A Tale of Two Worlds

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Edward Said used to say that Western support for the Palestinian cause could only be built through the creation of a national narrative strong enough to challenge Israel’s, and to do this the same story would have to be re-told over and over again until the world starts listening. Writing about a first visit to Palestine feels a bit like becoming a part of that essential retelling. Although I have read hundreds of accounts of everything I am now experiencing, nothing had quite prepared me for the reality behind the words.

Entering the country through Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, and spending the first day in Israel, painfully highlighted the differences between Israeli and Palestinian realities from the very beginning. While my time in Israel was not unlike any holiday to a Western country, our intensive first day on the other side of the Qalandia check-point slowly but surely grew into an exemplification of contrasts.

95% of the Jordan Valley, our first destination, is under occupational control and it shows at every turn, as Israeli settlements surround all Palestinian life. As we drive for an hour across a smooth Israeli road the beautiful desert landscape is frequently interrupted by lush, green settlements and farms growing fruit and vegetables for companies such as Carmel Agrexco. Once we approach Fasayil, the village where we are to spend our first night, we turn into a narrow gravel path. Fasayil is in area C of the West Bank, which means that the Israelis have full control and since 1967 the community has not been allowed to build houses or repair the ones they have –a policy which includes the construction of roads. It is illegal for the families we stay with to have electricity or water, but down the road the Israeli settlers get both for free on top of the $ 20,000 they receive from their Government to settle there. What I am left with after my first day in occupied Palestine are the images of recently built, fortified houses versus the open doors of over forty year old ones, farms protected by electric fences versus shared resources and co-operation and soldiers with guns at the check-points versus the overwhelming generosity and warmth of people who have nothing. Often it might not be useful to see things in black and white but some situations make it distinctly difficult not to. Or, as the Zanab family of Al-Jifflik –a village where twenty-three houses have been demolished by the Israeli army and the remaining forty have been issued with demolition orders- put it: “the difference between the settlers’ lives and ours is like between heaven and hell”.


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