Home I hadn't planned to go to Israel or the Palestinian Territories this trip, but lack of enthusiasm for Wadi Rum left me with several free days before flying home.  

One of the problems with visiting Israel is that if they stamp your passport, you will not be allowed into countries like Syria.  But since I had already visited Syria, and have no plans to go back to the Middle East, I decided to test a suggested method for circumventing this dilemma:  I asked the Israeli clerk at the border to stamp another piece of paper.  

She asked me why, and I told her that I might return to Syria.  She looked at me quizzically and asked why I'd want to do that.  I replied that I have friends there.  She frowned, but stamped the other paper as I had asked.





So I hopped a minibus for Jerusalem

On the way I struck up a conversation with a woman German woman who lives in northeastern Jordan.  I mentioned that I live in Olympia, the home of Rachel Corrie, the young woman who was killed (knowingly) by an Israeli bulldozer who was demolishing Palestinian homes--a favorite pastime of the oppressive Israeli occupiers.
She replied that Rachel is one of her heroes--as she is for many people who follow that conflict. 




The bus dropped me just outside Herod's Gate, one of the main entrances to Old Jerusalem...




...which at night, during a celebration, takes on a festive air




I had no clue where I was going, but was helped by this very friendly Israeli couple.

In my travels it has been a common occurrence to be helped by locals.  In Istanbul, one man led me about 10 blocks (around 8 corners) to where I needed to go.  



In the Middle East, it's common to see juice vendors like this





Not sure the significance of this headpiece, but it's charming, no?





The Western Wall (Wailing Wall)

No photography is allowed along the railing that you see in the center of the photo



But I managed to capture this shot, just inside that railing

It reminded me of the Biblical account of Jesus with the elders in temple (though I suspect that this chap wasn't treated as an equal)






I saw this photo displayed in a photography shop in the old city.

No significance; I just like the whole look. 

I spent only three days in Israel.  Two of those days I booked a tour with a Palestinian man working out of the Jerusalem Hotel dining room, going into the Palestinian occupied territories.  

The first day we toured numerous locations of political significance in and around Jerusalem, focusing on the "security" wall and the settler communities.

The second day we traveled south about an hour to Hebron, a city where the conflict between settlers and established Palestinians is especially bitter.

So the rest of this blog entry will focus on photos from those two tours.



The first day the tour dealt with locations with political significance in and around Jerusalem 




The reason I put quotes around the word "security" is that that is a euphemism for the actual intent.






In a number of cases the wall separates one Palestinian community from another--with the obvious intention of driving them from the area



The editorializing needs no comment




These guard towers are especially oppressive





As are the checkpoints, where Palestinians are subjected daily to humiliation and abuse.






In Hebron, the settlers have forced much of the commerce in the main part of the city to cease.

Here we saw closed shops along streets that once thrived.




Here's a mosque that the Israelis have taken control of, forcing the Palestinians to share time with its use as a synagogue.





Israeli settlers have taken up occupancy above now-abandoned stores.

They throw trash down, causing the Palestinians to stretch netting across to keep their streets clean.






One of the most depressing things I saw was a group of Jewish children in Hebron, each with his own very realistic weapon





And there was palpable hostility from them, since they knew we were there as part of a Palestinian-related tour




One Palestinian family graciously hosted us, with typical Middle East hospitality

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