Team Talk - Rohan: Final Note
Meeting a Swiss girl at a train station and going to the holocaust museum together. Getting to the museum to see a group of green clothed soldiers walking through the museum carrying M16 rifles. Some of them were girls in their early 20’s. We come out of the museum and we see there is a military procession for new soldiers in front of a monument dedicated to the partisan soldiers of World War II. It is mandatory for males aged 18-21 and females aged 18-20 to serve in the military in Israel. You see a lot of young people in checkpoints, security and guards.
Walking through an East Jerusalem gate and seeing a sniper above it looking down the barrel at you. There are around 20 soldiers about. Israeli soldiers in East Jerusalem. Armoured buses pass down the road. Unarmoured ones - the Palestinian ones are a couple of streets back.
Going to Jerusalem from Ramallah. Travel time - Ramallah to Jerusalem is 2 hours, Jerusalem to Ramallah is 1 hour. The difference is the queues for the checkpoints. Soldiers check your identification papers and move you on if you are a westerner. If you are a local - it depends. Some they let through with papers. Others get taken off for interrogation or extensive search. You can’t be sure how long it will take to get through. Strangely enough, the checkpoint we pass through separates the West Bank and the West Bank… It is Palestinian on both sides.
Catching a bus from Ramallah to Jerusalem by myself. The locals point to sit next to a man so that I don’t disturb their customs. When we pass through the checkpoint, two armed Israeli soldiers get on with submachine guns and check everyone’s papers. I recognize the guns from Counter-Strike - they are P90’s.
Walking through Jerusalem at 11pm at night. I cross an orthodox suburb. I see nothing but people wearing black with black hats and black curls. They stare at me. I look out of place in jeans and a white Ibiza tshirt. I walk down the dark roads towards East Jerusalem. There are a group of Arab young men standing at the border. I approach and say hello. They look at me and ask me where I am going. I point to the bar about a block down. They leave me alone and I continue walking.
Walking through Ramallah late at night. We walk down streets and back alleys. The night market is going on and there are still people selling things. We get to the quiet streets and there is no one. Sometimes there are no street lights. We walk for 30 mins - me and two women - and we are unharassed and unnoticed. The only person we see is a young boy riding up and down the street on his bike, yelling at us in Arabic to check out his skids.
Driving out into the middle of the desert near the Jordanian border. We see an Israeli military base near the Jordanian border. Further out I glimpse out the window and see far in the distance a man meditating on top of a mountain with a camel standing beside him.
The only fight I saw was when I flagged down one cab with a black label (which was a shared ride cab) and then a white label cab driver started at the other cab driver and they were yelling at each other in Arabic and I had no idea what they were saying.
Taxi drivers in Ramallah don’t know street names. You have to explain to them using landmarks - mosques, supermarkets, and shops.
In Ramallah, they shut down the streets for an hour each day just so the head of the government can drive to work. There are armed police in Ramallah.
Palestine is very westernized. There are still the regular call to prayer, but there are also western cafes where you can drink and smoke, the style of dress is western, women can wear what they want, can drive cars and own property. There is a billboard on the way to Jerusalem which is of a Palestinian woman advertising women's rights.
There is this event called Purim, which was celebrated in Tel Aviv with a giant street party. There is military blockades for four blocks with police and several layers of security checks where bags are checked. On the other side of that is a massive rave. The Israelis party for three days and three nights. The street at night turns into a massive party with 30,000 people drinking and dancing in the streets.
A lot of people in Ramallah drive nice cars and live in apartments made of rock. The apartments have polished floors and have a very nice feel to them.
Washing clothes, then lifting the machine up off the floor and running the waste pipe down the floor waste gate.
Having to phone someone to translate my English into slightly more eastern English so that the taxi driver could understand where I wanted to go.
Seeing a Palestinian architecture student design a checkpoint as a final year project.
On our last night at 10pm, one of the crew and I were waiting outside our apartment standing just in front of a construction site. While we were standing there, an older man in his 50s approached us and asked us where we were from. He then told us we couldn’t stand there and said we would have to move. We said sorry and were about to move on, when he asked us to tea, pointing in the direction of a hut in the corner of the site. I accepted his request. What this led to was a 2 hour discussion of his travels and the most generous hospitality I have received. I was offered everything from dates, to tea, to money. His accommodation was meager and small. He said he worked there 12 hours a day, and then worked at another construction site 12 hours a day. 24 hour shifts for $400 USD a month. There was a bed where he could sleep, a small TV, a jug and a refrigerator. Finally we said our goodbyes and I thanked him for his tea and hospitality.