After my studies, I visited Israel and Palestine before I traveled back home. Wow. I feel ten times more educated about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict just by visiting and seeing the situation up close. My very first experience was at the border. My friends had visited the area before I did, and apparently they had no trouble. I, on the other hand, did find a two-hour interrogation waiting for me before I could cross. The border guard took my phone and read all of my conversations. She asked me questions about the various conversations I had, and probed all the contacts I had with Israel. That was, at max, two. She ended up calling one of them, which I thought was incredibly rude, inappropriate in that it involved an innocent person unrelated to my border crossing, in addition to the clear violation of privacy. This experience alone dissuades me from visiting Israel again. I understand that the area witnesses high levels of violence but, as an American, I felt these violations were inexcusable. If I’m already fed up with how the government is neglectful to our rights in America, where I receive ten times more respect, then why should I stand for such disrespect in Israel?
Anyway, I thought Jerusalem was beautiful. But, yet again, the conflict bubbled up to the surface as I toured Jerusalem and the country at large. In Jerusalem, I could only visit the mosque, Aqsa, for a limited period of time. Due to miscommunication with the Muslim and Jewish guards, perhaps on account of their less-than-stellar English, I could not visit Aqsa. Note that these two guards were in two different locations letting in two different types of tourists. The Muslim guard guards a more direct entrance to the mosque and allows Muslims 24-hour access, if they can prove they are muslims by answering questions about the Qoran.
As I went through the country, I saw signs only in Hebrew. I visited my friend in Golan Height, a territory occupied by Israel after the Six-Day War, and found out some interesting information regarding this. While large portions of Israel contain mainly Jews, the place where he lives, Golan Heights, contains mainly Arabs, as it was taken from Syria after the war. And despite the fact that many signs here do have English and Arabic, it was not always like that. After complaining, Arabic was added to signs only a few years ago. This again underscores the tepid relations between Arabs and Jews in the country.