In Ramallah, my default was to avoiding talking about heading to Israel. In Israel, I’ve noticed my default state has been to avoid mentioning I was just in Palestine. When it does come up, I continue the conversation very cautiously.
I don’t know how people will respond. Will they be upset? Interested? Offended? Jealous? So far, I’ve seen a range of reactions.
Reactions of individuals in Palestine, on traveling to Israel:
In general, no one get upset. At least on the surface.
Overall I’d say there was definitely curiosity, but some people definitely had an undertone of disappointment and jealousy because they could never go there. A few times I started talking about the rest of my trip (travel through Israel for a week, China for two weeks immediately after), and I think that undertone may have gotten stronger.
There were definitely a few instances were the anti-Israeli sentiment became pretty obvious, but it was also clear it wasn’t being leveled at me. I was just traveling.
Reactions of individuals in Israeli, on coming from Palestine.
Israeli reactions have been more interesting, and diverse.
Yesterday I arrived in Haifa (Israel) and ended up being introduced to a local entrepreneur (we’ll call him Abraham) via some mutual friends. He and I grabbed lunch, took a walk by the beach, and he invited me to a friend’s BBQ that night. I told him I was just in Ramallah and why, and he thought it was the coolest thing. He wanted to know what the startups were like, how far along were they, what problems were there, what they were working on. He spoke from a place of genuine curiosity. He also wanted to know what Ramallah was like.
That question surprised me, but then Abraham went on:
“What’s Ramallah like? I’ve never been there, I’m not allowed there. Is it tents and huts? Tall buildings?”
That made me realize - Palestinians weren’t allowed to leave, but most Israeli’s weren’t allowed to go. Many Israeli’s don’t have the faintest clue what it’s like to live in Palestine, and it’s incredibly difficult for them to learn and create an informed opinion. But Abraham was coming from a passionately curious place.
Another person I met laughed when she heard it, and teasingly called me a נשמת סוג, “a kind soul and a tender heart.” A lot of that discussion was in Hebrew with her friends (one of whom didn't even know what or where Ramallah was), so I didn’t follow the intricacies, but I definitely got the feeling she was making fun of me. Maybe for doing what she saw as charity work? Helping the poor and unfortunate Palestinians? I’m not sure, but it did not make me feel good.
It came up with a third person. Our conversation was very on and off, but he would occasionally and out of the blue ask very specific questions about Ramallah. He was acting very strangely. Eventually, I asked if he’d ever been there. He said yes. In 2001. During the war. Then he started telling stories of going house to house, block to block, entering homes and searching for weapons. He said it was pretty fucked up. Now he’s a 3rd grade teacher for children with autism.
The last response was from an Israeli who’d spent the last decade or so in Texas. He was the most aggressive so far. When it came up, he demanded to know how they dressed. I said “for the most part, just like anybody here.” He insisted everyone wore “traditional” clothes. When I refuted that (at least in Ramallah), he demanded to know how men and women were represented. Did I see anyone holding hands or kissing in the streets. I said no, he grunted, and then went back to the grill. It seemed like my answer reinforced his opinion of their... inferiority? Wrongness?
The range of reactions in just one afternoon has been fascinating and exhausting. It feels scary to mention where I’ve been - I’m not sure what reaction I’m going to get. I think I need to worry less though. No one in Israel is going to hurt me became I visited Palestine. The worst that happens is they argue with me and I go off and find someone else to talk to.
I tend toward conflict avoidance for serious issues. Conflict avoidance can be a good skill to have, but I'm not sure it's the best default. It stunts growth and learning, both mine and theirs. I'm going to try to bring up issues that will create (good) conflict more often, and if you read this feel free to do it with me.
Easy to type. Harder to do.
Picture is from the cab ride out of Ramallah. I spotted the perfect backdrop, and asked the taxi driver to stop and take a picture. We did two takes, this was the best picture. He did not mention or look impressed at my backflip. Maybe everyone does those here.
I got home last night, watched Cosmos, and then went to sleep. Woke up today at 1:30pm. 11 hours of sleep, and according to my Shine sleep monitor, 8 hours of “deep sleep.” Guess I was tired! Time to explore Haifa for… whatever amount of today is left.