Oct. 3rd, 2014 05:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Жжёшь - andrey_kaminsky - Oct. 3rd, 2014 05:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Жжёшь - a_nimaida - Oct. 3rd, 2014 06:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Жжёшь - andrey_kaminsky - Oct. 3rd, 2014 06:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Жжёшь - a_nimaida - Oct. 3rd, 2014 06:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Жжёшь - andrey_kaminsky - Oct. 4th, 2014 04:00 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Жжёшь - a_nimaida - Oct. 4th, 2014 06:28 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Жжёшь - andrey_kaminsky - Oct. 4th, 2014 11:48 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Жжёшь - peacetraveler22 - Oct. 4th, 2014 01:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Жжёшь - a_nimaida - Oct. 3rd, 2014 06:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - maadmike - Oct. 5th, 2014 06:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - maadmike - Oct. 5th, 2014 04:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
pin_gwin
Oct. 2nd, 2014 05:59 pm (UTC)
Did you feel it safe to be there?
peacetraveler22
Oct. 2nd, 2014 06:07 pm (UTC)
Yes, most of the time. I walked in the neighborhood with other Americans late at night, and by myself during the day. I didn't feel threatened, or hear any anti-American sentiments. However, I was there during a relatively peaceful time. Perhaps things would be more contentious during war/bombing times. The recent conflict started only a few days after we left. It's the same as anywhere, you just have to be aware of your surroundings and not behave as a fool or disrespect the locals. This avoids a lot of problems. :)
(no subject) - maadmike - Oct. 5th, 2014 06:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
notabler
Oct. 2nd, 2014 06:13 pm (UTC)
I feel more in favor of jews, because they are such a small but heroic nation. And the second reason - they never called to kill every arab in the coutry, as Palestinian did ir still do. I appreciate, that the life of palesrinians isn't easy, but even on your picture and can't see any skinny and fragile person, all of them look perfectly ok for me, no famine there, Israil provides a lot of goods and other supply for them. Freedom of movement is important, of course, but why other arabs brother won't let them move on their territory, Egypt or Iordan? They have long borders with them? So this topic is extremely difficult for me as well. I've never seen the jewish mother wrapping her child 4 years old in shachid belt and never will see, but arabs do it. That is No1 reason for me to prefer Israil side
peacetraveler22
Oct. 2nd, 2014 08:09 pm (UTC)
I don't take sides in the battle. I only stated that I'm sympathetic to the people in the West Bank because you can't really understand the disparity in how they live until you see it with your own eyes. There's no famine there, but many are living in dirt, while shiny new Jewish settlements are being built on what they perceive to be their land. At the same time, I understand Israel's defensive position and measures to protect its citizens. Have you been to Israel? I think it's definitely worth a visit, though I have no connection to this land. I'm neither Jewish, nor religious. I think this helps to see things more objectively.
(no subject) - notabler - Oct. 2nd, 2014 09:16 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Oct. 2nd, 2014 09:18 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - notabler - Oct. 2nd, 2014 09:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Oct. 2nd, 2014 09:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - psychbarboc - Oct. 2nd, 2014 07:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
kreyzi
Oct. 2nd, 2014 08:41 pm (UTC)
ты как всегда охуенная )
peacetraveler22
Oct. 2nd, 2014 09:23 pm (UTC)
Hmm...I'm not sure if you're insulting or complimenting me? :) Google doesn't translate your text properly. Based on my understanding of Russian, I think you're saying I'm fucking great, as always. So, Большое спасибо! :))

Edited at 2014-10-02 09:30 pm (UTC)
(no subject) - ski_traveller - Oct. 3rd, 2014 01:54 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Oct. 3rd, 2014 02:03 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ski_traveller - Oct. 3rd, 2014 02:19 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - qi_tronic - Oct. 3rd, 2014 09:57 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Oct. 3rd, 2014 02:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - maadmike - Oct. 5th, 2014 06:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Oct. 5th, 2014 07:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - maadmike - Oct. 5th, 2014 08:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Oct. 6th, 2014 01:34 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - maadmike - Oct. 6th, 2014 03:35 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Oct. 3rd, 2014 01:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
Тоже знаем кой-чего! - andrey_kaminsky - Oct. 3rd, 2014 05:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - maadmike - Oct. 5th, 2014 06:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
andrey_kaminsky
Oct. 3rd, 2014 04:41 am (UTC)
Будет ли Хиллари такой же милой как Обама..?
I saw a recent meeting of Israel's president and Obama. It was so cute!) Rivlin was trying to persuade Obama to crush Iran. That looked very family-style, as the younger brother asks older to beat someone at school. But Obama didn't pay attention to his requests. He must be a little tired of requests of younger brothers to beat someone. I love those cute family scenes.

Edited at 2014-10-03 11:46 am (UTC)
peacetraveler22
Oct. 3rd, 2014 01:52 pm (UTC)
Re: Будет ли Хиллари такой же милой как Обама..?
Hillary has more balls than Obama! :) I believe dysfunctional family scenes are more entertaining to watch. For that, you must simply watch any meeting between Obama and Netanyahu. It is well documented in American press that they do not like each other, or have friendly relations. You can notice it immediately by their body language towards each other in meetings.
qi_tronic
Oct. 3rd, 2014 10:29 am (UTC)
I have finally read it!
What can I say ... Third World as it is.
This lifestyle is the same in most parts of the world (except the West).

In Russia it is different from both sides because we tried to establish equality and uniform planned development.
But now inequality raises again and already new generations are born rich or born poor which makes me very angry.

BTW I see you can tolerate heat.
Would you like to travel to Bali?
We have some plans to go there again in February for a qigong retreat.
peacetraveler22
Oct. 3rd, 2014 01:56 pm (UTC)
Yes, it's a lot of text! :) It takes hours to write this. Probably too much for Internet readers, who are easily bored and lose focus quickly. But, this blog is not only for my readers, but for me also. When I become old, I can look back and have a nice catalog of all my travels, with memories and impressions well documented. I guess I haven't really traveled to many third-world countries. Probably Thailand would count, esp. in the rural areas I saw. But, they are not burdened and confined in the same way as the Palestinians. About heat tolerance, no I did not tolerate it very well! I almost died in this desert heat!! This trip was almost entirely free for me, that's why I went. Otherwise, I probably would have never traveled to Israel. It was never on my wish list.
real_marsel
Oct. 3rd, 2014 11:55 am (UTC)
I knew word 'lush' in one meaning - as drunk man.
peacetraveler22
Oct. 3rd, 2014 01:58 pm (UTC)
Yes, "lush" is an English slang word for drunkards. But, the dictionary definition for "lush" pertains to vegetation. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/lush?s=t.
(no subject) - real_marsel - Oct. 3rd, 2014 05:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Oct. 3rd, 2014 05:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - real_marsel - Oct. 3rd, 2014 05:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
lexkimdoors
Oct. 5th, 2014 12:15 pm (UTC)
Более странная жизнь может быть только в одной стране.
peacetraveler22
Oct. 5th, 2014 01:05 pm (UTC)
Which country?
(no subject) - lexkimdoors - Oct. 5th, 2014 01:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Oct. 5th, 2014 07:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
maadmike
Oct. 5th, 2014 04:37 pm (UTC)
Excellent work and wonderful photos! I like so much their climate, was five times in Egypt.
peacetraveler22
Oct. 5th, 2014 07:31 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I don't like warm climates. I prefer cold, freezing temperatures with lots of snow. That's why I love Russian winters. :)
anna_sollanna
Oct. 7th, 2014 03:32 pm (UTC)
>I think many Westerners live in some sort of "comforting illusion" about this region.
I think nowadays many people live in some sort of "comforting illusions" about their countries believing only what they see on the news...
> A reader once told me I sometimes sound like a history book, reciting basic historical facts.
Thank you very much for your historical facts, I haven't known about this wall before.
> At the sight of a big camera, Palestinian children immediately flock to you.
The boy with grey eyes on the left of the photo #11 is so cute and looking unlike his fellows. It would be interesting to know his background...
#15 is a rare photo of flowers in your posts! I like it very much!
Deserts look stunning, I have never been to any desert. But I prefer mountains, and not to look from their tops to their surroundings, but to stay near their bottoms and admire their tops!
peacetraveler22
Oct. 7th, 2014 05:03 pm (UTC)
A lot of my readers are men, with a very deep knowledge of global history. They assume everyone has the same knowledge, but this obviously isn't the case. For many countries, I study the history in depth before I visit so I can better understand what I'm seeing and experiencing while I'm there. But Israel and America are so closely tied on the global stage that I was familiar with this Separation Wall long before the visit. I'm glad you found my lesson useful. :) The children there are beautiful!
( 76 comments — Leave a comment )

Tags

Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by yoksel