Saturday, June 5, 2010

Night in the West Bank

When they said we were in for a special surprise, they weren't messing around!

Shortly before dinner, we boarded our bus again and headed into the desert for a meal and fire under the stars. This is the stuff that exciting travel is made of, and the sort of thing that can only be done when you have a group like this that includes friends from the area that you are visiting. We drove for almost an hour on twisty dirt roads and found a spot that seemed like it was in the middle of nowhere. Somewhere on the edge of the West Bank was the description that we were provided. 
When we arrived, our caterers were set up and were already preparing dinner. So we hung around by the fire and enjoyed the clear view of the stars. Next to our set up was another 'party' (a car full of guys and a fire), so our 'locals' headed over to check out the situation. They were accompanied by Duane, our US army friend and the largest and toughest guy in the group. This is the same Duane that became a spectacle in India on account of his size and build (think Avatar) and the sort of person with whom you could go anywhere and feel safe. The report back: 'ok, technically, we are in the West Bank. The guys are Palestinians and they want to arm wrestle Duane, if you want to come watch". 
For our hosts, this was the first time that they had encountered Palestinians outside of their army experience, and they seemed positively excited about it. Coming from a country in which military service is not mandatory and in which war has not not been a part of day to day life, it is hard to imagine how it feels to have such an encounter. But I feel like it reflects positively on the nature of people that 'enemies' in a time of ongoing conflict can come together and see each other as friends. Observing a playful match between an American and a Palestinian, and refereed by an Israeli - positively magical. For all of the things that we see on television and read about in the paper - the violence, the hatred, the dangers of the 'other parts of the world - there is something missing. Something significant. And it is such a shame. Israel is a place that I hadn't bothered to visit before now because of what I see in the news. This has been a terrible judgement on my part. Yes, there are tensions and dangers out there - but there is a lot of love and goodness, too. The more that I travel, the more optimistic I become about people. 

We spent the rest of the darkness listening to songs around the fire.
and hanging out under the stars.


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