Monday, December 17, 2018

Jerusalem continued

We had 4 days in Jerusalem and it was good to not have to rush to pack everything in.  Thst said we still managed to do a lot!

We rode the tram to the end of the line to visit the Holocaust Remembrance Center.  A large modern building funded with a lot of Jewish benefactor money, there is an extensive series of exhibits on the treatment of Jews in WWII. 

And there was a visit to the Israel museum which is huge.  The ancient artifacts and other ethnographic collections are both interesting, and well displayed.  There is also a large art collection, but Andrew wasn’t super impressed with it.  More interesting with the art collection is looking at who bequeathed the items to the collection.  A lot of wealthy Jewish donors, including the best pieces from the collections came from the Rothchilds.  The Dead Sea scrolls were...unimpressive (and the week before we were there they we declared fake) but the outdoor sculptures were really good.


One day we joined a tour into Palestine.  Guided by Palestinians was unashamedly pro-Palestinian, and we felt it was a good opportunity to increase our understanding of some of the issues.  We were a group of about 12 people.  Our guide told us about places and events as we went.  For an Israeli citizen it takes 20 minutes to drive directly to Bethlehem.  For a Palestinian it can take 90 minutes as they are only allowed to drive on designated roads and through checkpoints.  Inside Palestinian territories there are still Israeli checkpoints, flags and large numbers of Israeli settlers.  Our guide pointed out the water tanks on the Palestinian houses as water is controlled by the Israelis and only flows on certain schedules so the Palestinians have to stockpile water.  For the Israeli settler houses there are no storage tanks – they have constant water flows.  

Memorial To Yasser Arafat, Settlements and signs
Palestinian movements are highly regulated.  Our guide said, as we looked back across a small gully to Jerusalem, that he had last been there 20 years ago – when he had enough money to apply for a short visit and the documents/permissions to travel.  The Palestinian territories are surrounded by Israel and Palestinians are only permitted to leave the country at 1 designated border crossing.  The Palestinian passport only allows them to travel to a handful of countries Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Egypt. 

We visited the city of Ramallah and Bethlehem.  In Bethlehem we fought our way through masses and masses of tourists all visiting the church at Bethlehem.  We elbowed our way around the area thought to be the manger where baby Jesus was born.  It was tourist hell! 


We visited a couple of areas of the Separation wall.  Graffiti by Banksy features prominently and we also visited his "The Walled Off Hotel".  The wall itself is over 800km long and rather than following geographical  markers it is entirely political.  At one point we saw it dog-legging around 3 sides of a house to isolate the Palestinian house.  It is hard not to feel for the stupidity of the situation and the way it affects real peoples lives and futures.





This trip report is not the place for political views but it is hard to see how the two sides can move forward.  The Jewish population have the belief this is their promised land.  The Palestinians have been shifted off their land or stopped from travelling. These are two completely different starting places and both have views and expectations that are impossible to reconcile with everyone being happy.

We saw a lot of weapons in our travels and we never became 100% accustomed to them, on the tram, in the street, everywhere.

Overall the 3 countries were all very different, but for our short time there we enjoyed the experiences and people we met.  

I don't care if YOU call it cider Israel - to me hot apple drink is Mulled Wine!  Not ideal on a warm Autumn day



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