My short trip to Palestine was heart wrenching and overwhelming. The nausea I experienced through utter disgust was worse than any food poisoning episode in all of my world travels. Israel is a terrible, horrible, awful place.
Since 1967, more than 800,000 Palestinian olive trees have been cut down by Israelis for "security reasons" or random vandalizing by Israeli Settlers, resulting in a loss of approximately $55 million from the Palestinian economy! It's quite clear that their motivation is to destroy the land in hopes that it will then be undesirable to the Palestinians. I'm not good at understanding social injustices like these, but I understand perfectly well the environmental impacts of intentional desertification of the land. What a stupid tactic! I just can't get over this method of displacing people for eventual land annexations...
With the situation as it is, the Palestinian people are remarkably tolerant. I spoke with a number of them who speak of the situation matter-of-factly. They don't talk about hate or wanting to kill - they just want to live their lives. One young Palestinian man, 20, was clubbed upside his head when he was a boy for walking down the road. He had to have stitches in his eye. More recently for him, he was trying to cross town to get to his university for an exam. He was detained by the IDF for three hours and missed his test despite his pleas. I saw kids being detained by these soldiers - for no good reason at all. Just to inconvenience them and make life hard on them so they'll leave the city. These people are harassed daily, but it's the Settlers who are the real dicks.
The taxi driver that took me back to the airport early Monday morning was a friend of a friend. He was a really good guy that tried really, really hard to have a conversation with me with his limited English. In order to not have problems at the IDF checkpoints, he instructed me that I flagged him down on the street at 3am and that I had been staying in Jerusalem at the Avrahim Hostel. Those are easy hoops to jump through. Along the way, we talked a bit about travel and he said he's not allowed to have a passport. Traveling is my biggest passion - one that I wish everyone could experience, but these are the rules for Palestinians. =(
The first checkpoint was met with only mild hurdles. The second was a breeze. At the third one I got grilled by an IDF soldier. How long have you been here? Where EXACTLY did you go? Where did you stay? It's really nerve-wracking having some young punk with an American-made M16 give me the 3rd degree. I hated it! When we got the approval to pass, I complained to Basim, the driver, that even though there were no more checkpoints before the airport, I still had to go through all the security in the airport! His response was, "I live here. This is my life." I don't think I've ever been a more insensitive jerk. My heart sank. Israel is a terrible, horrible, awful place.