I've been in Ramallah for about 48 hours now. I ran a workshop with the accelerator, did a couple 1-on-1 mentoring sessions, and ate lunch with them. We've been talking about startups a lot, but also been talking a lot about life in Palestine.
While on a walk with my host, I asked him why I didn't go through a checkpoint on my way into the city from the airport. I've heard a lot about the checkpoints, and I was nervous... but very confused when my taxi pulled into the city without stopping anywhere.
He explained that the taxi has Israeli license plates. We took the roads through the country - these are special roads that only Israeli's are allowed to take. If a Palestinian (who receives different license plates) is caught on those roads by the police... it would not be good.
At lunch yesterday, one of the CEOs pointed out a group of buildings on a hill on the edge of the city. She told me that it's an Israeli settlement, and that Palestinians aren't allowed there. They'd be turned away at the gate by armed guards if they tried to enter.
At lunch today, I heard a story about how someone's aunt owned a large plot of land. She owns a house on it that is over 100 years old, but hasn't been renovated or had any major repairs in over 50 years. They keep requesting permits, but their requests keep being denied. Her son wanted to build a house on the land and spent ten years applying for permits, but was continually denied.
Finally, he decided to just build the house (remember, on his own land). He spent over $60,000 and was halfway through building the house when the military showed up and told him to stop building. If he put one more nail in that house, they'd demolish it. A few weeks later, an Israeli contractor applied for, and received, permits to build a new apartment complex on the adjacent plot.
Imagine not being able to drive down certain roads in your own town because you have the wrong license plate. Imagine being denied access to neighborhoods in your city because you were born on the wrong side of a line. Imagine being prohibited from fixing, improving, or building a home, on your land, for over 50 years, but watching someone else get the necessary permits in weeks.
Eye opening perspective.
Peter and I went on a drive while waiting for our lunch. We stopped on a cliff to take this panorama. The rolling hills of the landscape are beautiful, and the parkour in my blood loves the way the city does not fight the landscape, but embraces it. Like leaves on a wave, the city rolls right along with the hills.