– Post by Jenny K. –
27.09.2018 – Day 01
I wake up at 6 am that day. I am super excited, this is going to be my third time in Palestine and my second time participating in the exchange project YALLAH!
My mother brings me to the train station in Siegen, and believe it or not but Samer – who is always late btw – is the first one to wait for us. Then Sarah M., then Julian and last but not least Tamar arrive. Marios, Majid and Aydin are already in Ramallah and we are supposed to meet Sarah R. in Tel Aviv at the airport. The train takes us to Cologne where we pick up Jenny Z. and together we take a second train to Düsseldorf Airport. There, at the security check, we already found our very first #HmarOfTheDay (donkey of the day, for doing stupid things). Julian forgot that he had a knife in his hand luggage, even funnier that after the security check he was allowed to keep it because apparently it was too short to be dangerous (Thank you German security, I feel so safe now *please insert an ironical laughter here*).
We fly with Turkish Airlines, and seriously I don’t want to travel with any other airline ever again. We were surprised by delicious food on the plane and as Jenny Z. finally found out what chicken is – well, no, what goes with the chicken, she enjoyed her pasta. Btw, Jenny Z., we know exactly that you were flirting with the handsome steward!
Arriving at Istanbul Gökcen Airport, we were to be picked up by a bus that takes us across Istanbul to Atatürk Airport (Thank you Marios for booking this amazing connection from a different airport *please insert another ironical laughter right here*). Still in the airport someone tells us “The bus driver will be right here”. But that’s not enough for our impatient now-German-but-actually-Palestinian friend Samer. And then he disappeared in search for the bus driver while the bus driver appeared next to us, only Samer is lost so he also becomes #HmarOfTheDay! Eventually, Samer comes back, he had to do another security check because he left the airport – lol. The bus takes us through Istanbul from east to west. It takes us a long time to pass the traffic so the answer to if we could do a city tour through Istanbul because we have 6 hours until the next flight is just… NO. On our way, we see a lot of mosques which are light up nicely and also some in a poisonously looking green. That’s why I thought of a drinking game: One shot if you see a mosque and two shots if the mosque is additionally shining green. Too bad, we had nothing to drink.
Finally arriving at Atatürk Airport, there is a security check at the entrance, just in case someone like Julian would have a knife in his hand luggage #HmarOfTheDay part 2! Of course there is still the normal security check before the passport control and then another security check right at the gate by Israeli security. The gate is a very small space, which we cannot leave after the security check is done. The place is packed and around us, people are talking Hebrew, some men are wearing a kippa and two men are wearing an unfamiliar black dress with a huge hat and curls hanging down in front of their ears, which is apparently the typical style for Orthodox Jews. And then there are a few international travelers, some Palestinians with Israeli travel documents and us – a group of German and Palestinian students. I feel people staring at us and especially at our Palestinian friend. I can almost feel the tension in the air. Imagine, being so close to someone you usually don’t get in touch with because of a conflict. Still they are so close and say nothing.
Arriving at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, I was very nervous about the passport check. I am afraid they might stop me for a detailed interrogation. But then I wonder “Why would they?” I am only a student participating in an exchange program and still I feel like a Palestine supporting rebel. But after some easy questions at the counter “How many times have you been to Israel?”, “What are you doing here?”, “Who long will you stay?” by a emotionless security lady I get my visa – a blue slice of paper with my picture on it. There, Sarah R. finally catches up with us.
At 4.30 am we are picked up by our personal bus driver. On our way to Ramallah, we drive on Israeli highways and pass by Israeli villages, which are light up and look like the Wisteria Lane from Desperate Housewife’s. And we pass by several check points. Then we cross the separation wall that separates the West Bank from the rest of the country. It is like entering a different world: The streets are broken and rather dark, there is garbage on the sidewalk and the houses right after the wall look like ghost houses.
Finally, we arrive in Ramallah. Our apartments are in the middle of the center, close to Arafat Square and are so nice and clean! I am feeling spoiled. But first things first, we go for a juice at 5:20 am. Mohammad – a young Palestinian that we know from YALLAH! 2016 – working in the juice store recognized us and was surprised and happy to see us. We buy a juice and finally go to sleep after 24 hours of travel.
28.09.2018 – Day 02
Next morning, it is Friday, and we wake up in our new home. The mosque is calling for the Friday prayer and all stores are closed. Fridays are just like our Sundays. Everything is closed but the juice store. So, we go for a lemon-mint-juice, which I order in Arabic and on my own. Then we meet with Yara and Ahmad to eat brunch at Zeit ou Zaater Restaurant. We eat a typical Arabic kind of bread with zaatar, white cheese and pizza styled. Walking around Ramallah Tahta – the Old City – we visit Dar Zahran Heritage Building and learn about Palestinian History and the Nakba (“The Catastrophe” when the state of Israel was declared). After that we go for traditional Rukab ice cream, which reminds me of chewing gum.
Back at our apartments we finally get the keys for the rooftop. The view is not as breathtaking as expected but it is clean and we already make plans on how to decorate it in order to relax up there. In the evening we are visited by our dean Volker Wulf and a friend Konstantin and together we go for dinner and eat traditional Shish Taouk (grilled chicken on a stick and served with bread, hummus and fried potatoes).
29.09.2018 – Day 03
We sleep in late and get prepared for a relaxing day without any plans. First things first, coffee! But there is no milk and Aydin tells his story about how he went to a kiosk next to our apartment looking for milk. The shop owner didn’t speak English and Aydin didn’t know the Arabic word for Milk (halib). Desperate as the situation was, he started to “mooh” like a cow in the kiosk to explain what he wants. In the end our new #HmarOfTheDay left without milk.
Samer, who is staying with his family during our stay in Ramallah, comes by and brings us milk (Thank you Samer, our hero of the day!). As the clock already shows 1 pm we decide to go for a falafel sandwich. It is my first falafel in a very long time! Falafel all day – every day <3
Then Samer takes us for the best Shawarma in Ramallah (similar to our Dürüm but sooo much better) and Knafeh (a desert made out of cheese and sugar and sugar and honey syrup and sugar). We go by Samers car and let me tell you, for driving on Palestinian roads you need a lot of nerves and super good reflexes. Street signs don’t seem to have much of a meaning and everyone is doing whatever they want. And apparently honking means more like “stop, here I come, don’t move”. Then Samer tells us a story about a car accident he had. Actually it was not an accident, but an Israeli followed him and hit his car three times. Calling the police, the first thing the police man on the phone asked was “Is he an Arab? No? Then just exchange insurance numbers.” So, the police would have only showed up if the guilty one was an Arab. Wow. The story ended with the Israeli reporting Samer to the police and Samer reporting the Israeli to the police, so practically nothing happened. Tired from all the food we head back home.
Back at home some of us were picked up by the Palestinian exchange students to watch a football game in a shisha bar and others go to a fancy snow bar – the name is a little misleading, there is actually no snow. I stay home with the other half of the team and get my very first Yoga lesson from Sarah R. How is Yoga supposed to be relaxing?! It is so hard to do! But when we finished, I felt like I could fly. And I was expecting the worst muscle ace in years.
Finally, we hear news from Renad, who is the last one of team YALLAH! to arrive in Palestine. Team YALLAH! is finally complete.