16 October 2011

D-1 On the way to Palestine

My trip to get to Bethlehem was quite an adventure but went fine :)
I left my home in Barcelona at 4h30 am to take a taxi to the airport: the driver was very happy to have someone sober on this busy Saturday night.
In Zurich, the flight was 1 hour delayed, and during this time, I was wondering what to do with the documents I had about Palestine in my purse. Indeed, I had been advised to speak only about the centres I was going to work with in Israel, and I was afraid they found them.
When arriving in Tel Aviv, I felt a bit more tension, but maybe it was my head. There were several security guys asking questions randomly and the waiting time at the passport control was an average of 5-10min per person, even in the Israeli queue.
Finally, my turn arrived and the girl asked me if I was going to stay in Israel only: I said yes and explained the project for the centres located in the Jerusalem suburbs. She asked me if this project would be an opportunity for Arabic kids as well, or if it was for Israeli kids only. I said Israeli kids only and she seemed happy with my answer since she stamped my passport straight away. Youhou !
The trip was only starting actually, patience is the key. I was badly recommended by a local to take the bus to get to Jerusalem. There were 2 changes and 30 to 45 minutes to wait for each under a burning sun. The first bus took only 4 people and I understood I had to fight to get in ;) The second did not even stop... The 3rd was the good one!
The traffic was quite bad and it took us 1h30 to get to Jerusalem, but unfortunately, not to the place I was supposed to go ! With a fellow German traveller, we have been advised to get into the station and had to do another security control to get in, only to find out there was no bus going to our destination.
At this point, it was starting to be very dark and I was loosing my control. I called the person I was supposed to meet in Ramallah and he thought the best for me was to take a taxi cause the bus would be a long way.
My research for a cab to take me to the check-point started there, but the only reply I was receiving was "I am Jewish, I cannot go to the check point, find an Arabic driver!". Finally, one accepted to take me to the check point but only leaving me a couple of hundred meters before.
I felt like in a movie: it was very dark and here I was with my back pack, walking towards militaries... In the end of course, all went fine :)
On the other side, 3 men working on the project were waiting for me and took me to the head office of the NGO "Care Palestine". There, a whole committee was waiting for me, composed to the NGO's president, but also the project's coordinator, the Palestinian chess Federation President, responsibles of the youth centres involved in the project etc ... I felt very welcomed and appreciated: they were repeating me "you are our sister, feel at home". They all expressed their sympathy and gratitude.
Then, the coordinator informed me we were supposed to get to Bethlehem. We found a taxi bus easily but had to wait for it to be full before leaving... It took 45 minutes... Of course no one was complaining, it was all very normal, and they were just chatting.
We had to go through 2 check points, easily. In Bethlehem, I met my family for the week, and was welcomed with tones of food. They live in a refugee camp.