Of all the tourist attractions I visited on my trip, the Dead Sea was probably the coolest. I was able to visit it twice. The first was an experience I will likely never have again.
Near the beginning of my ten-day stint in Ramallah some people I had met decided to go as a group to the sea, but all of them bailed except for one. This fellow was an interesting guy, a journalist who made films and reported for a number of well-known networks. He also happened to be gay. I mention this only because you don’t meet too many Palestinians who are out, but he came from a comparatively progressive family.
We arrived at an entrance to the sea and noticed that there were a number of buses unloading passengers. It turns out that a group of Orthodox Jews, more specifically settlers that occupy Palestinian land, had decided to make this their beach day. So there I was bathing in the Dead Sea, an amazing experience in and of itself, floating next to my gay Palestinian friend and surrounded by maybe 150-200 settlers. Luckily, he spoke perfect English and could pretend to be American, for if they had found out he was Palestinian or gay, let alone both, it would have been an awkward situation… to say the least.
My second visit was a semi-spontaneous midnight excursion with some of the expats in Ramallah, with a mini-jam session thrown in. We were almost the only people on the shore, making the experience that much more enjoyable.
It’s now been 18 days since I arrived in Tel Aviv. This trip is winding down, as is the summer that has been extremely hectic, though incredibly rewarding.
Too much has happened since I’ve arrived here to fully describe in one post, and though I know I’ve said things like this before to myself, I’d like to follow up with details about the things I’ve seen and experienced here. It’s entirely possible, as I keep a travel journal wherever I go, but the question will be whether or not I summon the strength and patience to actually sit down and do it. We’ll see.
A brief teaser: I joined the biggest social protest to occur in Israel in years, saw some of the holiest sites to the three monotheistic religions, experienced the Israeli checkpoints in the occupied West Bank through the eyes of the Palestinians, and swam in the Dead Sea with approximately 200+ Orthodox Jews (settlers) and a gay Palestinian man. Not too shabby.
After a long day of goodbyes and traveling, we made it back to Cairo. I’m sitting in the the hotel/hostel and can finally just sit down and do nothing. The last week was so jam-packed with activities that we had no free time, and as a result everyone is sufficiently exhausted. I wish there had been some time to update things everyday because of how much was experienced everyday, but I will have to compile it as a whole when I return. I can say that overall the last week in Gaza has truly opened my eyes. Before I came, I was somewhat familiar with (although new to) the injustices and atrocities that have led to so much suffering for Palestinians, but to see it firsthand takes my understanding to a whole new level. It would be nearly impossible for anyone to see and hear what I saw and not support the Palestinian cause. I look forward to all of the discussions that will take place once I get back to the states with friends and family. This upcoming school year I hope to be able to share this experience with other students at CU Boulder, be it through a presentation, article, or some type of activism to raise awareness.
Tomorrow it looks like I’ll be flying to London and staying for a day before catching my scheduled flight back to Denver. Hopefully it won’t cost too much to move up that first flight a day!
We entered Gaza on Tuesday and have been going non-stop since we got here. There are so many amazing people and places I have seen and I have a limited amount of time with the computer, so I will have to wait to discuss everything in a later post. From speaking with the university students, the head of UNRWA in Gaza, a Hamas spokesperson, and many others, to seeing the damaged homes and the horrific stories from the last round of violence, I have my work cut out for me with this writing task.
They turned us down once already. Our organizers have made some calls and apparently the meeting went well and we are heading out again in a few minutes. Looks good right now.