Anchors Away! Observations and impressions on our way to Palestine
We’re settled in on a Boeing 777 leaving Newark, NJ arriving Tel Aviv Ben Gurion at 8:25A the next day. Our seatmate is a young man who introduces himself as Alex. He’s maybe 22 years old, rather tall, swarthy, unshaven, lived in Russia as a child. Why are you going to Israel, we ask. I’m going on the Birthright program, he tells us. Birthright- which is primarily funded by Jewish philanthropists - allows persons of Jewish descent to go to Israel for ten days, free of charge, to tour the country. It will help him decide if he wants to move there. If he does, the Israeli government will help finance his move to the settlement of his choice in the West Bank. An effective way to grow the country – and promote a sense of connection between Israel and members of the Jewish Diaspora.
|Faithful Jews praying at the Western Wall|
We’re arriving in Jerusalem after a long wait at the airport for a shuttle bus. Traffic is extremely heavy. We see many tour buses lined up in parking lots. Israel’s new tramway, which opened last year, is jammed with people. Making slow progress on Jaffa Road leading to the Old City, we come to an intersection blocked by a police car. Our driver argues with the policeman to allow him to go through. No luck. Passengers going to the Old City’s Damascus Gate have to exit the bus. Five minute walk, he says. After a half hour walk in the midday sun, pulling our suitcases, we arrive at our destination. We have arrived in Jerusalem at the beginning of the Jewish Festival called Sukkot. It is observed in memory of the 40 years the Israelites spent in the wilderness after the Exodus. There are thousands of Jewish faithful in the city for five days. Jerusalem means everything to everybody in Israel/Palestine.
|93 year old woman, displaced from her home|
We hear about a bus tour leaving from a local hotel called a “Political Tour.” We join a group of 25 students from Denmark and four tourists from Germany. Our guide is about 47, dark curly hair. He says he can pass for an Italian—and sometimes does. He tells us he has spent a total of nine years in Israeli prisons over the years. We go to East Jerusalem which was assigned to the Palestinians after the Six Day War in 1967. We see a large Jewish settlement, built with permission of the Israeli government, complete with a Separation Wall snaking between Palestinian and Jewish homes. We drive north through the massive checkpoint on Nablus Rd and make our way back to a section of East Jerusalem , called Sheik Jarrah, to visit an old woman (93). Some years ago a Jewish family from Brooklyn came to East Jerusalem. They claimed they bought the title to the house, which was issued many years ago during the time when the Ottoman Empire was in control, from owners who live in Turkey. Their claim was upheld by the Israeli Court. The old woman was forcibly evicted from her home by the police. However, she refuses to give up her home or leave her neighborhood. She lives on the street in front of her former house. That’s life in Palestine!
Written by Tom and Mary
Written by Tom and Mary