Over winter break, my family and I traveled to Israel. The Middle East is one of the most intense places on earth, and for many years, the Palestinian/Israeli region has been conquered, fought over, destroyed and rebuilt.
According to many experts, Israel is one of the safest countries in the world. We were told before visiting that everywhere we looked, we would see soldiers armed to the teeth with machine guns. In reality, we saw few signs of the immense security efforts to protect the Jewish state; these efforts were most noticeable at the borders and airports.
The only places we noticed the aforementioned forces are on the borders, and at airports.
When we landed at the airport in Tel Aviv, we took a car ride to Jerusalem and immediately noticed how different this place was from the United States. Our driver was very vocal about his opinion on politics and didn’t hold back. When we drove by the wall separating Palestine and Israel he talked about how walls work and how us Americans should use them to keep out Mexicans.
He then mentioned how Muslims ruin Israel and how he didn’t think they should be anywhere near him. From this car ride, we realized how two different cultures live very close to each other but also hate eachspaceother.
Throughout the next couple of days, we explored the Old City in Jerusalem. We visited the Western Wall, the Church of The Holy Sepulchre, delete oxford comma and many more historic landmarks.
I was most excited by our trips to the Golan Heights and the Palestinian territories.
We took a car ride to the Golan which was once part of Syria, but was taken by Israel in the Six Day War and is still disputed land to this day. We spent the day in a Jeep off-roading on the border. We saw abandoned tanks from the war, new tanks that Israelis were driving around, as well as Anti-Tank Mines placed along the roadside.
It felt weird being in the place where so much fighting happened but is completely peaceful now. We saw green for miles and very little signs of civilization.
My dad has a work friend named Nasser Atta who is a Palestinian journalist but who works all throughout Israel. He was our tour guide when we went into Ramallah which is in the West Bank.
You would think leaving Israel and going into the West Bank would be unsettling because of stories in the media, but not at all. Ramallah is a well functioning Arab city surrounded by Israel. There was absolutely nothing wrong and save for the signs in Arabic, you couldn’t tell you were in a different country.
During our adventure, we visited a school and met children, who are learning exactly the same things we are. Kids were in trouble for not listening to their teacher just how we get in trouble. They learned Math, Science, English and Arabic.
As we walked through the streets, we stopped every couple of steps because one of our guide‘s friends would greet him. We stopped at a flower shop, pharmacy and pita place. All of them had known Atta for years and all of them greeted him with the phrase “Habibi!”
Our trip to Israel was one I will never forget, and our trip to Ramallah is one I am reminded of every time I see it in the news.