Archiv für den Monat: März 2013

Dass

Es war bereits später Abend als er schrieb. Wir kannten uns nur flüchtig. Wir hatten uns auf einer Party über unsere Bierflaschen angelächelt. Drinnen hatte die Musik gespielt und wir hatten draußen im Hof gestanden, wo die Musik nur noch ein dumpfes Wummern war. Ich weiß nicht mehr worüber wir sprachen, es war auch nicht wichtig. Wichtig war, dass wir uns über unsere Bierflaschen anlächelten und ich mit einem breiten Grinsen am Ende des Abends in die S-Bahn stieg.

Seitdem waren ein paar Wochen ins Land gegangen. Seine Nachricht erreichte mich zu einer Stunde, die zu spät ist, um nach einem ganz normalen Treffen zu fragen und zu früh um eine alkoholinspirierte Idee zu sein. Ich sagte ab. Ich hatte keine Zeit. Ich war auf dem Weg zu einem Freund, der für die meisten meiner Freunde immer nur ein Bekannter von mir gewesen war. Er ist einer von diesen Menschen, mit denen es immer schmutzig wird und wenn man geht, ist es so herrlich unaufgeregt als wäre nichts geschehen.

An diesem Abend ärgerte ich mich fast ein bisschen, dass ich bereits mit der Bahn auf dem Weg zu einem Abend war, dessen Ausgang ich bereits zu kennen glaubte. Es sollte sich jedoch herausstellen, dass meine nächtliche Verabredung nach zu viel Wein in der Spätsommersonne auf der Couch eingeschlafen war, die Klingel nicht hörte und ich umsonst gekommen war. Erleichterung breitete sich mit einem Lächeln auf meinem Gesicht aus. Ich hatte doch Zeit, um schüchtern über grüne Bierflaschenhälse hinweg zu lachen und dabei in kristallblaue Augen zu starren.

Als ich ihm schrieb war es bereits Nacht und ich auf dem Rückweg meiner geplatzten Verabredung. Es regnete. Er versprach mich mit einem Regenschirm von der S-Bahn abzuholen. Ich eilte zum Ausgang der Station und suchte ihn im dunklen Spätsommerniesel. Eine viertel Stunde streunte ich um den Bahnhof bis ich ihn fand. Er hatte zwei grüne Bierflaschen dabei, Kopfhörer auf den Ohren, den Schirm in der rechten Hand. Er hatte auf mich am Gleis gewartet.

Obwohl es regnete entschieden wir uns die Nacht draußen zu verbringen. Wir fühlten uns nach Laufen und nach Zweisamkeit, die nicht durch dichten Zigarettenqualm, laute Musik und die halbgebrüllten Gespräche anderer Menschen in zwei Hälften geschnitten wird. Wir saßen unter Straßenlaternen und lächelten uns über unsere Bierflaschen an. Wir liefen auf unbeleuchteten, matschigen Pfaden durch Parks, kletterten durch kaputte Zäune und hörten dabei Swing aus den Lautsprechern seines Smartphones.

Als er mich nach Hause brachte, waren fünf Stunden vergangen und sechs Bierflaschen hatten ihren Weg für die Pfandsammler unter die öffentlichen Mülleimer gefunden. Ich weiß nicht mehr worüber wir gesprochen haben. Es war auch nicht wichtig. Wichtig war, dass wir fünf Stunden gesprochen hatten.

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Otter & Fuchs

Der Otter und der Fuchs

Sie sind zwei Tiere, die unterschiedlicher nicht sein könnten. Der Otter lebt bei den Flüssen, der Fuchs tief in seinem Wald. Füchse und Otten begegnen sich normalerweise nicht. Denn der Fuchs meidet das Wasser und der Otter will sich nicht weit von ihm entfernen. Doch eines Tages wurde ihnen der eigene Lebensraum zu eng und so zogen sie hinaus in die weite Welt. Manchmal muss man in die Ferne reisen, um jemand besonderes zu treffen. Und so begegneten sich Otter und Fuchs, fernab des Waldes und des Flusses in der Wüste, wo es weder Bäume noch Wasser gab.

In der Wüste machten Fuchs und Otter gemeinsam völlig neue Erfahrungen. Und obwohl der eine ein Tier des Flusses und der andere eines des Waldes war, sollten sie bald entdecken, dass sie mehr teilten als nur die Zeit in der Wüste. Auch wenn sie aus anderen Lebensräumen kamen, so ähnelten sie sich doch sehr. Sie erzählten sich Geschichten vom Fluss und Geschichten aus dem Wald und sollten bald merken, dass sich ihr Leben um dieselben Dinge drehte. Im Winter war es zu kalt im Fluss. Auch im Wald war es manchmal zu kalt. Der Fuchs fühlte sich von anderen Füchsen oft missverstanden. Der Otter sah sich oft falsch eingeschätzt von anderen Otten. Der Otter war stark und trotzdem verletzlich. Der Fuchs war selbstbewusst und scheu zugleich. Sie beide kannten die Bedeutung von Verlust. Und obwohl sie beide andere Wörter benutzten, sprachen sie dieselbe Sprache.

Nach langer Zeit in der Wüste lernten der Otter und der Fuchs, das Leben im eigenen Biotop wieder schätzen. Sie brachen wieder auf in den Wald und zum Fluss, aber sie sahen die Heimat mit anderen Augen. Der Fuchs liebte nun auch die Ausflüge ans Wasser und der Otter liebte die Streifzüge in den Wald, sie beide liebten die Wüste. Und dort treffen sie sich noch immer.

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The Be(rlin)thlehem Wall

One thing you should not miss to visit when you are in Bethlehem is the great wall separating the city from its surroundings. The wall is around nine meters high and on top of it you can see barbed wire. It actually reminds me a lot of the Berlin Wall, which looked the same, just not as high as the one here in Bethlehem. You can also find a lot of paintings and slogans there on the wall that compare the Berlin Wall to the Wall around Bethlehem. Most of the wall is covered with paintings, slogans and graffiti. You can also find some pieces of the street artist Banksy here. He is honored like a national hero here. There is even a souvenir shop just for Banksy stuff in the border area inside Bethlehem. Again there is a lot of Israeli military around here in the so called Area C (under Israeli control).

 

We walked along the wall, breathing in the conflict, trying to catch the meaning of all those graffiti. There  is a ‘Wall Museum’ which actually contains lots of big posters, which are fixed to the wall. On those posters you can read the stories of Palestine civilians and their experiences with the Intifadas, the building of the wall and what it means to their daily lives. It really hits you emotionally. And yes when you wander around there, reading all those stories: yes – you feel pity, no matter if this is right or not.
We met a young Palestine woman, who lived right next to the wall. She was asking us if we had time, so that she could share her story with us: The street we were in used to be one of the busiest in Bethlehem. A lot of people were using that road to get to Jerusalem and vice versa. The family had a few shops in the street and was earning good money. As there was the last Intifada the Israeli army annexed the house, using it for strategic reasons and shooting, since it was right at the border. The military left, but then the wall was built – surrounding all the houses of the family, cutting off the busy street.
The wall ruined the family’s business. When they look out of the window there is this huge wall. The woman told us her daughter was crying that day ‘They buried us alive’. I have no idea if all of that story was true, But I guess it was. There was no reason for this woman to lie. Again I felt like the regular people living in Palestine just wanted to call attention to their situation, so that some foreigners would spread the message to the world. Looks like it turned out.
We walked further leaving the wall museum behind and arrived at the checkpoint where people cross the border to Israel by feet. There are two barred small lanes: oe for the entrance, one for the exit. It was late afternoon and the checkpoint was crowded with men. Probably a lot of men were coming back from their work in Jerusalem. This is also a big problem. A lot of people in Bethlehem work in the try close by Jerusalem. But you never know if the border will be open the next day and even if it is, Palestinians usually do not get a job in Israel.
As so often we were asked here where we were from. As usual people were very happy to hear we are from Germany. But for the first time one guy did not make a secret about, why he liked Germans: Germans used to fight the Jews. It happened a lot of times that people were very welcoming when they heard we were from Germany. I do not want to assume that all of them were thinking like that, cos there are also a lot of German volunteers in the West Bank. But the thought always crossed my mind. And obviously the German government is not too fond about helping Palestine.
When we came to Bethlehem we came here by bus. After we saw this busy checkpoint we decided to walk through it the next day on our way back to Jerusalem. It is easy to cross here for a German. The Israeli Military did not even check our passports, they just waved through the gates. Palestinians contrarily have to show their passports and identify themselves by their fingerprint. Not to mention that you have to go through X-ray security check beforehand.
Herewith the Palestine Experience had come to an end. We were back on our way to Tel Aviv, excited to hear what our Israeli friends would think about our trip.

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Aida Camp

Bethlehem and Aida Refugee Camp

We stayed the night in Jerusalem and went to Bethlehem the next morning. We were taking the bus there, since the situation there is more tense than in Jericho. Disregarding that the car rental company was not allowing us to go to Bethlehem by car, it is not advisable. It might happen that people will throw stones at your car when you have the yellow Israeli car plate.

At the checkpoint some strict military women were entering the bus, checking all the passports, writing down the names of Israelis going to Palestine. The Bus dumped us somewhere close to the city center of Bethlehem. By feet we crossed the centre and the old city to find our accommodation at the other end of the city.

We were not sure if we were still on the right way, that’s why we asked for the way in a souvenir shop. The  people there were very nice and Joseph, the owner of the shop, offered us to give us a ride to the guesthouse. The guesthouse in Beit Jala unfortunately was fully booked. The women there tried to arrange some other accommodation for us and so we ended up in – a Christian monastery. Joseph took us there, leaving his name and telephone number in case we would need anything. The room smelled like desinfections. The room was plastered with pictures of Jesus and Holy Mary, a cross was hanging over the bed. Well, ending your Israeli/Palestine travel experience with a stay in a monastery just aces it somewhat a successful roundup.
Right after leaving our luggage in the monastery we went for some sightseeing in the city. We started at the Church of Nativity, where it is said Jesus was born. The entrance is just a very small inconsiderable door. They say the Church of Nativity is the oldest Church in the world. Inside Monks in dark robes were singing. There were also a lot of pilgrims, wanting to visit that holy birth grotto underneath the altar. It was so crowded that the believers only were allowed to stay in the grotto for a few seconds to make way for other people to pray. I kind of felt sad for them. You may have saved your money for years to come here, you waited so long and then some guard interrupts you prayer by shouting: ‘Only two seconds, only two seconds, move forward!’ Even for me it was too hectic.
We then strolled around the old city, walking along the way Joseph and Mary took. The market in the old city is wonderful, but nothing for hygiene lovers and vegetarians. The sellers are shouting, the bargaining is loud, kids are running around with carts as if they were in a supermarket. There are stalls and booths for meat, fruits and veggies. In the outspreads of the market further to the new city center there you will find clothes, some trashy stuff, furniture and shoes.  There are guys running around with pipe like looking cans decorated with flowers, serving tea in the streets to thirsty men. The city of Bethlehem is bustling. The narrow streets are jam-packed with shops, sellers in the streets and people of all ages. It is a city with lots of differences: different religions, the spiritualness of an old holy city, the sleaziness in some places and the wall seperating Bethlehem from Israel. We also went there, but you can read about it in another article.
In the evening we went to a restaurant called the Square right at Manger Square where you also find the Church of Nativity. One of the waiters, Mahmoud, was living in Aida Camp one of the Palestinian refugee camps close to Bethlehem. He asked if we visited this place. So far we didn’t. Kati and me had been mulling over coming to this place cos it feels like poverty tourism. But when Mahmoud encouraged us to go there cos we were really welcome to see his place, we decided to go there. At Aida Camp you will find poor housings and it feels like its a camp of kids. There are kids all over, playing football in the streets, running around. In general Aida camp is overcrowed. There is trash in the streets, the people are rather humble and shy, but friendly. Still it was a strange feeling to walk around at this refugee camp, observed by the eyes of the military.

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Jericho – First Glimpse Of Palestine

The last part of the trip brought us to the West Bank, the Palestine Territories. We first went to Jericho. You pass a military checkpoint there. The check ups here are not that strict, you can see a lot of cars with yellow car plates here, which belong to Israeli cars. Usually in most parts of the West Banks Israelis are not allowed. Entering Jericho was like entering a different world. I was sure that the Palestine Territories would be different, but I wasn’t expecting such a big difference. The Israeli cities are somewhat western and in good condition. Here lots of houses are in a bad state, there is a lot of waste in the streets. The roads are covered with potholes and cracks, they look sleazy.  Horse carriages are a common means of transportation and goat herds are driven through the streets. Obviously most of the people in Jericho are poor, but they are very friendly. It seems like people want to call attention to their situation. When we were asking for the way or an ATM random people or the police would guide our way.

We wanted to see the old center of Jericho. As we got there we took the cable car to get up to the Mount of temptation. From the cable car itself you have a great view over the city of Jericho and its urban hinterland. After getting off we went up hill to the Monastery of Temptation. On our way there we met a street seller for bracelets and necklaces. He stopped us, introduced himself (Said) and had some little conversation with us, asking us to stop by again after our visit at the monastery.

We arrived at the monastery, which is built into the rocks of the mount. A monk opened the gate und let us in. There is a chapel carved into the stone, in this kind of grotto believers were putting there prayers written on pieces of paper, like at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. In the little church in the monastery you will also find another chapel, which supposedly is the place where Jesus spend fourty days and fourty nights fasting and meditating during the temptation of satan. Again people where kneeling down at the shrine to pray and kiss.

On our way back to the cable car we passed the jewelry seller Said. He again stopped us and asked us if we could take a picture with him. And so we did. He was so happy that he gave us two bracelets made of blue gemstones and gave us a kiss on the hand for goodbye. Something similar happened again when we arrived at the cable car station down in Jericho. When you want to go back on the street, you have to cross a big souvenir store with a cashier almost at the exit. There the two male sellers were asking where we were from. As they heard that we are from Germany they invited us to have a little conversation with them ‘Only five minutes, just talking!’. We sat down at the cashier. The sellers gave us two small pins of the Palestinian flag and two key chains of the cable car. They told us about all the sights in Jericho and around. The two sellers were hilarious, joking around all the time. They actually seemed a little sad when we left.

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Dead Sea - View to Jordan

The Dead Sea

Before rewarding ourselves with a floating bath in the Dead Sea, Kati and me decided to go for another hike around the area of Ein Gedi. The Ein Gedi Nature Reserve suggests itself since its just a stone throw away. There are a lot of tourists hiking here, which caused us to think we would not enjoy the hike. But nevertheless it some beautiful piece of nature you should not miss. You have the mountains here, caves, waterfalls, beautiful views and lots of springs for refreshment.

After our visit in the nature reserve we made our way to the Ein Gedi Beach, the only public beach in the area. You change your clothes and walk down the steep and rocky shore. The rocks in the water itself are covered in salt. And then – lay down and float! It’s a strange feeling to lie in the water. But it’s even more strange when you try to swim cos you legs are swinging up and it’s hard to actually have them in the water to swim. Luckily it was a very hot day (28°C) and the water was not too cold. When we went out of the water to dry ourselves in the sun a white encrustation was evolving on our skin.

 

After a quick shower we jumped in the car again and drove on to Jericho, which belongs to the West Bank (Palestine Territory).

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Salt Rocks

On the Road to the Dead Sea

After leaving Mitspe Ramon we were heading on by car to the Dead Sea. I can highly recommend this route, it was the most beautiful we were riding these days.

Going through the mountains there was still incredible. The nature is rough and lonely here. Unlike around Mitspe Ramon you won’t find tourist busses here when you take the trails to the lookouts. Every now and then we stopped, almost overwhelmed by the harsh beauty of the mountains.

We were still driving through rough desert area, crossing Dimona and Yeruham onwards to the Dead Sea Area where you arrive at some huge salt pools before going up north to the Dead Sea itself. Shortly before you arrive at the salt pools you can enjoy a great view from the mountains. Over the huge white salt rocks and the pools you can look as far as to the reddish mountains on the Jordanian border. It’s feels like your looking over a moonlike landscape. I guess so far this was the most beautiful place I have ever been to. It was breathtaking. Kati and me even stopped talking, just staring over the white rocks sparkling in the sun.

We then continued our way down the mountains and took the road along the salt pools, stopping at Mount Sodom for a quick hike to enjoy the view over to the mountains of Jordan. Riding into the sunset we were relishing the contrast of the very blue Dead Sea and the red illuminated mountains (I picture myself the Mars must look like this). When it was almost dark we arrived at the youth hostel in Ein Gedi.

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Teresa watching Negev

Negev – Endless Desert

After a long breakfast in Tel Aviv last Sunday we decided to rent a car to visit the Negev, the big desert area of Israel. After approximately one and a half hour of driving in the green the landscape changed into yellow dunes and harsh rocks at the area around Be’er Sheva. We stopped there just to feel the sand between our fingers, then we kept on driving further south. Our final aim was to reach the small town of Mitspe Ramon right in the middle of Makhtesh Nature Reserve. It’s a good starting point for hiking in the desert and you have a breathtaking view over the whole crater of Makhtesh.

We checked into an EcoCamp called Desert Shade with a beautiful view over the Makhtesh and small mud huts to sleep in. One of the guys working there was Adam, a young and very welcoming Israeli who originally came from the North of Israel and had dark and wild curly hair. There were also prisoners doing some kind of community service and a group of difficult teenagers. That night we talked to Adam about the military service in Israel and to another Israeli guy who comes over to the desert every once in a while to work with the kids.

The next morning we went for a hike in the Makhtesh. By car we went to Saharonim. From there we started to hike for a few hours in the desert. Unfortunately there were some school excursions to that hiking trek as well so that we were not the only ones on the trail. But nevertheless although hiking in the sun of the desert can be exhausting, it’s worth it in any case.

The next day we made our way to the Cisterns of Lotz. Although this area still belongs to the desert you will find (cos of the cisterns) a lot of spring flowers here. It’s a peaceful place and not a lot of people are around. It was easy to hike here – no big mountains, just hilly steppe.

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From Galilee to Golan

On Saturday we had a quick breakfast at Ido’s place. His dad was making some Arab coffee for us. Then Ido, Noa, Kati and me left by car for the Sea of Galilei where Jesus walked on water and the miracle of loaves and fishes happened. You will see a lot of pilgrims here. But there are also quiet places and the Sea of Galilee is a beautiful place anyway.

After that we made our way through Galilee up North to the Golan Heights close to the border of Syria. We came here in the best time of the year. Spring is immersing the hills with light green spots and lots of flours. You can see carpets of purple and yellow flowers, every now and then lanced be red poppy seeds and grazing cows. In general the Golan Heights are worth a visit – it’s nature is vast, rough and graceful all at once. It’s a pity you can not hike here since the land is full of mines. We stopped at Mount Bental. From there you can have a wide look over Israel but also to Syria. In the middle of this vast nature you are standing in this sun, it’s chilly and you can see the snowcapped Mount Hermon which partly belongs to Syria, partly to Israel. It’s an area of conflict, which Ido again explained to us. We sat down for a rest and Ido made some coffee for us on a gas cooker. Even nowadays this is not a carefree place – that day bombs were dropped in the border area right after we left.

Not knowing about the bombing we went unharmed on through Golan to Gamla – a nature reserve (with eagles) and an ancient Jewish settlement. We hiked around the area, visiting the Jewish settlement. Ido was very ambitious in being a good guide – he told us all the stories about Gamla. We hiked the hill on which the settlement was built and which looks like the back of a camel. I really liked the view on top of that hill. One had a view over the mountains until the Sea of Galilee.

After our hike we had some hearty food in the Israeli Brewery of Golan in Katsrin. Right after this refreshment we got back on the car to go back to Ido’s place in Tel Aviv.

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Galilee

Getting to know Ido’s Home in Galilee

Last Friday, together with Noa, we made our way back from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. There Ido was picking us up by car to go to Timrat, a small town in Galilee where his parents live. We enjoyed the ride in the car. The landscape in Israel is pretty green at spring time, which has already started here.

We had a quick stop in a small town to have some hummus and pita. Ido said it was one of the best places to have hummus: the lousier the houses, the better the hummus. True.

Later on we arrived at Ido’s place: a beautiful house in the mountains with a garden full of flowers. On top of the roof there was a guesthouse in which Kati and me could stay for the night. The view from the terrace was wide and beautiful. At night one could watch the stars and the lights of the city from afar. Before dinner Noa, Ido and us were having coffee on the terrace talking about Israeli (David Grossman) and German writers (Bernhard Schlink).

That night we had dinner with Ido’s family: his mother and father, his sister, his brother and his wife, the grandparents and Noa. Idos brother and his wife only eat kosher. We learned that for kosher dinner you have to separate milk and meat and that glass dishes are always kosher. The brother said a prayer before dinner and a glass of wine and some bread with honey was passed round the table. Then we started to eat four courses: soup, artichokes with mayonnaise, zucchini and other veggies with rice and a slice of cake with fruits.

We also learned a lot about Israeli politics and history, cos Ido’s parents would spend some more time with us at the table, telling stories about their country. Ido was showing us all places of interest in Israel in a very old atlas. I especially liked Ido’s dad a lot. He was very welcoming and very much interested. We had a good conversation that night and we were laughing a lot.

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