When I planned this trip several months ago, I intended to spend today and tomorrow touring Petra. I had found a two day tour that included a night in the dessert with the Bedouin that sounded amazing. Early in September, my (no longer) trusty MacBook Pro breathed it’s last breath, leaving me with a $1,700 bill to first diagnose it and then replace it. That pretty much killed my Jordan budget. When I was exploring alternative activities I came across a tour offered by Abraham Hostel that looked really interesting. The tour visits Hebron with the day split between the Jewish Hebron perspective (and by this I mean, the perspective of the Jews who live in Hebron) and the perspective of Palestinians in Hebron. I signed up right away, wanting to increase my understanding about the conflict and also with a desire to visit the Cave of Machpelah.
This morning I met up with my fellow tourists and our guide for the Jewish perspective and we boarded the bus to Hebron. A disclaimer: I slept pretty poorly last night, so what I read about visiting the West Bank before going to sleep might not have been consolidated in my memory. The truth: What you’re about to read probably would have happened anyway.
We started on the Palestinian side (H1, I learned this morning). As we strolled through the checkpoint the Palestinian Authority soldiers stopped us and inquired, “Is anyone Jewish?” Anyone who has ever met me knows that I have a really hard time not answering ANY question I know the answer to (and a fair amount that I don’t). Also, a man with a gun was asking me a question. Clearly, I hadn’t remembered that Jews are not allowed into the area. These are all really important factors. The most important one might be, I AM Jewish. So I said I was. The soldier surprised me by responding that I wasn’t allowed to enter.
I have never been refused entry anywhere because of being Jewish. It was not lost on me that in the same country that I have been revelling in the experience and sensation of being a majority, I experienced the most challenging treatment I ever have, on the basis of being Jewish. Of course, Moslems experience the same if attempting to enter the checkpoints in H2. Israel is a challenging and fascinating place.
I saw beautiful and awful things today. Some of the conditions I witnessed were horrible. At the same time, I met people that completely reinforced my hope that conversation and connection are the route to peace, increased possibilities and joy – no matter what the circumstances. I met people – on both sides of the conflict – who live a harder life than I can ever imagine. Everything I saw and experienced changed me. I am sure that I will be processing the images and ideas for days and years. I definitely intend to return, ideally with Pascal and our children (sorry, Mom).