West Bank

An Israeli's short cut, a Palestinian's occupation

Today, on my way to Jordan and my flight home, I did something no Palestinian from the West Bank can do. I woke up in Ramallah (in the West Bank), went to Jerusalem (already impossible!), got on a bus and rode eastward and then northward THROUGH the West Bank’s Jordan river valley and into northern Israel without having to stop at any checkpoint or show my ID to anyone. How did I do this amazing thing? Answer: I was travelling as an “Israeli.” While Palestinians were suffering out of sight on backroads and at checkpoints, I enjoyed comfort, efficiency, and arguably, relative safety. 

The silent transfer: Israel says I've lived with my family long enough

The Occupying State of Israel has decided that I have been living with my family and two daughters long enough. After being given a one month tourist visa when I entered through the Israeli border to reach the Palestinian areas (which is the only way to enter), the Israelis have responded to my request for a three month extension by saying one more month would be more than enough. Not only that, but they were kind enough to relieve me from the humiliation and agony of requesting another extension to remain with my family by hand writing, in Arabic, Hebrew and English, LAST PERMIT, on the visa. 

A European-American, not a Palestinian-American, can visit Palestine

As I entered Palestine recently, I saw for myself how Palestinians with American, British, and even Brazilian passports are being turned away from the West Bank and back into Jordan by the Israelis. These are Palestinians with family in the West Bank, or even who themselves were born here, and they are not being allowed a simple visit with their loved ones. And don’t forget the parentheses: under Israel’s “law of return,” any Jewish person from anywhere, with no connection whatsoever to the land aside from ancient and biblical claims, can “make aliya” and start the process of becoming an Israeli citizen simply by showing up at one of these border crossings or the airport. 

Photostory: Nablus' Old City

The West Bank city of Nablus has historically boasted itself as the commercial and business center of Palestine. The West Bank’s largest city, it dates back some 4,500 years. However, Nablus’ economy, cultural heritage, and population have come under attack during the past four years of Israeli violence. Its Old City walls have acquired a new layer of history in the political graffiti and martyr posters honoring the scores of mostly young men from Nablus who have committed suicide bombings or, far more frequently, were killed by Israeli violence. 

Religious tourism and freedom of movement denied in isolated Bethlehem

“It is quite simple. We have no business,” a shopkeeper in Bethlehem’s Old City tells me when I ask him how his business is faring after four years of Intifada and intensified Israeli military occupation. Camels and religious figures carved out of olive wood sit neatly and undisturbed on their shelves. His inventory is the same as it was four years ago. Since no one comes into his store to buy his souvenirs, he doesn’t replenish his stock. And because businessmen like him are not ordering more merchandise, the factories in Bethlehem are at a standstill. 

From Al Nakba to 'Anata: 56 Years of Home Demolitions

“I never dreamed I would see my village,” she said as the wetness pooled in the corner of her eyes. “I never dreamed I would go back there.” And as I watched her choke back the tears, I couldn’t help my own. But I wasn’t as strong as the 16-year-old refugee girl that sat beside me and I had to reach up to wipe my eyes with the back of my hand. The young girl continued to tell us about her village. She explained that many of the homes there had been occupied by Israelis. Other homes had been demolished. A day after my visit to Ibdaa, I found myself in the village of ‘Anata in East Jerusalem watching an Israeli bulldozer tear down the home of a Palestinian family. 

Valley of Fire

I am thirsty, sitting here in the wrong corner of the ‘service’ (pronounced ‘serveece’) taxi. It is hot. The seat belt is tight, scratching my neck. I am sweating. The sun is beating down on me. I am hungry. My mind meanders, searching various avenues of escape. Could I walk through the checkpoint, leaving my fellow Palestinians behind? Would I find a car on the other side? Could I pay a sum to a private car waiting in line on the other side of the dead, closed closure point? Could I persuade someone to leave the line and turn around and take me to my destination? 

Photostory: Ramallah reacts to news of Arafat's death

Today Ramallah awoke to the news of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat’s death, and while the world had been anticipating this day during the nearly two weeks Arafat was hospitalized in France, confirmation of the Palestinian symbol’s passing was no less jarring in Palestine’s cultural capital. Palestinians poured into Ramallah’s Manara Square city center, and spontaneous demonstrations have been and will be taking place. While not many in the streets are crying (emotions will probably run higher tomorrow when Arafat’s burial takes place), people are coming together during this time of mourning and uncertainty. 

A letter from Palestine to my fellow Americans

Catching a taxi to my apartment near Arafat’s compound in Ramallah the other night, the Palestinian driver’s immediate question concerned my nationality. “Germany?” he asked. No. “France?” No. “Switzerland?” No. “Italy?” No … Before he covered the rest of Europe, I somewhat sheepishly admitted, “America.” He cut to the chase: “Do you support Bush?” With an almost desperate note of pain in his voice, different from that of the jaded drivers I usually have, he asked me about occupied Palestine, about occupied Iraq. “Why does your country do this to us?” he asked me. “Are we bad?” “Am I no good?” 

Photostory: Olive harvest in Lower Yanoun

Olive harvesting, an ancient practice that holds great spiritual and economic significance to Palestinians, is threatened by Israel’s colonization of West Bank lands. In areas such as the village of Jayyous, farmers have been cut off from their olive orchards by the apartheid wall Israel is illegally building on Palestinian land with the intention of annexing precious natural resources to the Israeli side while preventing the rightful Palestinian owners access to their land. But here in Yanoun, it is the Israeli settlers themselves who harass and shoot at the Palestinian harvesters, whose only crime is their desire to work the land that their ancestors have tended for generations.