Be seeing you!

According to the travel advice issued by the Dutch Foreign Office you might run the risk of becoming the victim of violence if you travel to the Occupied Palestinian Territories (Aug. 2010). If you continue reading the advice this image is somewhat more balanced, but it’s been stated like this for years. I didn’t notice any danger or violence during my stay. Palestine is a beautiful country, with the most hospitable, helpful and kind people you can imagine. A country where you can go on a holiday, just as in any other country in the Mediterranean.

Unfortunately, in our ignorance, we too often assume that Palestine is still dangerous. We don’t seem to realize that the Intifada is over for years, that the last bomb attack took place years and years ago and that Palestinians have the same aversion to violence as you and I. Actually you’re only reminded of the fact that you’re in Palestine when you see Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint who seem to have fused together with their machine guns. Obviously I’m describing my experiences in the West Bank area; I haven’t been to or near the Gaza strip.

When I made a phone call to the Netherlands Representative Office in Ramallah in 2008 to ask what I should make of their travel advice the representative said: “well, we have no choice but to put it like that on our website, but our staff travels freely all over the area without any trouble. I think the Palestinians would be delighted if you visit their cities.

The Representative Office was right about that last remark…

In this last post I’m not going to try to dwell on the possibilities of peace. Who am I? If parties want to (and America stops financing the occupation) peace is a formality, I think. I can however say something about what seems to stand in the way of peace. What I consider to be the biggest obstacle for peace is that Israel has no interest in peace. Israel has imported a western society with all the conveniences, services and prosperity that go along with it. As soon as you are in Israel you no longer have the feeling that you’re in the Middle East. Palestine seems to be at the other end of the world, even if the Wall is only a few kilometers away from you. If Israel continues its current policy of building the Wall, the settlements and the checkpoints, the Palestinians will leave the West Bank out of misery in a few dozen years. And then the Israeli government will have its way: everything will be for them. So why would Israel make an effort for peace? That conclusion is fearsome. Peace itself is not the problem here, but the fact that one of the parties involved has no interest in peace.

After a dinner party in Beit Sahour (a village east of Bethlehem) with colleagues at the centre, I left for the airport in Tel Aviv in the middle of the night. It’s over…

I’ve been back in the Netherlands for quite some time now and I have resumed my normal life. I go to work every day again. And my thoughts….they don’t wander off as much as you would think! I didn’t go on a holiday, but I was on a mission and I feel I have completed that mission successfully. So why should I wish I was still there?

So no wandering thoughts, but sometimes, when the working day comes to an end and when I think of going home, my mind’s eye sees the express train I always take. It’s normal to “see” what you’re thinking of, but when my mind’s eye looks out of the train window, that eye doesn’t see the green meadows with Dutch cows and churches on the horizon that it used to see in the past. No, it sees the Kalandia checkpoint or the yellow mountains between Ramallah and Bethlehem or the disorderly houses of a refugee camp. With a shock I realize there’s a wrong slide in front of my mind’s eye and reluctantly I hang a slide in front of my eyes showing Dutch cows and churches.

Those who have been in Palestine and who have met the Palestinians and learnt about their cause, never really return home.

1. Kalandia checkpoint
2. graffity at Kalandia checkpoint
3. “yellow” mountains between Ramallah en Bethlehem
4. houses in Dheisheh-camp, Bethlehem

1 Response to “Be seeing you!”

  1. 1 C. ten Haaf December 31, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    Your blog is a very interesting read… it really explained some of what I thought were strange inconsistencies about Palestina. On one hand the conflicts and suffering always on the news, on the other hand the pictures of shopping malls and bustling markets that turn up online. I guess I always thought that the truth could only be one thing or another, but you do a great job in explaining that the truth is that it can be both.

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