Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Chapter 112 The West Bank's Biggest Secret

"You can hike around the West Bank?"

You can hike SO MUCH around the West Bank. You could get dropped off anywhere, head off in the direction of the nearest mountain, and find yourself surrounded by lush, flowing landscapes and colors that seem inconceivable in the land the world forgot. 

I won't get too carried away with the hyperbole as there's a shocking number of photos below that tell this story. It is for reasons like this that I've kept up this blog. The West Bank is an unbelievably rich gold mine of outdoor activities and touristic wonders.

This may be its biggest secret. 



Tubas city centre and the start of our hike. Not too far from the Jordan Valley



A mural of Yasser Arafat next to the Municipality building of Tubas

































A discarded bee hive



A traditional stone oven. Check out my musakhan posts to learn about the deliciousness these ovens produce



Tortoise in the West Bank. Who knew?



This incredible eagle (?) soared overhead, coasting on the winds and searching for prey



Old old olive trees. All wrinkled and twisted... wonderful













































Lovely little red flowers are sprinkled everywhere. They are very common here and I believe are called anemones.



On the way back to the servees station and Nablus after a hefty 5 hour hike around the area

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Chapter 111 Running

Visas. Practically currency in the West Bank.

A 20 year old, wearing boredom in her holster and two years of compulsory khaki, determines your fate with youthful carelessness. She occupies, is militarized and questions your presence at her window. 

Best case scenario? Jackpot – life in three month installments... each ending with a nail biting cliff hanger and no clues as to what the next season will bring. 
 
“When’s your next visa run?”
“December – do you think I’ll have any problems?”
“I shouldn’t think so, you’ve only done one before. What are you going to tell them?”
“The truth.”
“Always the best thing. They know, you know. Also make sure there’s nothing incriminating if they Google you.”
“I will. Did you hear about Mike? He only got a month this time and Claire only got two weeks!”
“Two weeks? Seriously? Why?”
“They don’t like the NGO she works for.”
“Damn, what’re you gonna do in two weeks. What’s she going to do?”
“She’s not sure. Maybe go home for a couple months and try again.”

Wasta – The Arab version of an inside connection – might get you the expensive working visa that allows you access to the West Bank and Israel. 
Oh and, that’s single entry by the way. It’s extra if you want a multi entry. Better sit tight and give up on the idea of seeing your friends and family again until your work in Palestine is done. Didn’t you know, beggars can’t be choosers?

Forget about Gaza, that’s a whole other molasses pool of tangled bureaucracy.

The stakes are high are they not?

The entire process sands you down.

Crossing the border is a misleading term. People never just ‘cross’ the border. People beg, lie, plead and crawl their way across the border.

You inch across that border.

Two steps forward and one step back. 10 minutes of questioning for every two hours that you spend on a metal bench, staring at your feet wondering where you will sleep that night.

Hour after hour strip layer upon layer of empathy, understanding and tolerance.

The one certainty you have is that, regardless of the outcome, it will be humiliating and destructive.  

An extended volunteer visa. Source

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Chapter 110 Where we winter

Jericho is the lowest city on earth. Which means it's always warm. Which is one of the many reasons I like it.

It's also one of the many reasons Palestinians like it. Jericho could conceivably be the West Bank equivalent of the South of France in the sense that its name fits comfortably into the following phrase:

'oh daaaarling, but you must come winter with us in Jericho this year. Maaarvelous weather we had last year, didn't we dear?'

I'm not super au fait with measurements, so I'm borrowing a friend's description of how much warmer Jericho is than Nablus on any given day:

Significantly. 

It's hot, it's lush and going there feels like a holiday. 

It's also home to the Interncontinental Hotel (which the kids love because there's a pool), the Banana Land waterpark, the Mount of Temptation and various other religious/historical sites.

So, to escape last week's death plunge to freezing, we decided to make a little day trip to the lovely Jericho.

Some pics for you. Hisham's Palace and the Jericho Equestrian Club - which was great despite having fallen on tough times.


The teleferique up to the Mount of Temptation

The entrance to the teleferique station - spiffy looking no?

Random camel chilling out at the servees station

Jericho is lush - palm trees are rarely seen in the rest of the West Bank

We walked to Hisham's Palace which is a few kilometres outside of the city centre


A model of the palace


Ruins - over 1000 years old








The private bathhouse in the palace with stunning mosaic. This image is the tree of life


An empty seating area over looking the outdoor riding arena at the Jericho Equestrian Club


Riders at the equestrian centre


An indoor arena