Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Crossing the Borders of Israel and Palestine

With the intention of visiting Masjid al-Aqsha, my family exended their omra tour alongside with visit to Palestine through crossing their Israeli border via Jordan. The Israeli and Palestine border can be accessed by car upon proper inspections. After making our arrival visa in the Israeli border, we then proceed to the city Jericho by the Palestinian West Bank in to which we enjoyed lunch in a restaurant would require you to take a cable car upward since it is located on a hill. The funny thing it was located on a hill within the lowest land around the world as the city of Jericho is located 223 metres under the sea level. The bus ride we had to Jericho were interesting as we went on a well constructed descending roads and definitely felt the change of air pressure inside the bus yet the view really were worth the journey as you can see the beautiful natural layer of sands, rocks and green plantation along the road we took.

What makes this picture is the different color of the car plates.
The green indicates a Palestinian car and the yellow indicated the car as an Israeli car.

Honestly, along the trip it is confusing to locate whether or not we are within the border of Palestine and Israel but the next day were spent on exploring Jerusalem. We stayed at Holy Land Hotel in Jerusalem, a little hotel that has very pleasant room and decent WiFi. The first night of our stay were actually on the New Year's Eve! I spent it staying inside the room and looking by the window, expecting for firework show.... yet none occur, hahaha. After power breakfast on the next day, we moved along to the city of Hebron in Jerusalem. 

Our guide told us to prepare upon our identity cards upon entering the secured area of the 'Cave of the Patriarchs' or also known as Prophet Ibrahim Sanctuary and mosque. The inside of the building contains several cenotaph and were decorated with beautiful chandeliers and carpets. Like many other sites across Palestine and Israel, the site transcends the belief of multiple religions such as Christianity, Judaism and Islam. The Hebron area by the time were under several political tension; but it is thought-proviking to see how the sites were managed greatly despite all that. The surroundings of the city were very beautiful with the clear skies and the breezy air accompanying our tour.

Our lunch that day were actually Chinese restaurant that serves Indonesian food. I didn't realize that I miss Indonesian food so much until that day. It was a beautiful surprise from the tour. We had courses served in typical rijstaffel method consisting of soto ayam (chicken soup), perkedel jagung (corn fritter), ayam goreng (fried chicken), rendang (beef stew with curry sauce), sambal (chili pepper sauce), telur bawang (omelet) amongst other. The hint of flavors of home got me missing some food back home. By the way, my Israeli tour guide spoke Indonesian really really well. His signature phrase is "cepat, cepat, cepat!" and we teases him a lot for it! Hahahaha.

These are the view across the restaurant.
Some of the graffiti hold some very, very powerful messages.

The main point of interest of our tour to Israel-Palestine is the Masjid al-Aqsa which stood tall in its golden roof and its beautiful architecture. I had one prayer here and it was a beautiful feeling. I was grateful for having the chance to visit the mosque, as at other time my father were about to pray here by the next day (as the mosque is accessible by foot from the hotel) there were a bit of an uproar where the mosque entrance were shut down by the military force by the time of morning prayer. Thankfully everything sorted out alright; but from then we realized the tension between the two states (in its own definition) and the religious influences was very real and its impacting the lives of many people regardless of their background and personality despite other things we had saw previously from the tour where people were actually peaceful and far from what we knew as what had been portrayed in the media. This puts us to ground and to be ever more aware of the condition of the world and the essences of humanity. 

It is however unfortunate that we did not had a glimpse of the condition of the people within the Gaza strip. The whole experience however is very eye opening. I hope I would have the chance to visit the two sates again and hopefully in a condition where peace has been achieved and where human were all treated as human regardless of their background. My prayer goes to those impacted by the conflict and to have the states going forward in achieving the greater good for their people. It is a great experience, but it is time to travel back to Jordan to then finally have a safe flight back home. This concludes my Middle Eastern omra experience in the late 2014 to the early 2015. Shall there be more adventures soon!