We learn so much about religion, racial division and segregation, and war, as we travel. And each time we are humbled and reminded how much there is that we don’t know, and will never fully comprehend. Visiting Palestine presented opportunity to learn a whole lot more, and see a glimpse of what it was actually like with life divided by a wall.
But how do you explain that to a six year old?
Visiting Palestine by local bus
There are two options for visiting Palestine by local bus. We bought tickets for the Arab Bus #21 just outside Damascus Gate at the Bus Station in East Jerusalem. The bus departs approximately every 30 minutes from the bus station, and takes about 40 minutes. The last stop and drop off point in Palestine is a bus stop in Beit Jala, on the intersection of Bab El-Zakak/Beit Jala Road. (Note: Make sure you bring your passport. It may be required at a checkpoint on the way in or out of Palestine/Israel. More information from Visit Palestine here).
Initially the bus just feels like any other public bus.
But, wow. There is no mistaking the wall when you first see it. It absolutely dwarfs the road and bus, and the valleys that lead back down towards Jerusalem.
Even seeing the wall from the bus made us sit tighter to the boys. It’s intimidating without doubt.
We got off at the last bus stop, Bay El-Zakak. It’s easy to find a taxi on arrival at the bus stop. We were approached by several drivers and negotiated the best price to drive and see the wall and other key sights.
Getting around Palestine
Our taxi driver was a young Palestinian man, who showed us his green passport and explained the different zoning of Israel and Palestine. The green colour of his passport meant he could never enter Israel.
We felt like we learnt more in the first three minutes of talking to him than we had even realised we didn’t know, and felt lucky once again to have met a local that took the time to share with us.
Taking time at the wall
It’s hard to imagine what it’s like, living life behind a wall. Visiting Palestine and seeing it up close makes it very real all of a sudden. We took our time, walking along the wall reading the graffiti art and stories written by the children of Palestine.
Lunch in Bethlehem
By then it was lunchtime and our driver drove us into the centre of Bethlehem to show us “the best falafels in town“. And they were!
We wandered around Bethlehem for a while longer, trying to take it all in for a day. Then it was time to head back to the bus stop, and exit back out to the other side of the wall to Israel.
The bus back is stopped at the border checkpoint. Locals have to get off, and are lined up to be checked and have their pass verified. Heavily armed border patrols board the bus, checking passports and ensuring no one is from Palestine.
It is hard to describe the almost greedy feeling of freedom as we eventually stepped back off the bus…