Last weekend, we packed our bags, rented a car and went on a road trip! We were three European girls and one Palestinian dog just chilling, swimming and driving (not the dog) on the Mediterranean coast (Jaffa, Haifa, Akko!). Lovely, right?
Well, here, nothing is uncomplicated. The two of us (Tea and Ida) both experienced a journey on the inside, that you can’t possibly see in the amazing pictures we took. We thus created a log-book from this weekend get-away that tracks the thought process we had.
Tea in gray, and Ida in brown. Two minds, one log.
16.56 We are driving through the checkpoint, and we are on the other side. It is a hot day- like every day – and as soon as I can, I take my backpack and take out shorts and a sleeveless T-shirt. I want to change, as soon as possible and I do it just there in the car, while colleague is driving. It feels sooooooo good to be in shorts and there is this indescribable feeling of freedom doing so, although it’s just clothes.
17:04 We are in a car driving inside Israel and we have just passed the checkpoint. The girls are discussing something in the front seat but I am not paying attention. I am sitting in the back seat looking out of the window at the beautiful scenery trying to identify the feeling in my stomach. It feels bad. I don’t want to be here at all. I don’t like this place. Please take me back to the camp.
18:26 We are in a dog shelter in Tel Aviv, handing over two Palestinian street dogs. The people here are amazing animal loving people, and they show a genuine interest in the dogs and us. I feel a connection to them because of our shared care for the dogs – but at the same time I avoid telling them about my life when they ask.
19:30 We are in an old industrial building in Jaffa, a former Arab town, now outside Tel Aviv. The former industrial building in the harbour is full of art; paintings, stickers, booklets, posters; all with amazing colours and some political messages. I realise I missed public spaces and art and it’s amazing to be in a place like this.
19:57 We are walking at the promenade in Jaffa. The sun is setting, the sea is incredibly beautiful and the whole atmosphere is welcoming. The situation makes me so happy I can’t stop smiling. I make the decision that it is okay to feel this way, because the sea is an innocent part of nature, unaware of conflicts at its shore – and I am allowed to love it. It is not the fault of the sea that some people are separated from it by a wall, but still so close they can almost smell it.
23.26 The feeling of this freedom feels strange. I had a lovely day, exploring the modern places, sitting in a park, walking at the beach promenade, looking at cool and hipster places. But I can’t stop thinking that it’s so absurd that just couple kilometres away, we live in a refugee camp. And for Palestinians this feeling of freedom, I had most of the day, is something unattainable. And of course Ida and me starts talking… and then this ubiquitous question, that we can’t shake it off: “So, what is the solution for this conflict?” We are talking for a long time, shaking different options. We don’t always agree.
09:34 We are walking towards the beach for a first swim, yay! We slept on the beach and need to refresh. A man passes by with a small child on his arm and our eyes meet. I wonder if they speak about Palestine at home. If they know, or care.
11:02 In the car on the highway towards Haifa, I read about the Bahaiis for the first time; a religion based on world peace and gender equality that has its headquarters in Haifa, and had that even before Haifa became Israeli. I love it. I love that there is a religion like this, and that they are right here.
13.39 What an amazing view. Gardens, perfectly maintained, clean and colourful and below this beautiful coastal city, with the beach on the south and the sea in the horizon. Ida and me are playing in a park, at the children’s playground and we are sitting on the grass, enjoying the feeling.
But, what the fuck? I am amazed with what I see, but I cannot understand it. What is this? And who are these Bahaiis? How did they end up here? I like their philosophy… but …how do they fit into this entire situation here? And what kind of status they have? And why is there no single park and playground in Bethlehem and our refugee camp?18.54 I love driving the car. Haifa is enormous and astonishing. Exploring the city, then stopping at the market, trying some homemade local food, going for a coffee and just spending hours chilling, sightseeing and now we are finally at Carmel Mountains, surrounded by trees, hiking tracks, watching the sunset and enjoying the nature.
It is easy to live in this bubble. Just enjoying these lovely things… not thinking what is happening around you. I hate it. I really do. I cannot stand it anymore. I cannot stand this duplicity of what is actually happening, all I see here is deception.
11.51 I can never get enough of these narrow streets, beige buildings, with turquoise doors, that are so significant for this old Arab citadels. We are walking the streets of Akko and unlike Jaffa, the sense of Arab culture is more present here. Arabs actually still live here and their houses have not been taken away and transformed into boutiques, shops, studios or stores. The old city is directly connected to the sea and they have access to the beach. It is one of the most breathtaking places I have seen.
19:09 We are driving back on the highway, sided by high palm trees, and we see Tel Aviv on the right, and soon Ramallah on the left. Other cities appear in the horizon. Two things cross my mind; that the distances here are very short, and that this is really all the same land.
20:21 We are driving through the check-point in the wall, and suddenly we are surrounded by the familiar smells and sounds of Bethlehem. It feels strange that I have had the privilege to see both sides when most people here do not. I know that people’s’ memories of the other side are not fading, but the other side is changing fast, and perhaps doesn’t reflect the memories anymore. It feels good to be on this side of the wall, it is the right place to be.
20.22 Driving a car through the checkpoint is confusing. Not only because of the stupidity of these rules, but also because of all the reflections I constantly have in my mind. I spend 3 days on the other side of the wall and now we are going back to Bethlehem, in our bellowed home in a refugee camp. I don’t feel comfortable driving this car, with Israeli plates to this area. I don’t want people from the camp see me in this. I saw what can happen to the cars with yellow plates, but moreover I know this is seen as betrayal.
21.16 Our host family kisses and hugs us when we arrive, gives us dinner and takes care of us. The youngest daughter in the family asks me where we have been. She wants to look at the photos I’ve taken and when she sees the beach and the sea she’s curious if I can swim. She scrolls down the pictures at my phone, at first being intrigued… but then, before seeing all the photos, she puts my phone down and says she will never see this. And she’s sad.
And I am sad as well. And I feel guilty. And there are no words to describe this horrible feeling. And I just answer “One day”, trying to convince and comfort her. And me.