Thursday, August 11, 2005

Visit to the West Bank

Today my cousin Yuval and his wife Michael who live in the "Shomron" in the West Bank showed me and my parents, siblings, uncles, aunts and cousins around the West Bank (and to their house for a delicious lunch!).
We drove past the checkpoint (Israelis have to go through them too) and into the West Bank, and were surrounded by thousands of olive trees that were planted by Palestinian Arabs on the sides of the road, for miles.
I was shocked to learn that in order for my cousins to get to their home, they had to drive through Palestinian Arab towns. Israelis and Palestinian Arabs use the same road to get around. (Picture of an Israeli car and Palestinian Arab truck passing each other).
Yuval's father-in-law was telling me, nostalgically, about how he used to come to these towns and buy his groceries from Palestinian Arabs and how good the relationship between them used to be. He said he still has a close Palestinian Arab friend, and I asked how that was possible. "Won't he get in trouble for associating with Israelis?". He answered: "He's older, so he isn't as threatened as the younger generation which is easier to influence, and which is seen as the future."
Since disengagement is around the corner, we went to go see the 2 of the 4 neighbourhoods in the area that were being evacuated. Surprisingly, everything seemed pretty normal, with people going about their daily lives. We spoke to one woman and asked her if she thinks that the disengagement will happen. She said "absolutely not, this is our home, no one will take it away from us." What upsets them the most (as well as many other Israelis), is that so many people are being forced out of their homes, without any agreement or negotiations occurring between Israelis and Palestinian Arabs. They feel as if their home is being taken from them without anything in return. (Other Israelis feel that these people are spoiled because their lifestyle is highly subsidized by the government: they got houses for free, do not pay for utilities...and after the evacuation, they will be receiving free houses and many other benefits, all paid for with tax money). I could not believe her conviction that in a week, she would still be in her home in the West Bank. Then again, if I were in her position, I probably would not want to believe it either. (In the picture, construction on a local synagogue continued.)
After lunch, we went to go visit Yuval's sister (also my cousin), who lives in the middle of nowhere in the West Bank, a place called "Har Nof". On the way, we passed probably the most well-known and dangerous checkpoint, where many terrorists have been intercepted and even blown up.
Going to the West Bank was really important for me to see how Israelis and Palestinians live side-by-side, the living conditions of both (which are much better than expected), and to see the truth about what is going on, and not just what everyone sees in the newspaper.


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