Our Day in the Shomron ?>

Our Day in the Shomron

A strange coincidence of vacations gave Binny, Benzi, our friend Shevi, and me a day off for an adventure. We took a car to the Shomron/parts of Area C in the northern West Bank. Here’s what happened (in no particular order):

We took our kippahs off when we went through mainly Palestinian areas out of concern for our safety. It felt a bit wrong: Are we generalizing too much about Palestinians? Am I giving up my religious identity for fear? Does it even make a difference whether I’m wearing it? Maybe this is a bit right because I don’t really identify with most of the religious people here?

We had falafel near the outpost Esh Kodesh. One of the locals we met there told us he wouldn’t go into Kever Yosef with the army “because it is degrading”. I thought he meant that it was offensive to Palestinians but everyone else in the car agreed he meant it was degrading to him to need an army escort to walk in the Land of Israel.

We went to a Samaritan community and spoke with a Samaritan and the museum’s Muslim guide. Politics didn’t come up but questions of faith across the three religions did. If you’re curious what our religion would look like if there was no exile and Rabbinic Judaism didn’t take hold, hang out with a Samaritan for a while. During the conversation, Shevi said that religion is like food: it’s a human need that transcends culture but different cultures still have different ways of doing it.

Esh Kodesh is beautiful and quiet. You hear birds from far away and are surrounded by green hills. A two-year-old rode around on her own, barefoot on her tricycle. It was amazing. I don’t think I ever felt a sense “wow, this is a place I could imagine never wanting to leave” about the West Bank until now.

On the road a Palestinian car passed us way too fast and tailgated the driver in front of us. We discussed whether it was ok to chalk such things up to culture and if that made the poor driving beyond reproach if we could. Later a Palestinian man we were speaking to made a comment implying men should marry for beauty. We didn’t say anything, but the same questions apply.

Fatimah was our tour guide in the Samaritan museum. She wears a hijab and grew up in a village near Nablus. She has a degree in English literature and speaks with poise and humor and respect. She would definitely have fit in as a friend to the rest of us (in a different political era). Shevi told us in retrospect there was no reason to take our kippahs off and I agreed and kind of regretted that we had done it.

At the falafel place, they used חומוס צבר directly from the supermarket container; they didn’t even put it in a separate tray and pretend it was homemade. Maybe I’m digging too deep here but I saw in that an attitude of “yes, we know what we’re doing; no, we have nothing to hide”. The falafel was exceptional.

Samaritans in the West Bank have a really interesting status because they are Israeli and Palestinian dual-citizens. Does that mean they are both settlers and occupied?

We met up with Mahmoud from Nablus just outside the city. We wanted to go somewhere else for dinner and had to figure out how to get there. Because Mahmoud was concerned that going through a checkpoint could quickly become a bad experience for him and we’re not allowed in Area A, we had to take separate routes. We joked about how a license plate determined identity except it was all a bit sad.

Leaving Ariel, we gave a soldier a ride to near his base. He was a sweet kid and I saw him texting a contact labeled “My Fiancé”. He made a joke when we drove by a Palestinian truck asking if we wanted him to arrest the driver. That was less cute.

We were about to meet another Palestinian friend Awad but five minutes away from his house we were stopped by the scary red signs telling us we were approaching Area A and entry was prohibited to Israelis. Awad promised us it would be fine but we ended up meeting him elsewhere. We later discovered that Israeli soldiers actually refer to his village as “Kfar Shalom” because it’s so quiet.

Our new friends in the Esh Kodesh falafel shop thanked us for our mesirut nefesh in living in the merkaz. Someone needs to be brave and put up with the heat and live in big apartment buildings so thankfully we’re around to take that on. For what it’s worth, I’ve laughed at similar condescending jokes to Jews in America thanking them for holding down the fort while we get all the good times here.

We planned to hopefully meet up with Awad and Mahmoud in Area C again. I get that security is important but it would be nice if we could meet up in their houses or ours as well.

When we crossed the checkpoint back over the Green Line, we sang ושבו בנים לגבולם. Get it?

Once we were back in Israel proper, I noticed that I felt a sense of relief. Deep down, I didn’t like being there. There were a couple of points I was concerned for my safety, but it mostly came from the feeling of how crazy occupation is. Soldiers drive around, positioned primarily to protect the cars with yellow license plates. But when you’re driving there are so many green ones too. The Israeli settlements convey beauty, tranquility, and a sense of purpose and ideology. Palestinian and Israeli villages are tightly interspersed and the land seems so confused. There are wonderful people everywhere but people are complicated. This situation is hard to solve but impossible to ignore.


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