Jerusalem Journals

A Stranger on My Own Land

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A March 2004 trip to Jerusalem by saberzaitoun

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Quote: They made us wait 3.5 hours before escorting us out of the airport, into an Israeli taxicab. He dropped us off at a remote checkpoint inside the West Bank, in the dark of night, and we had the sinking feeling of stepping into a prison.

Into the Dark of Night

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It was a very long plane ride. Seven hours from the U.S. to Frankfurt, spending a few hours at the airport, then changing to another plane bound for Tel Aviv.Though Palestine is my homeland, I haven't been back for 5 years. The last time I visited, in 1999, was at the height of the Oslo "Peace Process". Everyone there was optimistic, hopeful that a decades-old conflict will come to an end so they can get to enjoy normal lives for once, like the rest of humanity.Many emigrants had returned, and Ramallah, thought to be a de facto capital of the future Palestinian state, was booming.This time I didn't really know what to expect. The high point of peace had lasted only briefly, with the region slipping ba...Read More

Into the Dark of Night 2

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Finally at the terminal, the "place of birth" on my American passport, and the seemingly innocent question of "How's your Hebrew", were enough to identify us and lead us into the infamous "Arab Room", now reduced to a small corner of the airport. Despite our being married for 4 years, and despite all that she learned about Palestine, and the conflict during that time, my wife simply could not believe the way they treated us at Tel Aviv airport. At first she thought they were taking their time checking our passports. Quickly though, she couldn't help notice how empty the airport was, and how many of the border girls working there were hanging around chatting and doing nothing, while we were told to wai...Read More

An invisible occupation

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From that checkpoint at the edge of the West Bank where the Israeli airport taxi dropped us off, the way to Ramallah winded through dark valleys on the western slopes of the West Bank, through many new Israeli colonies (the so-called "settlements").We took a Palestinian taxi to Ramallah, the same one that was sent to pick us up from the airport but was prohibited from doing that and told to follow us. The driver was worried about going back along that way, in between the colonies. Though the colonies were lit with bright lights, they wore a gloomy face and appeared very quiet and sleepy as everyone hid inside their houses. Each colony was surrounded by barbed wire, enclosing a large swath of land (for...Read More

An invisible occupation pt. 2

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Talking about the wall, I was at first excited when I heard in the USA that the Israeli High Court issued a decision to halt construction. "At least there’s some justice" I naively thought. Upon seeing things with my own eyes, however, I learned the fine print. First the Israeli High Court ordered a halt of "construction", but not a halt of "preparations"—a seemingly benign term that in the Israeli lexicon included such things as expropriating land from villages, demolishing Palestinian homes standing in the way of the wall, digging ditches and minefields, and bringing concrete blocks and laying them in place but on their side. The second fine print is that such and such an order is issued regarding t...Read More

An Israeli Safari

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My first shock upon crossing the border into Palestine is the brand new concrete bridge under which actually flowed not a drop of water. In my childhood, we crossed many times over a tattered old wooden bridge, which was actually built over a deep, gushing river.Now the river is sucked dry by Israel’s extensive industrialization and unnatural population growth, such as their recent import of "one million Russians" in the 1990s to put pressure on Palestinians. The Jordan valley and eastern West Bank slopes, needless to say, were as barren as ever. True, I am visiting in September before the first rain of the season, but never before in my life have I seen that area in such a dehydrated state. The wa...Read More