After 9/11 many racial assumptions arose as people questioned others from Arab countries. Two summers ago I travelled to Ramallah, Palestine to learn more about my heritage. My mother and I flew to Jordan and from there used a bus system to an Israeli guarded station where taxis would end the trip. However, this trip needed willpower and strength since the line lasted hours and hoards of luggage piled outside waiting for the owner to grab and shove into a bus. Once on the bus, the trip to Palestine should have been a quick thirty-minutes, but unfortunately lasted over 5 hours. Constant checkpoints along the way allowed soldiers to make all the passengers leave the bus and get back on to meticulously check documents. Finally, reaching Ramallah almost ten hours later was a breathe of relief, or so I thought.
Ramallah was filled to the brim with people looking for work since their displacement from Jerusalem because of the wall in the West Bank. Jobs are scarce since half of their land is taken and families have been split up due to the wall. Soldiers were on every street and the privileges of leaving the West Bank have been almost completely stripped. Even I was discriminated against due to my lack of veil and the finite amount of Catholics. On a daily basis I dressed in pants and long shirts despite the scorching heat, yet even then I received the fiercest of stares and jeers.
However getting past the obstacles, it was amazing to witness the life my grandmother lived. The part of Ramallah that has remained the same since my mother was a child was inspiring. Just walking out of the door and up the street each storeowner would come out and greet us each with a story to tell about how much better the city was in the past. Even the teenagers whom I got to know and love aspired for more despite all their hardships and not being able to travel a few miles out of their city. They studied hard to be able to go to school outside of the country and their positivity reigned over any oppression they faced.
Already in the area, my mother and I decided to venture into Israel. Fortunately, our family friend, a doctor, wrote an imperative note that falsely claimed that I needed medical attention. Only with this “emergency” were we allowed into Israel. The atmosphere was a polar opposite with people dressed normally, clean streets, and a completely different language. The beaches were wonderful especially in Haifa and the religious sites were breathtaking. In Bethlehem where Jesus was born was filled with people of all cultures coming to see the holy site. Even below was a market filled with great foods, my favorite kunafa and hand-sewn bags. It was if I had stepped into a new continent rather than just driving twenty minutes.
In both nations I was a part of the minority religion and this allowed me to see things from a different perspective. My roots are Palestinian and the suffering due to this war saddens me. Though life is not fair for my family and the continued conflict angers me, I realized I should focus on the fact that I was in the holy land and experiencing two new cultures at once. My trip was an inspiring way for me to better understand my background and the problems facing the Middle East. With this knowledge and experience, I want to be able to help people and inform others of what is really going on in Palestine.
Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.