Camping and Palestine

The banks here in Israel suck. I’m just saying. When you withdraw cash you can’t even choose which account to take it from (Canadian chequing, Canadian savings, US savings). Come on. That’s the most basic thing in Canadian banking. Anyway, as a result I was left extremely upset and frustrated on Thursday afternoon and I was exceptionally angry. I hate having to think/worry about money. The boyfriend was kind enough to let me wake him up at 6:30am and vent to him. I do love him.

Thursday evening I hopped on the bus to Herzliya to meet Beny (aka couchsurfing respondant 1) to go camping on the beach near Kibbutz Magan Michael (I think that’s how it’s spelled) for some couchsurfing event. The beach was absolutely beautiful (photos next post, I promise!) and we slept out in the sand in sleeping bags (half my face is covered in mosquito bites). There was an eclectic mix of people there – some of the couchsurfers were very nice, others were extremely weird. My favourites were the young guys doing ulpan at the kibbutz, most of whom weren’t couchsurfers. Overall though, I can say I really went for the scenery. Oh, and of course, being me, I forgot the jacket that the boyfriend gave me before I left Canada on the beach there. Luckily the organizer found it and I should have it back next week.

Upon returning from the beach, I moved house. I now share a room with an absolutely lovely American-Israeli girl in a nice neighbourhood and a gorgeous house. I feel so good – at ease and happy. Yesterday she and I went to the West Bank with an organization here called Ta’ayush. There is a group of very dedicated volunteers in Ta’ayush that goes out every Saturday to the West Bank to work with and in Palestinian villages and help wherever they can. Yesterday we were in the village area of Susiya (if you remember, I visited the settlement in my first week here) where the settlers regularly antagonize the villagers and try to prevent them from accessing their olive trees. Now don’t get me wrong, there was no violence. However, the settler behaviour – which was silent and calm – was some of the most antagonistic that I have seen. One settler almost reached the foot of the village!

The Palestinians remained calm. They stood on their land, they faced the settlers quietly, they did nothing. We too stood and took photos. However, I could feel hate everywhere – I don’t know where it was coming from, maybe it was just my hate. I was so angry, I couldn’t understand why the settlers were being so antagonistic. A large number of them came out too – apparently the settlement had asked all its residents to come. There were mainly men, but there were also women and children. It’s inexplicable, I don’t know how I can make clear just how antagonistic simply walking onto the land was. How charged it was.

In the end, the army declared the area a “closed military zone” for Israelis – meaning neither the settlers nor Ta’ayush could stay on the land, but the Palestinians still could. We withdrew to the village and kept an eye out to make sure the IDF upheld its part, and it did. We then crossed the road to see a Palestinian village (more like a shanty-town, really, according to a co-worker at the organization) that had been destroyed 3 times in the last 6 months by the IDF (the Israeli army). I can’t imagine the amount of manpower it would take to throw rocks into the entrance of the cave, uproot olive trees, destroy their water cistern, and demolish the houses. There were a few tents being put up by Palestinian families rebuilding, and again, it was an exceptionally difficult and saddening situation.

The Palestinians in the West Bank still live under three different legal systems. Israeli law, Jordanian law, and the British Mandate law. Essentially, the Civil Administration (which is the Israeli governing body in the West Bank) picks and chooses from the laws of the three legal systems, implementing those that are the worst for the Palestinian people. In this case, the village had been demolished multiple times because it was being built on “agricultural land” under British Mandate law – it didn’t matter that settlers had started building on what is also agricultural land and part of a designated archaeological site. Such are the double standards.

Upon return, I spent a brief moment at the beach with a lovely guy I met through couchsurfing and then I went to a protest in Tel Aviv for a Palestinian State. Though the numbers were small (Haaretz reported about 5,000 people) it was heartening to see parents with their little children there because I knew that these children would be raised with the right values. I snapped a large number of photos – until my battery ran out – and then walked home, passing an opposition (anti-Palestinian State) protest of about two dozen people on my way back. Again, I felt some hate within me. What has this country turned me into?

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