Bright and early Monday morning, we met our two taxi drivers to venture into the West Bank. Before we decided to do this, we chatted with various people to gauge the safety of such an excursion—the State Department recommends that Americans do NOT travel into the Palestinian territories, and of course our rental doesn’t allow it. Our local advice was that Jericho and Bethlehem were fine, but don’t go into Hebron.
We had two drivers—one with a van and one with a sedan. Both drivers are Palestinian, so we got a different perspective of everything about Jerusalem, the Israeli government, COVID, settlers, walls…it was so instructive and helpful.
For example, the Israeli government started building a wall between the occupied territories and Israel proper (after the start of the second Intifada in 2000, I believe), and our driver told us that Palestinians started to build houses and apartments behind the wall. The Israeli army would come in and demolish them, even though they were on the other side of the wall. Ariel Sharon was “silenced” after deciding to turn to peace and conciliation with the Palestinians (he had several massive heart attacks and strokes, actually). Jerusalem city planning is corrupt and takes three times as much money to build there. And camel’s milk (with a little bit of camel urine, just a bit!) can cure breast cancer.
Riding with our taxi drivers was so relaxing for Bradley. He didn’t have to stress about parking or turns or where are we eating or anything. It was a bit alarming at times—very aggressive drivers in this country!—but mostly I just relaxed and enjoyed not being in charge!
(Seriously, the tour-operator-part of this trip is truly exhausting. I am not planning on switching my career anytime soon.)
Our first stop was Qumran National Park, on the shores of the Dead Sea. But first, we stopped on our descent to the lowest point on earth to ride a camel at sea level!