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Crossing the separation wall into the westbank

The journey from Jerusalem to Bethlehem

sunny 34 °C

WHEN I entered Israel I was advised against visiting the Westbank by the Israeli customs, Since this advise was offered after the 4 hours of interogation my response to that advise was: 'I have no plans of going to the Westbank'. Call me a liar or a coward there was no way I was going to be denied entry into Israel due to my plans of visiting the westbank. When they stamped my passport for entry the first thing on my mind was the 'separation wall' & the 'Jewish settlements' . I had planned to backpack the rest of Israel before going to the westbank , due to this I had a previlege of meeting a few 'Palestinian activists' tourists who were at the Westbank supporting the olive picking mission. They were involved in helping a Palestinian family to pick olives durring harvest time. After hearing all their stories ( besides their engaging political views which I did find engaging BUT I was uncomfortable discussing them in a bus next to a young Israeli soldier wearing sun glasses and holding a gun), I was much more convinced though that I need to visit the Westbank. Although my counsular service advised against any visits to the Westbank I figured out it can't be that bad, can IT? I did contemplate of attending an organised march around the villages on Friday BUT I decided against that idea (personal experience with riot marches and me nearly getting killed). Anyhow besides the marches I still had all the tourist sites to visit in the west bank. I took a taxi from Jerusalem bus station to the separation wall, I was overcharged for the journey, it is best to take a bus from the bus station to Damascus gate and then take a minibus to the separation wall. I arrived at the gate just after 18:00. Upon arrival I found a long que of Palestinian men who were from work (Jerusalem) going back home (Bethlehem). I have to mention Palestinian men since I was the only Woman in this long que of almost two hundred men. Anyhow I joined the long que, while I was queing one of the guys in the que told me not to que but go through. I was amazed at this but I wasn't about to start questioning why I can just skip the que, I did pretend to look around to check if anyone was against the idea of me skiping the que but eveyone just looked at me. As no one objected to the idea of me skiping the que I started making my way to the front of the que. As I was walking I heard the men 'whisthling' and saying stuffs in Arrabic. This was the only time I was happy that my Arrabic was limited to a few words or else I don't think I would have liked hearing what was being said about me, but they were all smilling and excited about whatever they were saying. I figured out that they are just being typical men. When I reached the front of the que, the Israeli soldier just let me pass through without even checking my passport. After I went through the men behind me started showing their permision slips. From the passport/permision slip control point I had to walk through a long corridor, when I finaly exited the coridor to the other side of the separation wall. I then took a taxi to Bethlehem, I tried to find a cheap youth-hostel but due to the fact that Bethlehem is reported to be unstable and dangerous etc there is a shortage of reasonable accommodation, basically I struggled to find a cheap hostel I finally checked into a into a hotel. In the morning I joined a group of tourist who were volunteering in olive picking, In the afternoon I went sight seeing: Visited the church of Nativity (as a christian that was an AMAZING experienece), due to curiosity I had to see the 'Jewish settlements' and 'the Graffitti on the separation wall'. In all my stay in Bethlehem I never in anytime felt unsafe. I walked from my hotel to resturants,tourist sites etc on my own besides the usual staring I felt safe indeed... I am glad I visited the Westbank wonderful experience indeed, going through the well known SEPARATION WALL was a lifetime dream come true. Funny enough when I exited Israel I was interogated again for 2 hours and I was asked if I had visited Bethlehem.. my answer to that question was ........... :)

Posted by Thuligal 11:06 Archived in Israel Tagged tourist_sites

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