Calli's Visit to Israel and Palestine

Calli's Visit to Israel and Palestine-001Today's entry falls in the middle of the much anticipated visit of my dear friend Caroline. I met Calli when I was studying at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England for a semester of university, a fact that we've both had to tell stern passport control agents as we entered each other's countries to visit over the years.

Poor Calli's entry to Israel via Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv this visit was prolonged as they put her through the standard series of interviews they do when finding out someone is visiting Palestine.

I paced and worried as over an hour passed from the time her plane was supposed to land. I knew that they were holding her in a room somewhere by keeping her passport hostage.

When she finally emerged and after joyful and relieved hugs, she told me they asked many of the same questions over and over. They even asked "Aren't you scared to be going to the West Bank?" which after so long living in the West Bank seems like a funny question; the gap between how the average Israeli seems to perceive the safety/instability of the West Bank and the actual reality on the ground is so wide.

While Calli has been here, we've talked a lot about how the people of these interwoven countries  react differently to the perceived threats they offer to each other. In Israel, there are bag and trunk checks at the entrances to major malls and parking garages. There are lines for free gas masks. In Palestine, they don't plan much more than three days out for anything. Life is too unpredictable to try to control anything. There could be a protest, closure, or (in Gaza) a missile strike. The result in both countries is the same: people who live with constant stress and anxiety.

Here I've not observed the sense of The Good Life, or the relaxed openness I've found in countries like Italy and France.  In both countries I demand or take what I need - it is never given to me without strong action.  In Israel I must demand loudly that the server at a restaurant come take my order because that's what everyone does.  No demand, no service. In Palestine I must cut off other drivers in traffic because that's how everyone drives.  If you don't cut someone off, you simply won't be able to go where you need to go.

Another interpretation of all this loud demanding and offensive driving is that is it simply part of the passionate Mediterranean culture of the area. But I think it's a bit more than passion I'm observing. I sense deep rooted fear and oppression.  It's almost impossible to avoid tapping into the fuel line of fear that runs people's lives here.

In addition to talking about the ups and downs of life here with Calli, we've made sure to experience a lot of the ups, starting with hummus and salads on the beach in Tel Aviv on Friday afternoon. Calli is a gifted photographer and took many of these photos:

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Saturday Prince Charming made an Instagramable and delicious traditional breakfast with eggs, zatar, olives, and more:
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We went to the Dead Sea for a float -- and a therapeutic skin masque made from the naturally
occurring black mud there.
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Sunday we visited Jerusalem and took a walk along the ramparts. The best part of that was holding an invisible bow and arrow aimed out of one of the narrow defense slots at the top of the wall.
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Later in the evening we went to the Tower of David light show which got great reviews on Trip Advisor. It was very impressive and well-produced.

Last night we enjoyed evening and sunset views from Hosh Jasmin restaurant in the West Bank near Bethlehem and Calli enjoyed her new favorite drink - Leemoon bee nana, or lemon with mint, an icy sweet thirst quencher.

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Now we are headed out for some shopping and yoga.

Thanks for visiting Calli, it's been wonderful to share our temporary home with you!