I drove across Sinai from Cairo, which is crumbling. Sheep on the streets, buildings falling down, giant slums, poor education, nice food only for the very rich, streets covered in garbage, majority of the country is poor.
Went to Israel. Saw a city much like any city in Europe. Clean streets. Beautiful big store fronts. Sidewalks. Nice signs telling you where to go. Little stands and shops everywhere. Great food from around the world. Pastries, pizza. It was Europe, basically. I loved it. It was very clean! It was great.
You have to drive some distance out of Jerusalem to get to the wall. It is a nice drive past pastures and rolling hills with bushes and trees on them.
The wall is very tall. It is made of concrete. At the top there are guard posts with glass. There is barbed wire, even though the wall is far too high to get over. There are men with guns.
When you go through it, you are asked many questions about who you are and where you come from. If you have anything Arab about you this questioning is very long it can take several hours. You are brought through many layers of security, the inside of the wall is like a fort. You go back and force through a maze of metal bars, with many security cameras watching you. The bars look like the bars used to hold cattle at a rodeo.
You exit and on the other side is a tall wire fence covered with barbed wire. There is graffiti all over the wall. The buildings are crumbling. Noo nice food, streets made of dirt, everyone is poor.
There are men waiting to be taxi drivers, I went with one. He showed me an ID card with a picture of a baby on it. He told me a story.
“This is my son. You know how I got this card?”
“My son was born with a problem in his arm, and they said that if his arm wasn’t operated on he would lose the arm. We don’t have that kind of hospital here, so I have to go across into Jerusalem to see the doctor. So I go to the Fence.”
“The man at the fence won’t let me through. He says that I can’t bring through any person without a card. He is referring to my son, who is a new born. He didn’t have a card.”
“So I say to him, where do I get the card? He says you must get the card in Jerusalem.”
“I say let me through then I will get the card and leave my son with my wife. He says that won’t work, a person must be present to have fingerprints and a photo and so on in order to get the card.”
“I say how will my son get the card if he cannot travel through the fence to get the card?”
“He told me I was holding up the line, and my son never got the surgery, he lost his arm.”
He passed me the card, he said it was fake, and he didn’t have the courage to try it out, because you could be put in prison for such a thing. He had to choose between making his son grow up without an arm or without a father. The card was so poorly done. It was obviously fake.
We got up to the top of this hill, and he pointed out at these buildings coming over the hills, he said they were settlements, and they took over 3 more hills in the last few months. These were very nice buildings. Developments.
I went back to Israel that night, and I went to a waffle store. They had every kind of waffle. Chocolate waffle, ice cream waffle, Nutella. Anything. Any kind of fruit and so on. The taxis are really nice there they have meters, they don’t clunk when they start. The monuments are lit up at night. There are little plaques at every monument that tell you the history in English and Hebrew and Russian and Italian.
When I took the bus back, I sat next to a young girl who had a phone with rhinestones glued to it in a heart shape, and a beanie baby on a key chain. She had a ponytail, she was texting and wearing an army uniform. She had a grenade launcher in the seat next to her. The bus stopped several times and the Palestinians were made to get off and be searched. Their bags were taken off the bus and dumped out, and the soldiers kicked through their belongings at the side of the road and we sat inside the bus and watched and they passed out snacks.
It was absolutely banal, but the whole thing chilled me, and I realized that this was the country at the center of American foreign policy, and this was the beacon of democracy, and I realized that these were the supposed “good guys,” and I just thought that it wasn’t fucking right, and that Christians should be embarrassed because Jesus wouldn’t have stood for any of this.
Sorry I wrote a novel. It really changed me.
TL:DR; I think every American history teacher should be forced to walk around in Jerusalem, then go through the wall to Bethlehem and walk around in Palestine before teaching students that colonialism is something that “used to” happen.