we were aware of the Israel-Palestine conflict prior to
our departure, the only way to even begin to understand the reality
of the tensions portrayed in the western media is by visiting.
Partly down to last-minute planning, our trip to the Middle East
fell during Ramadan. We couldn’t eat in public during the day,
every shop and café was closed until sundown and the local buses
began painfully early. It made for one of the most interesting
travel experiences I’ve ever had.
Out of respect we followed the locals’ fasting patterns, though
we did drink water. I had thought I was empathetic previously, but
practising this in arid 30-degree heat made me appreciate the
extent of the dedication it involves.
Woken by a prayer call floating across the valley and the warm
breeze blowing through our balcony window, Palestine did not live
up to the expectations that the media had set out for us. During
the day, we meandered through the souks, the light spilling through
the gaps in the awning overhead as stall owners set up shop for the
day, children skipping along beside us. They were genuinely
interested in our company and conversation. I felt guilty about
being surprised that they weren’t after something more.
Witnessing the daily difficulties of those living in the
occupied territories was both bizarre and fascinating. To endure
just some of these struggles alongside them, such as taking public
transport or crossing the border, was sobering.
The trip was full of unexpected experiences, from pub crawls in
Jerusalem to being invited into a stranger’s home to break fast
with his family. The most significant though, was perhaps being the
inaccuracy of our preconceptions. Our trip challenged and changed
The Palestinians we encountered during those three weeks were
some of the kindest, humblest people that I have met. Their
willingness to help complete stranger without any prior judgement
was a stark contrast to the culture I am used to at home.