OVERWHELMED. WHERE AM I?
Callie Weston (El Paso, Texas)
We flew into the airport in Tel Aviv May 15, then drove south east to our hotel in east Jerusalem. Only Israelis, in their cars with yellow license plates, can use this road, Highway 443. Palestinians, whose cars are identified by green and white plates, may not. Two days later driving towards Tel Aviv and Yafa we see West Jerusalem to our left - a developed city. And to our right, in Palestinian East Jerusalem, we see a stark 6-7 story building - an Israeli settlement, off limits to Palestinians - evidence of Israel's gradual encroachment into Palestinian territory since the 1967 Six-Day War
Another day on our way north to Ramallah (in the West Bank) the Israeli highway we are on cuts through a Palestinian town, separating it into two parts. One can go from one half of the town to the other only by using a road under the highway. The names of all the Israeli towns we pass are posted. The Palestinian towns are not.
Nearby an Israeli military base has been established just to the east of a Palestinian village, blocking expansion of the village. Today going south to the South Hebron Hills it is unbelievable to see the number and size of settlements built by Israel on Palestinian land. They stretch across acres of land, as do the walls surrounding them, and the gates - ready to close the road at any moment.
Our guide explained the division of the occupied West Bank. Areas: A, under Palestinian administrative and security control; B, under Palestinian administrative control but Israeli security control; C, the largest area - 61% of the land - under Israeli administrative and security control. In Area C, Israel has built settlements, highways and walls on Palestinian land. Highways open only to Israelis. Walls blocking Palestinians wanting to visit Jerusalem or other cities, or drive to the airport, or take their kids to the shore on the Mediterranean Sea.
Palestinians intuitively understand if and when they are about to enter a prohibited area. They know it is exceedingly difficult to get a building permit, so take the risk of building without one even knowing that the house may be demolished by Israel on short notice. They know where they are.
But me? No! Transiting through Frankfurt my Verizon message service greeted me with a "Welcome to Germany!" Entering Tel Aviv I saw "Welcome to Israel"! But entering the West Bank the day we drove to Ramallah the message read "Welcome to Jordan!"
What? Is Palestine disappearing?