Google in Arabic - now that's interesting! Well I arrived in Tel Aviv yesterday and managed to get in, despite being taken to one side for ten minutes to explain what I was doing there and why I had no hotel reservation. Thanks to the information given out by Project Hope, I had nothing 'incriminating' on me, but they were suspicious nevertheless, and are apparently even more aggressive when you leave if you cannot account for your actions:I can see I'm going to have to make up an incredible itinerary, even though I must be the only visitor to Jerusalem who isn't interested in visiting the sights.
Took a shuttle bus to Ramallah, from Damascus Gate, in the arabic side of the Old City. We drove for quite a awhile through the outskirts of Jerusalem, and I'm quite surprised to see how shabby it is:money from rich expats is not making it back to the city, and all quarters seem dusty, dry and worn-out.
Lots of crumbling buildings and patches of rubble, which I presume is evidence of various military activities over the years. Military checkpoints and the 8m-high wall mean you don't treat this uneasy peace with nonchalance, but all the locals appear to be trying to achieve some sort of 'normalcy'.
Changed bus in Ramallah, after receiving some wonderful hospitality from a mobile phone shop who took pity on an old woman who doesn't know how to use mobile phones and their networks.....a strong coffee and charged up phone later, and I was escorted to the bus station and helped to get on to the right one, as my mastery of the arabic alphabet matches my knowledge of hebrew: zero.
Anyway now happily showered, rested and pleased to be part of the team: I was met by the Director and shown the offices, people and given a briefing of Project Hope's objectives. I'll be part of an 18-strong International team, including French and German teachers, who will give lessons to students who come to the building from Nablus University, from the Hospital, High Schools etc. PH has been in operation since 2003, and has a wonderful building, donated by the owner, and is a locally-run organisation. We will be leaving the building to give lessons to women and children in the schools and refugee camps around Nablus. The lessons are free for students, who are asked for 50 shekels if they want to receive a certificate at the end of the course.
That's all for today, as there is a birthday party this evening for the German girl, whose birthday is today. The weather has been hot - mid-twenties today, and Hakim told me that this summer the temperature stayed consistently in the high 30's, reaching 45 a few times:this is evident from the vegetation, it looks very thirsty. The locals tell me that all of the food in the well-stocked markets comes from Israel, as in the West Bank they cannot produce enough for more than one month's supply. In the ten-day Eid holiday that is coming up, I've volunteered to help pick olives, and agriculture is something I'm going to try to find out about, as it is such an important sector of the economy - nowhere more than here.