Friday, October 23, 2009

Israel's Apartheid Wall

Outside Beit Jala

Arms are for hugging

In Bethlehem

I want my ball back, thanks

Palestina Libre

Mr Netanyahu, tear down this wall

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

At Zamn Café

So I'm sitting at this café close to where I live, and two guys walk in to order coffee to go. Being slightly naive, or maybe very unobservant, I see nothing special with them until my friend Tarek goes:

"They're from the American Embassy."

I go: "Okay." Yes, I could tell they were foreigners.

He goes: "You see they're wearing bullet proof vests?"

I look in their direction and go: "What?! Are you kidding me?!"

But he's not. They are actually wearing bullet proof vests under their shirts. In a coffee shop in Ramallah.

Tarek goes: "As if this was Afghanistan."

I get my camera and pretend to take a picture of Tarek, and here they are:

Seriously. I'm the first person to say that people don't understand what it's actually like to live under Israeli occupation--I'm the first person to tell people about the checkpoints, the random interrogations, the midnight arrests, the detentions, the house demolitions, the beatings, the confinement, the restrictions, the Jewish-settler-only roads, the massacres. But it's not war here. Bullets don't fly through the air on a normal day in Ramallah.

Look: I walk around with my normal clothes, I sit at cafés, I hang out with friends, I go for a run in the olive tree field, I take walks through Ramallah, I take pictures of Stars & Bucks (haha) and I'm completely cool. The only reason you'd ever have to wear a bullet proof vest here is if you're participating in demonstrations against Israeli occupation policies. Because then you risk being shot by the Israeli military with rubber-coated bullets (that might or might not kill you, like regular bullets).

Of course. I don't participate in such demonstrations. And I find it difficult to believe that employees at the US Embassy do.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Ramallah Days

It is almost seven o'clock in the evening and the call for prayer is echoing in the olive tree valley outside our apartment building. It's dark, but still warm. Maybe 25 degrees Celsius.

Occupation, checkpoints and politics aside, the West Bank is a beautiful place.

We're getting ready to go out. Fabulously funny new friend Tarek is taking us out for dinner--gorgeous Brazilian room mate Ana with a heart of gold, sweetest, silly, polite and loyal friend and room mate Mahran, and I.

But before I go: I saw a director of a Palestinian newspaper who wants me to interview, write and edit for him. I'm still waiting to hear from a news agency in Bethlehem about a job as an English editor there, and I have this American NGO guy in Gaza to discuss a new project with. Nothing very set yet, but I have a feeling things are happening.

Tell you more as things develop. Now I have a dinner date with Ramallah!

Traveling To and Through the Holy Land

[Written on October 13th]

I'm typing these words on the Egged bus heading from Eilat to Tel Aviv. I know, what happened? Jerusalem? R? (I'm writing in code because I'm sitting next to a boy in military attire, and although he said he doesn't speak English, for all I know he could be Mossad or Shin Bet or I don't know...hehe).

Even though I'm still in the middle of this rather confusing and very exhausting trip to R, I can tell you what happened thus far (and also what I still have left to get myself through to finally get to the desired destination of this trip):

It started this morning. At first we were delayed due to snowy weather, which required the wings to be de-iced. This isn't so bad if you know you're off to warmer climes (35 degrees Celsius when I landed in Aqaba!), but it didn't stop there.

Next thing happened when we were taxing out from Arlanda Airport. Suddenly the captain goes "Sorry ladies and gentlemen, we have to turn back because there is something wrong with the radio height measurer" (...or something? Is there such a thing?) "so we have to get some technicians come on board to fix it." Also okay (considering you do not want to fly without a radio height measurer) if you don't have a last bus to Jerusalem to catch in Eilat. But it could have been worse, and we were only around two hours delayed after all (and most importantly, we didn't crash).

But again, it didn't end there. In Aqaba, the passport control took, oh, I don't know, TWO HOURS TO COMPLETE AND WE WERE ONLY 200 PASSENGERS IN AN OTHERWISE EMPTY AIRPORT. Sorry for screaming, but I'm still not over the fact that even Egyptians are quicker.

(Speaking of Egypt, we flew in over Cairo, my beloved Cairo. A part of me still wishes I were moving there).

In any event, the part of this trip that I dreaded the most was actually quite easy. If not breezy. I just walked through the border control between Aqaba in Jordan and Eilat in Israel: almost no questions asked. No "What's the purpose of your visit?" No "Are you Jewish?" No " What's the name of your father? Your grandfather?" No "Do you have any connections to Arabs?" No "Do you intend to visit the West Bank?" Like last time coming via Tel Aviv airport.

Only one measly little "Have you been to Israel before?"

But no matter how breezy that crossing was, I still arrived at the bus station ten minutes after five. Ten minutes after! The last bus to Jerusalem was at five. How annoying is that?!

So I sat myself down at the Central Bus Station in Eilat and patiently waited for the seven o'clock bus to Tel Aviv instead. No problem. I'll just text my friend in R and tell him I'll be late. I'll just ask if the Q checkpoint over to R is open sometime after midnight, no problem at all.

But then, of course, I can't text from my Swedish phone to his Palestinian number from Israel. ?!?!?

Luckily I can text my little sister in Sweden (hi Mirja!), and she texted my friend in R, and then forwarded the info, and that's where I am now. On the bus heading to Tel Aviv, with the forwarded info from my friend saying that the checkpoint will be open inshallah, and that I have to ask the taxi driver from Jerusalem to call him when I'm on my way so he can describe the way.

But first, I need to get off in Tel Aviv (which will be hours from now, because apparently this is the local line, going through every little town on the way, stopping every ten minutes or so), find a shared taxi to Jerusalem, then change to an Arab taxi who is willing to take me over to R.

Oh yes!

And if I'm lucky I'll arrive at my new home before dawn.

Reference Guide:

R=Ramallah, my new hometown as well as political center of the West Bank

Q Checkpoint=Qalandia checkpoint between occupied East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank

The Holy Land=the Historical, Biblical, Beautiful Land of Palestine, occupied and colonized by Israel since 1948

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Moving Again

I've said to myself: Self, next time you move, get your own place and stay for longer than a few months. Get your own place in a city in a country where you actually could conceive of settling down. Because frankly, I'm tired of living out of a suitcase, sometimes washing my clothes in the sink, sharing apartments with people who don't see the point in keeping temporary dwellings clean...

And yet, here I am, packing my suitcase again, on my way to a new apartment sharing adventure for... I don't know how long. In the occupied Palestinian territories. Ramallah, Ramallah.

This time, I know even less than I usually do. I don't have a job, I don't know if I'll get job, I don't know if I can manage to get a work permit if I do get a job, I don't know how long my money will last, I don't know... pretty much anything. But I do know that it's been more than three months since I finished my Masters degree and I can't sit around and wait for a job. Not when nine out of ten jobs I apply for don't even get back to me to let me know the position has been filled. No, if you want to get somewhere in this world, you have to go there yourself.

So this is what I'm doing now: I'm going where the action is, and I don't know if I'll ever be back. Haha! Except for Christmas vacations and such... but frankly, it's better if you guys come and visit me. After all, I'll be in the Holy Land. (I just applied for a job in Bethlehem--how cool is THAT?!)