Our stay with Sameh’s family in the village of Essla and Hebron impressed me the most. The Southern Palestinian town was special the moment we met Mo, our CouchSurfing host, a legend. But we were helped by a local as soon as we got off the bus: Basem Abu Khalf, the man from the beauty shop (he was so handsome, we named him Brad Pitt) helped us find a taxi, called our host.
But let’s see what happened after Hebron as we left Palestine…
Please put on some songs by Dire Straitsand click on the first picture!
A refugee camp near Bethlehem..
There was hardly anybody at the Church of Nativity…
Remnants of the clashes between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers near the wall in Bethlehem
How awfull it is
This man says he’s from a refugee camp trying to sell something to the tourists
View from the Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem
Reception at the Walled off Hotel
The lobby of the Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem
Trylingual signs in Israel
Barbed wire around a church in Haifa, Israel. We spent a few hours in the city thanks to Adi and his family
Dinner at Adi’s. Thank you for hosting us and takint us to the airport…
Construction, fence, military, checkpoint, refugee camp, settlement, occupation, IDF – I think these are the words that were spoken the most during our stay in Palestine (March 27-April 5, 2018).
Click on the first picture to find out why!
In the village of Essla, near Qalqilia we were hosted by the Muhammad family. Hospitality at it’s best. Staying with local people helps me understand how they live, what set of values do they have, what do they think about various issues. Some of the family members have basic English knowledge, but some of the times their facial expression, gestures and eyes tell a whole story. And there’s always the handy tool: offline and online Arabic-English-Arabic translation… We were taken to a fence located right outside the village. They told us: local farmers’ lands are over the fence which is opened only two times a day, at 6 AM and 3 PM… We didn’t dare getting closer: bullets could fly…
Almost none of the Muslims drank alcohol, except our hosts in Ramallah. Imagine us, drunk Europeans managing our way down the stairs of the Muhammad family’s house… 🙂
We had dzadr (djadr) in the evening and omelet with potatoes and other homemade tasty products
We had a stroll in the streets of the village
We even went into a school (madrasa) renovated and extended with money from the US government, and the EU…
Bianka just couldn’t resist the temptation and bought a nice dress…
Women love shopping no matter where they live and what their religion is…
They sell everything
Market street in Qalqilya
Qalqilya: punctures bike tire repaired… 🙂
Await and see what they had inside…
… well, this… 🙂
Why on Earth is he taking a picture of a barber shop?!
We were curious of them, they were very interested in us
What is is holding in his hand?
Resist to exist!
We called it Times Square (Qalqilya)
Thanks to Sameh, we were invited by Mrs. Eltisan to have lunch at her family’s… mansion. It was delicious!
There are wealthy Palestinians, too…
We traveled in a luxurious Range Rover equipped with back seat entertainment
John the Baptist was buried here…
… but where exactly?
Our guides took us to a viewpoint above Nablus. Several lights are coming from the various Jewish settlements located around the Palestinian town. So we wondered: who’s lights are what we see?
If I recall well, it’s the first time I have to censor myself. I cannot write everything I think and feel about our 10-day visit to Palestine. I have to be cautious. The situation in the Middle East and especially in Israel, Palestine and the Gaza Strip is so tense, that whatever one writes, from least one side, accusations, acid remarks will start flying. Therefore I’ll be extremely cautious. Please understand. I’ll try to tell more during private discussions.
I wanted to visit Palestine for a very long time: I was extremely curious of how people live, what they think, how much they earn, get a glimpse into their daily lives, experience the crossing of the various checkpoints, see the refugee camps, talk with the Jewish settlers and maybe the soldiers. During my visit to Palestine (March 27-April 5, 2018) I the success rate was around 90%…
How did it all start?
I simply needed a breakthrough. It came during my unauthorized access to a Turkish military area in Famagusta/Varosha (ghost town), Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (a de facto no man’s land only recognized by Turkey). During the most difficult period of my life (tried by a civilian and then a military court, convicted and expelled) I was helped by… two Palestinians. Thanks to my girlfriend, Bianka, who found him on the platform, Sameh Muhammad hosted me for over a week me through CouchSurfingbetween the military court hearing. He and his flat mates/friends from countries that are regarded by the international community as failing, failed or terrorist states kept my profession secret from the authorities, even though they could have decided to turn me in and be rewarded in various ways.
Sameh was my breakthrough. He was organizing our trip to Palestine from… South Africa.
We bought the Wizz Air ticket as early as December 2017: we paid 303 lei (65 euros) for it.
The flight was in the early hours of March 27, 2018 – we only slept 3 hours prior to departure. We tried to sleep during captain Del Bufalo Manfredi and his team maneuvered the aircraft through the clouds and rising sunshine. Bibi wore red tanga for luck. Both our socks had holes in them. For luck, of course. The tactic paid off: no delay, smooth landing and entry to Israel – we were prepared to encounter difficulties, rough and tough, down and dirty, because we were headed to Palestine, our destination. What if they would have found out that we want to visit Qalqilya, Nablus, Jenin and the refugee camp next to it, Ramallah, Jericho, Bethlehem, Hebron and East Jerusalem? Would they allow us in? We put up the stupid tourist face, and I strongly think that because of this only two simple questions were asked: purpose of visit and length of stay.
Halleluiah, we were in!
Let the rest be told by these pictures. Click on the first one, please!
Early hours of March 27, 2018, at the Cluj International Airport: Wild and rough…
We only slept 3 hours prior to departure, so we made up for it during the 3 hours flight
Orthodox Jews keep a special hat in it
The Israeli passport stamp used to be a question many visitors asked. Today, that question might still be asked but the answer is simple – the Israeli passport stamp is no more, border officials give you an entry visa automatically on a piece of paper. No more stamps in passports (although if you really want one, they might let you!) I asked for one and got it during our tour of Israel in 2013… Whilst many Arab countries who do not recognize Israel will not allow entry to anybody who has an Israeli passport stamp, the Israeli authorities are sympathetic to the fact that many people do wish to travel around the world and since early 2013, most visitors to Israel don’t have their passports stamped… by default!
Bibi wanted to touch the Mediterranean Sea, so took a train from the Ben Gurion International Airport till the center of Tel Aviv
The first gates…
According to The Times of Israel around 6 thousand construction workers help Israel to build, build, build
Conscription exists in Israel for all Israeli citizens over the age of 18. Arab citizens of Israel are not conscripted. We saw many soldiers, everywhere… Of some we thought they are definitely not 18, but, most probably, they were…
How much and for how long?
Saving the planet
We walked a bit, took a bus from the central railway station in Tel Aviv, and there is was: the beach
Enjoy the sun
Fat and fit?
Let me touch the Mediterranean Sea…
Kippah ready to be deployed
We arrived to Kfar Saba by train. We were to meet David Marian (Adi), a Romanian construction worker at a mall that only Jews and foreigners have access to. Street art in the streets of Kfar Saba, Israel
Adi took us to meet Sameh’s father, Muhammed. We drove a bit and then separated: he had to go through an Israeli checkpoint for Arabs. We didn’t. We drove by one designated for those cars which have Israeli number plates
We were hosted by the Muhammad family in the village of Essla in Palestine (West Bank). Warm welcome, great hospitality. It really felt like home. It is not a journalistic exaggeration!
In the evening we went on a stroll. There was a beam of light next to the house. Children were playing with a ball. Ours are playing computer games between four walls…