The most challenging question after crossing the border from Jordan was: How to continue the trip to Jerusalem?
There are no buses available right at the border.
And the cab drivers asked for outrageous prices … Beit Shan (7 km), the next village, 50 USD!
Welcome to the Holy Land!
So we decided to hitch hike …
Standing in the blazing sun (probably +40 degree Celsius) and waiting for some cars to come by, it took less than 30 minutes until a brand new, comfortable SUV stopped. The driver, an orthodox Russian priest. We jumped in and within 90 minutes he dropped us off at the East Jerusalem bus station right next to Damascus Gate.
What a lift! First class travel!
The last part of our trip today was the bus ride from Jerusalem to Jifnah, a little village just outside Ramallah. Bus No. 18 – it’s less than a 25 km trip but you can “enjoy” everything that the political Israel/Palestine conflict is all about: walls, security, separation, military, refugee camp, settlements … Within 15 minutes of the bus station, we reached the checkpoint Kalandia to enter Palestine.
Since we were leaving Jerusalem/Israel no one had to get off the bus – a simple inspection by 2 Israeli soldiers was enough. It took less than 15 minutes. We continued our ride through Ramallah and passed by the Arafat tomb – a huge memorial. Jifnah, the place where we wanted to stay, is 4 km outside Ramallah. It used to be a Christian village, today it is half Muslim, half Christian. Christians in Palestine are less than 2% of the entire population. Muslims in Jifnah are a “result” of the refugee camp, which was built in 1948, right after the Nakbha. Palastinians from all over (the then) Israel fled and were gathered in camps – originally for a couple of weeks. Many of the camps are still around today, 65 years later! Some of the refugees achieved a decent life in Jifnah, built their own houses and “mixed” with the local community. But today – at least in Jifnah – it’s still “them” and “us”, no one talks about “we”.
Right across the street from the refugee camp there is huge stronghold: an Israeli municipality. The area around Jifnah is a so-called B area – meaning under Palestinian authority but with Israeli security. This is what the municipality is for. For example, Palestinians have to apply there if they want to go to Jerusalem. There are A and C areas as well. A meaning under both Palestinian authority and security; nevertheless Israelis still go in there when ever they feel like it. C areas in Palestine are under the complete authority and security of Israel. So the entire Palestine is divided into these A, B and C areas.
To complete the entire insanity of the area – across from the Israeli municipality is a huge settlement of religious nationalistic Jews. It is a heavily secured, gated community, living in beautiful houses surrounded by gardens. They have no shortage of water or electricity in the settlement unlike the surrounding villages. For example, in Jifnah they only have water once a week.
This is why you see on the roof of every house lots of water containers.
We decided to stay in Palestine, because we wanted to experience Palestinian daily life. So we made reservations at the Khouriya Family Guesthouse, a nice place – although not cheap. Rawda, the owner, used to be a social worker and is very much involved in Jifnah’s community work. We’ve conducted a long interview with her for our magazine.
And this comes in 3 days after we’ve left:
Funerals held for three Palestinians shot dead by Israeli troops
It happens exactly in the refugee camp which I talk about above.