Reach Bethlehem (pronounced "bet lehem") from Jerusalem is not easy if you use Israeli transport agencies or services. The vast majority with whom we try to inform you suggests that you approach an organized agency, or certain groups that make trips on certain days of the week. We are clear that this is not a viable plan if we want to live the full experience, but we already brought the lesson learned and knew that in the Arabic bus station in front of the Damascus Gate It was possible to make this journey.
So it was. After getting our bearings, and with the first rays of the sun of the day (!! there has been a change of time !!), we managed to find out that there are two routes that lead to Bethlehem, 21 or 121 and 24 or 124. The first one avoids the checkpoint and upon his return he receives some "visit" to see that no one enters who does not have his "permission in order". The 24 leaves you on the Israeli side of the suburbs, a couple of kilometers from the center. This is our option (5.20 ILS each), perhaps the most "authentic" and the one that will give us the best vision of someone who has to live with it day by day.
The buses leave every little time and the journey hardly lasts 20 minutes. It's 8'00. Good time to start a new adventure ...
It turns out tremendously ... mmm, ridiculous !!, observe how half the bus, already walking between security bars, is subjected to a strict border control to enter this area of the planet, while we are not asked for a passport and even a soldier greets us. A huge wall completely separates the considered Israeli side from the Palestinian one in the 21st century. It is something that we better leave to comment in the second part of the day, that we will devote ourselves to investigate a little more the meaning of this situation.
On the other side, the lives of many people go through finding two intrepid "clueless" like us and so countless taxis await your chance offering its services to accompany you to several nearby attractions. Even so, without too much stress, our particular bargaining begins. We are clear that the first part of the day will be spent in Hebron, the current center of a conflict that lasts for decades, and for that there are those who ask us for up to 500 ILS. It seems excessive!
Finally we choose a young guy who seems nice. Madut is called, and although the bargaining begins at 350 ILS, we end up agreeing 250 ILS to make us a driver and guide to Hebron and leave us back in the center of Bethlehem. He seems happy.
From this point from Bethlehem to Hebron (C) there are about another 30-35 minutes, while we took the opportunity to start a fluid conversation with our new travel companion. This is possibly the one that contributed the most to us, since our partial vision of a conflict and the media sometimes do not allow us to see other important parts.
A conflict without solution?
So far what we knew about the conflict is that after World War I and with the British government, it was in the 20s when the presence of the Jews in Palestine increased markedly after the Diaspora that began with the destruction of the Second Temple at the time of Hadrian there by 132 to 135 A.D. as we would see in Jerusalem of the Jews. However, Palestine was relatively calm between 1922 and 1928 until violence broke out in the form of serious clashes in 1928 that resulted in the Hebron Massacre, that of Safed where we were the past DAY 4 travel and other Jewish-Palestinian communities. The anti-Semitism in Germany and Romania would increase the migratory movements that left Palestine as the only shelter against the immigration restrictions of the United States in 1936. At this historical moment the proposal of the partition in two States arose ... bloody decades of modern history began.
He November 29, 1947, after multiple diplomatic disputes, the Partition of Palestine in two States, and the May 14, 1948, expiring the British Mandate in Palestine, Israel proclaimed its Independence. The arabic reaction He did not wait and began the Arab-Israeli war of 1948 that lasted 15 months with different distributions of territories between Transjordan, Egypt and Israel mainly.
After some difficult years, in 1967, the famous "6 day war" it was a conquest of Israel from the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights, in response to the Egyptian offensive, and despite the 242 resolutions adopted by the United Nations, an annexation policy began and incentive of Jewish settlements that still lasts today (we can see them on the roads as we pass).
We could continue talking about more conflicts, about oil embargoes by Arab countries, or about the increase of colonies by 60% from 2007 to 2008, the reality is that under International Law today there are more than 300,000 Israelis living in areas They don't belong to you. Everything I had started with those Kibbutz we were commenting on Ein Gedi Today are forced expropriations.
But all this is nothing more than the transcription of what history says. The reality we have today in front of us and Madut tells us things we did not know. It tells us that the conflict is only part of the situation, where Israel has the power and is seen in the checkpoints, the new subsidized colonies (they pay real sums of money to the Jews who occupy them in "hostile" territory) or the 22 km of wall of "shame" ... but there are something more important, and that is the poverty of the Palestinian people that comes from their own government. Arafat, despite the international vision, says he did good things like hospitals, schools, donations ... Now the government has houses and clothes of the rich, and needs that are not covered by the people. Madut has 4 daughters, one dying in the hospital but even to go to see her in Jerusalem she has to process permits that are not granted ... We arrived in Hebron!
Between cells H2 and H1 of Hebron, a "smack" of reality
True, the first thing we like to see in Hebron, as we go to a parking (1) at the top of your old town, is to see that this whole area has been restored thanks in large part to the Spanish Cooperation, which makes us feel especially proud.
However, possibly this is the only positive feeling we will have in this city, because as we go down the lonely streets we begin to intuit that one of the oldest cities in the region, and possibly the most important, today is the symbol of tension which we have been talking about.
Madut takes us to one of the controls (C) that is right next to the Tomb of the Patriarchs, to which we will return later. Not too eagerly, and after reviewing our passports (essential on a day like today), they allow us to pass. We will start our route through the area mostly of Jewish colony in the area, although at this time we have to say goodbye to our travel companion, since being a Palestinian they do not allow him to leave by the southern control (C) and he has to stay there waiting for us.
We are in a real Dead Zone (2) of Cell H2, of more modern houses mainly Jewish settlements. The streets are a true poem of loneliness. You barely hear more than the sound of the wind itself. It is really crude to explain a difficult sensation to transmit, an area of closed stores, lifeless, truly funeral and sad ... a desolate landscape
When we talk about Cells H1 and H2, we refer to those areas through which we have already spent other days, which are under the control of the Palestinian National Authority (H1) or the Israeli troops (H2), and although 80% in Hebron belongs to the H1, this 20% H2 enters the main areas of the Old City, the Tomb of the Patriarchs and above all, in an area where 50,000 Palestinians live in front of 700 Jewish settlers protected by the army armed, watchtowers and performance tanks with which we find ourselves in our walk, momentarily breaking the absolute silence of the place ...
We do not know how those ghost cities around the world will be since the most similar thing we have seen in our travels was the wonderful Rasafa, in the middle of the Syrian desert, but for other reasons. The overwhelming sensation that this part of Hebron encloses (and now that we can tell it without the family worrying) causes a certain uneasiness, as if the lack of protection was total even with the traveler himself. We are in a kind of zero zone, at the heart of the conflict, a corner of tense calm very different from other H2 Cells found earlier in the trip.
But we still hadn't seen the worst. As we approached the imaginary line that would allow us to enter the Palestinian zone H1, we saw how every street, every window, every possible hidden passage, was completely walled up or with walls raised, preventing the passage of any person without first going through the corresponding surveillance. In this way it is impossible for any "clueless" to be where he does not have to be. To this is added the relentless passing of armed soldiers to patrolling teeth and the gloomy landscape of shooting holes in stones and walls and more objects around us.
Gates, walls and graffiti clarify much more this tense separation, where Israelis and Palestinians separate the steps and permits to roam freely around the city.
We find again some improvised control in a kind of container crossed in the street. The silence of this area is still really unpleasant, disturbing. What can lead settlers for a lot of money that they pay to live in such a place? A place of empty sidewalks, closed doors, lifeless streets and boarded windows.
We finally arrived at the "invisible line" that separates H2 from H1. Large concrete blocks make an imaginary access point. On the other side, taxis, open shops and people on the street make us understand that we have reached the Palestinian area. Behind we leave the feeling of nervousness and permanent restlessness, as if suddenly a breath of life is blown away.
We are inBab al-Zawiya (3), today the center of life of the Palestinian population in this city of the West Bank ... because we must not forget it, despite everything we continue in the Palestinian Territories. Here the hustle and bustle are the daily bread. Dozens of stands encourage this city in the morning preparing for a new day.
If it is already a true rainbow of colors to see the multiple species of any Muslim bazaar like the ones we saw recently in the getaway to Istanbul or on one's own Damascus adventure through Syria,today the contrast seems especially remarkable
The old people are usually the ones that run the business, always willing to offer you their best smile. Women today accompany children. The smoke of some seesha comes out of some nearby tea shop. Tomatoes, lettuce, lemons, beets, corn, nuts (we take a few for 6 ILS), ... are currently mixed in another nearby market.
The street Shalala Street brings us right now inside the old city (4), where at another time was the largest souk in the city and one of the most important in the history of ancient Palestine. At this time, and although we continue in what is supposed to be zone H2, we are surprised to see large control turrets on the rooftops roof and nearby houses. What is the purpose?
Although we already sensed what we were going to find, seeing it with our own eyes is really scary. Yes, because he has no other word.
What initially are a series of open stalls gradually becomes the image of the cruelty that the human race can have. And if those who already know us know that we tend to aggrandize and marvel at the greatness that this planet has as we relate our adventures, what is seen here today borders on the denigrating. A souk without life. A sick souk. A souk brought to death for a minority disrespectful of life.
The imposition of the Jewish colonies in this area of the old city, of barely 600, with the support of the military forces and the complicity of the look on the other side of the International Community, led to a campaign of demotivation and moral undermining of the Palestinians and their businesses in this area. Garbage, bottles, blunt objects and everything imaginable thrown from the windows of the new colonies, led to place a metal mesh that protected the life of the place.
The permissibility of the international scene transformed the garbage into stools, in bleach or boiling water or in the urine itself. All this led little by little to abandonment, to closed businesses, to the desolation of streets much more gloomy and overwhelming than those of the "Dead Zone" itself
Our walk through these streets takes us to the other side of those fences, walls and walls that we saw before. We also see how some businesses have directly disappeared due to some new Israeli construction or directly because it was needed to cement a new home. Here there are no open doors. No one dares to open ... who would?
But let's go a little further. Mothers and family, do not read much, we know that you do not like these things but you have to know him. In a small courtyard a boy calls us. He is a little boy wanting to win some hard, in exchange for showing you the views from his roof, his house and the conditions in which they live. Of course we accept go home (5).
Although the patio door seems to have a lock, we are surprised to see how we climb all the Security doors are found without the key car, or locks, broken by Israeli soldiers in random raids ... !! in someone else's house !!
The rest of the family is still sleeping ... in the kitchen! Yes, the first floor kitchen seems to be the only place where they find some security since the rest of the rooms in the house have been subject to incursions, robberies and destruction, as well as the launching of all types of garbage and objects (we also find other protective meshes as we climb the roof).
We arrived to the rooftop. From here there are no especially beautiful views, but we can appreciate the integration of the new colonial buildings and the old Palestinian houses, although integration may not be the right word.
In the distance, the colonies of Kiryat Arba where another 7,000 Jews live and numerous control turrets in all the hills around us.
Looking at our own roof, we understand better how the settlement campaign has been. And it is that new building of settlers is literally built against which we are, facilitating the incursions of soldiers and the dumping of garbage, while the colonial is completely protected by gates and would not surprise us if it were electrified.
Of course, this shameful situation does not end here, and that is that all water tanks are bored by shots, there is no respect for the most basic needs of the human being.
We went back down to the street, saying goodbye to the boy (we give him 20 ILS for a CD) and asking us how they can really live in those conditions. They are a people of other "pasta", no doubt. We enter an area that is known to us as it was where we entered the first control point early. Here we find some "adventurer" who still dares to have his open carpet business. Of course competition does not have and with which we chat for a while about the bleak panorama of this city, although it is to relapse a little about the same in a more relaxed way. Paula also takes the opportunity to buy a card (30 ILS)
We pass the control. Today is Friday, which means that even if we try to beat the soldiers, we will not be able to enter the Tomb of the Patriarchs. If it is already difficult on a normal day ...
The Tomb of the Patriarchs (6), a separate and bitter chapter of Hebron that can be talked about, houses the graves where they are buried Abraham and Sara, Isaac and Rebekah and Jacob and Lea, the so-called patriarchs of the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islamism). And at the time of Herod the Great a monument was built around the grave and later the Muslims would transform it into the Ibrahim Mosque.
Today, there are two doors to access inside: The Jewish that we already saw that it was unfeasible (to the right) and the muslim (to the left) also unfeasible for being a holy day. We tried? There we are becoming clueless while a lot of people come into those moments, as if we did not know what the subject is about. Tic tac ... it seems that the tail advances ... until a man with a kind smile tells us "that today we cannot access its interior, that it feels very much". Ohhh! Well, at least we tried.
Madut, who was waiting for us in this area to continue our trip, explains that the history of this place comes from afar. That while Hebron remained under Ottoman control, the Jews could only pray from outside, but that after the 6-day war, everything changed. The problem is that in 1994, sharing room both, there was a massacre (a fundamentalist Jew killed 29 Muslims while praying) that made everything change and today is divided into these two parts by the conflict. And the Christian? In principle it is not necessary as they are considered neutral.
Enough of Hebron, right Paula? No doubt hwe have lived here today one of the cruelest chapters of our adventures within the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Far from positioning ourselves, entering politics or trying to understand both movements, what is clear is that it is REALLY SHARPY that episodes like this occur, in the heart of Judea, and that no one does anything about it and even images come out little by little. or small stories in the minutes of the trash of the news telling some new injustice.
With bitter thoughts, and valuing that the distances are shorter than we thought, we ask Madut to make a small stop on the way to Bethlehem, Herodyon (B), taking advantage of the route to ask Your opinion about the conflict. Just say "Do you think that in the future there will be possibility ... "Our good-natured companion pronounces a sharp" !! NO SOLUTION !! ". We sigh ...
Herodyon, Herod's Rest
Herodyon is nothing more than a "kit-kat" on our way. A fortress, perhaps, that would have fit perfectly in the first part of our adventure, but that today perhaps loses prominence because we continue to cross the West Bank area with more concentration of settlements of Jewish settlers, full of gates and watchtowers ... and more and more, as if little by little they were "eating" the territory based on "pushing"
Open from 8 to 16, for 26 ILS each,Herodyon was the fortress-resting palace of King Herod the Great between 23 and 20 B.C. located on a picturesque hill after his military victory against the Jerusalem asmoneos.
In the upper part of the mountain was Herodyon superior, the fortress proper, and in the lower one a residential complex, although all this was razed until excavations began in 1972, leaving a truncated cone.
We leave Marut at the base, and start a winding climb of those we already missed since Masada, Hahaha. In this case there is also a kind of stone-carved steps that make the small climb more comfortable, and that already allows us to intuit the beautiful views that surround us.
Its importance really should not have been so much, when in the scriptures there is hardly any talk about it until the year 71 when it was razed. Abandoned would be used again in the Second Jewish Revolt between 132-135, and then at intervals by religious, crusades, etc ...
We arrived to its top and we can observe a small scale that gives us an idea of how it should have been in its splendor, of circular plan with a wall and three terraced towers.
!!No one!! We are heavy ... OK! ... but in the middle of Holy Week, we have made a trip to the Holy Land where we have barely had agglomeration at four very specific points. Not even Jerusalem itself.
We must also recognize the good work done by archaeologists in places like this, especially when in 2007 they announced that here they found the Tomb of Herod the Great
It seems that this place has as translation "the little paradise" ... come on, the small "summer" residence of a somewhat special family as we saw days ago. Here you can see the remains of what was the Palace, the Atrium, etc ...
Suddenly, entangled by one of the stones we see that a kind of ladder can be lowered. !!Are some passages? !! In the middle of the mountain? Although Paula is up to the cap "underground" we can not miss them ... there we go
It turns out that, in times of riots, the mountain was walled with stones and the only access to it was a secret underground staircase. !!Amazing!! All the hill is hollow and in this labyrinth of passageways there is also the found tomb and some cistern.