I am going to split this post into two parts, part one for my Dead Sea trip on Saturday and part two for my Bethlehem adventure today.
Where to begin. What an action packed weekend, as we had today (Monday) off for Prophet Mohammad’s birthday, so we had three days and decided to do some traveling. Saturday after class, my friend Jason and I decided to head to the Dead Sea, where a big group of friends were spending the day. Since we had class till 1, our friends were already there, so we had to get to the beach on our own. We took a service taxi to Jericho, which is the closest Palestinian city. That area of the Dead Sea is technically in the West Bank, but it is under full Israeli authority and the beach is full of mostly Israelis. We got off the service on the main road right before Jericho, which is an Israeli road that both Israelis and Palestinians use. Israel built this road which cuts right through the West Bank to allow Israelis to travel from North to South and also making transportation to Jerusalem very easy for the settlers, and we passed a ton of settlements on our way. You can easily spot a settlement because they are almost always on the top of a hill and all the homes look identical, with red shingled roofs. They are just scattered throughout the road from Ramallah to Jericho, right in the heart of the West Bank. Part of the road to Jericho also goes parallel to Jerusalem, so we could see neighborhoods of Jerusalem just off to our right, yet of course they are separated by the wall. So close, yet so far.
Once we got off the service taxi on the main road, we realized our only way to the Dead Sea was to hitch hike, so we got picked up by this young Israeli guy and told him we were visiting Israel on our spring break from college. With tons of settlers using this road, we didn’t want to risk telling him we were living in Palestine. We made it to the beach and met up with our friends, and spent the afternoon and evening in the Dead Sea and hanging on the beach. Here is the Dead Sea, with Jordan on the opposite side (and yes, the salt actually does make you float):
At one point we went to the restaurant at the beach, and although the beach was filled mostly with Israelis, the waitress was a Palestinian (a pretty common occurance). We began speaking with her in Arabic, and were greeted by weird looks from the people sitting next to us, who then went on to whisper their opinions to each other.
At around 8, we decided to make a move and I went with four other friends and spent the rest of the evening in Jerusalem, going between different restaurants and cafes. Jerusalem is such a different scene than Ramallah, as I have written about on my previous post. Walking around at night, there are soldiers and security everywhere, and in a way I felt more aware of safety factors being in Jerusalem than I do when I am in Ramallah. I was also tired of lying and telling people I am just visiting Israel, so at one point when someone asked me what I was doing here, I decided I would only partially lie. Instead of telling him I was living in Ramallah, I told him I was visiting the region and was currently staying in Ramallah. He was quite surprised by my answer and briefly asked me how it was, before spending the rest of our conversation asking me how I liked different parts of Israel. It almost felt funny how Jerusalem was so bustling at night with people, yet also with security and soldiers, while once we were back in Ramallah it was quiet and calm.
Today was adventure number two of our weekend, and I will continue the story on my next post…