5 minutes reading time Israël
This article is not about convincing you to visit Palestine or to impose my opinion about everything that is happening right there. This article is just about what I experienced when I visited Palestine. And maybe a little bit about why it can be interesting to go to less obvious places sometimes.
So, I did go to Palestine to see and experience de situation by myself. And I am writing this article because I think it is important to spread the word, to talk about what I have seen in Palestine. Because, from my experience, western media mostly shows what happens in Israel.
The one city I went to that made the biggest impression on me was Hebron. I went there together with a Palestinian guy, the brother of the owner of the hostel I was staying at in Bethlehem. This city is divided into Palestinian and Israeli parts. And because of that, my guide was not allowed to go to all the places he wanted to show me. In some places, he told us where to go and how to come back and he would wait for us, because he wasn’t allowed to enter some streets or buildings, in his city. Some Palestinians are banned out of (parts) of their own houses, I saw snipers walking on rooftops keeping an eye on Palestinians 24/7. I saw streets filled with garbage thrown there by Israeli’s, to bully the Palestinians. They are not allowed to clean it up, and if they do so, who knows what those snipers will do. It felt like walking through Amsterdam how I imagined it would have been during World War II, but this situation is not from 70 years ago, it is happening now.
Because of the dangerous situation, tourists stay away, and the main income of many people is shrinking. Some of the shopping streets of Hebron felt like streets of a ghost town. I felt heartbroken. Back in my hostel in Bethlehem, the owner told me about all the harm Israel had done to his family. Later, in the middle of the night, I woke up by a storm, when I looked outside the window, I saw the water tank of the hostel had fallen off the roof. Together with the owner and all the guests of the hostel we succeeded in putting it back on the roof. Palestinians only get an x-amount of water every month by the Israeli’s, this happening meant we had to be more careful with water for the rest of the month.
After my stay in Hebron, I went to Ramallah. That wasn’t my plan, my plan was going to Bethlehem and Hebron and going back to Israel. But the owner of my hostel in Bethlehem, who also owns a hostel in Ramallah, insisted on it. He said I would have the time of my life there, so I went, by bus, which in itself was already quite an experience. And he was right, I did have the time of my life. Ramallah is everything and nothing you would expect from a Palestinian city. It is creative, vibrant, modern, and young. You can feel the rich cultural tradition and the great music scene. And that is what I did in Ramallah, I met the most lovely, bravest, purest, most interesting people, I enjoyed the hip coffee places and I went to some awesome parties at great locations. Where I heard, among multiple other great artists, Samaa playing, who started the techno scene in Palestine. Since then I became a big fan of her.
Big marketing machine
For me, being a white female tourist, going to these places was fine; I am not part of the conflict. Besides that, Israel is an enormous great marketing machine having a big fear that we, western people, will think bad about them. They will do anything to prevent that from happening. When I was in Tel Aviv and I told people that I went to visit Bethlehem and Hebron, people would tell me not to go, either because it would be dangerous or because it would be boring. And the reason they said that to me, is because they don’t know. They got told it is dangerous or boring, they haven’t been there themselves. When I met an Israeli guy during a trip to India, he was super surprised to hear my stories about my great time in Palestine. He didn’t even know you could party there.
While in Palestine people were super eager to tell me about the situation, in Israel no one would ever start a conversation like that. Especially not in Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv is called the bubble of Israel and I could immediately feel why. Nothing I saw in Israel was to compare with the rest of Israel, as futuristic, young, and vibrant it is. But also, as not aware some people are. As proud, they are of their city and their country without really knowing what is happening outside their city in the rest of their country. I am not blaming any citizens for the situation in the middle east, they cannot help they are born there. I am saying that I think it wouldn’t harm them if they would read into it a little bit more. Again, I do not want to convince you about my opinion, and it might be wrong or not based on enough resources.
I would say, go and see by yourself (only when it is safe to go, of course). You will have a wonderful time at least.