16 Oct

Happy birthday, Mom!!!!! I hope you have a really great day!!  I love you!!


When I tell people I planned a family trip to Palestine…

“Isn’t the Israeli–Palestinian conflict still going on?”
“Isn’t that area dangerous?”
“Why would you take your parents there?”

I totally get it. In fact, I welcome those questions because I think it’s an awesome learning opportunity.  Even though Palestine has a major ongoing conflict and a reputation for being dangerous, I did my research.  There weren’t any active flare ups and I decided that, at the time we were there, the trip over the boarder wasn’t any more dangerous than getting into a car.  There’s risk in everything we do.  And most Palestinians are actually trying to lead a normal, happy life.

So, without further ado, here’s a glimpse of Palestine from my perspective.


My parents weren’t comfortable using public transportation, so they had opted to wait until the next day when they could go on a tour.  But, I didn’t want to wait since there was so much to see.  So, I hopped on a bus and went by myself.

As I was crossing the border into Palestine, I learned that people with Israeli passports can’t enter Palestine at all; however I did notice that some Palestinians do commute into Jerusalem for work. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again until your ears hurt (or eyes…since you’re reading this), but traveling makes you appreciate the things you’ve been given in this life. As I was crossing the border, I thought about how lucky I am to have a US passport that allows me to travel so freely.  In Israel, you can’t even cross a border IN YOUR OWN COUNTRY, and here I am, an outsider getting free access.

Crossing the border into Palestine, there seemed to be arbitrary treatment. Apparently, individuals who cross the border will occasionally have to be fingerprinted (although I wasn’t).  No one looked at my passport.  No one even entered the bus to check anyones identity and almost before I knew it, I was in Palestine.

I took in the sights and, at one point, went to charge my phone in a restaurant.  The guys who were working there were very friendly.  After some casual chit-chat, they asked if I was a Christian or a Catholic; woah, woah, woah, we’re jumping from straight-up casual small talk into a “3 glasses of pinot and pondering the afterlife” type of conversation? Or “Another Coca-cola Zero, please!” Cool.  Let’s do it.

The thing is, I’m Jewish, and found it interesting that they didn’t even consider that that was an option, especially considering we were 30 minutes away from Israel.  I decided to go with: “I’m kind of Christian, but not really a believer,” which they found to be a satisfactory answer.  A couple of beats later, out of curiosity, I asked what they would have said if I had told them I were Jewish. They responded that I woudn’t have mattered, as they have business friends who are Jewish but…Why didn’t they list that as an option?!

With my phone fully charged, and my belly full of Coke Zero, I thanked the men (the cokes were on the house) and gave them a sticker as a souvenir.


Now, you can find Pittsburgh in random restaurant in Palestine.


It was time for me to meet my parents back in Jerusalem and since I couldn’t figure out where to catch the bus, I surrendered to walking the couple of hours back. Unfortunately, you can’t walk across the border.  You’re not allowed to walk across the boarder?!  That still seems bizarre.  Luckily, I was able to hop on an empty tour bus who refused any sort of payment, and got back into Israel before nightfall.

The next day, I told my parents I actually did want to join them on their tour as I had a lot of questions that I was hoping a guide could answer.  Unfortunately for us, the tour was canceled.  My parents wanted to check out Palestine anyway (who could blame them, it was so interesting!) so, as their loyal disciple, I led them back to Bethlehem.

One of our main destinations was the “The Hotel With The Worst View”.  No reverse psychology here; the hotel actually overlooks the massive, scary wall on the west bank; it’s quite overwhelming — twice as high as the Berlin Wall with barbed wire all over the top and an endless supply of watchtowers.


You don’t have to be an art major to figure this one out.



A 1-star wall with a 5-star sense of humor.


Even though there were some humorous works of graffiti on the wall, once you start learning about the situation it’s overwhelming just how oppressive and sad this wall really is.  This close to Jerusalem, there is no way to get past it without passing through a checkpoint.  The wall was built in 2000, and those born after that were born always knowing this as reality.  There’s no way for Palestinians to get goods across the border, and the better farmland is on the Israeli side. This means that the people in Palestine are forced to find a way to live under these harsh conditions.



Palestinians face this every single day.


One of the really interesting things about traveling to an area like this is being able to, as an outsider, see the way two sides view oppression. In Israel, this is called the Separation Wall and is seen as a security measure built to defend against terrorism. To Palestine, on the other hand, the wall is a symbol of racial segregation; they call it the Apartheid Wall.



Is this comic relief or foreboding imagery? #both


The wall was eye-opening, and while I wouldn’t say it was fun, it was a highlight of my trip to learn about current affairs and see the extent of the turmoil.




Make hummus, not walls— now there’s a sentiment I can get behind. My local government officials will be hearing about this idea.


QUICK intermission to discuss the art:

The hotel with the worst view and several murals in the surrounding area were created by Banksy, the anonymous English graffiti artist. While in Palestine, I got to learn a lot about his work and became rather attached to his art and his message. I even used one of his murals as inspiration for my Halloween costume when Ben asked me to “dress sexy.”



See, look at those sexy flowers, and the sexy backwards cap, and the sexy baggy pants…and that sexy message.



Renegade is sexy.  Photo credit: Ben


–END of my quick intermission (see? I like art.)
Before that intermission, we had already visited the Banksy hotel.  And after that, we went to see the heart of Bethlehem.  We went to Manger Square, the specific spot where Jesus was supposedly born, although, I doubt it was called that at the time.

*Flashback to the birth of Jesus*

Wise Man #1: Hey, guys, I think we’re lost.
Wise Man #3: Yeah, I think we were supposed to take a left back at Manger Square.
But now, instead of a stack of hay, Manger Square is actually home to a massive church— the room upgrade Mary had always wanted.  It was beautiful, and there was a group of Italians singing “O, Holy Night,” which, it turns out sounds much better in Italian.  We felt pretty special to get such a private performance.



A star to indicate where Jesus was born…like the star the led the wise men…ah, okay, I see what they did here.


We walked around for a while to take in the whole spiritual experience (no rogue rabbis asking for “donations” this time), and then we waited in line for the bus to take us back into Jerusalem before dark.

Overall, our experience was a good one.  On the bus, I reflected.  I’d felt very conflicted the whole time I was there.  It was difficult.   Almost like you have to choose a side in the ongoing, complicated conflict that has no end in sight.



It was a powerful place, and I was so incredibly lucky to share this whole meaningful experience with my parents. I made a checklist:

☑Adventurous parents who are always willing to explore
☑Parents who are super supportive of your passion for travel
☑Willingness to learn, experience new things, and laugh along the way
☑Endless amounts of LOVE

And, I was able to check everything off the list.  It was so cool to have my parents along for this trip, seeing things that I usually can’t put into words and learning right beside me.


Here’s to more adventures! Love yinz!

3 Responses to “Palestine”

  1. Momma February 18, 2018 at 10:53 pm #

    Thank you so much, sweetheart! What an amazing time we have whenever we are with you. You bring so much energy and joy to any experience. What a fantastic adventure we all had being together in this beautiful part of the world. Love you so much!

    • Sammi Travis February 27, 2018 at 6:11 pm #

      Love you too! It was such a great time!!! And happy birthday again 🙂

  2. deekerson February 19, 2018 at 9:01 pm #

    Love yinz, too. So fun reminiscing the amazing trip.

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