Archive for category Palestine

Visiting the Holy Land

Our vacation in my dad’s home country Palestine in 2011 was unforgettable, I visited the country with my family, and will always remember it. The whole neighborhood in Beit Jala (where our house is situated) was so different from Finland, same families have owned their stone houses for decades and everybody knew each other. The last time I visited Palestine was when I was about 5 years old, so I had no picture of life there. We met a lot of relatives there and I felt mixed up trying to recognize my cousins and second cousins. People were very warm, they hugged and kissed me in every corner, which was sometimes disturbing since in Finland we don’t have such customs.

Our home street in Beit Jala, where my dad used to live.

In Palestine people eat lots of fruits and vegetables! Every morning a car drove around the town and the driver was announcing “Battiih” (which means watermelon in Arabic) and we bought our daily watermelon from him. They tasted so good! There were also men selling ice cream and just baked pita-bread, so you just opened your door and got fresh groceries without having to walk to the market. The price of the food was very low compared to Finland.

A basic Fruit Market in Bethlehem.

We did an excursion to Jerusalem, where I saw a lot of holy places of different religions, for example the Garden Tomb, the Western Wall and the Dome of The Rock. If it wasn’t so hot day, I would’ve enjoyed more walking around the narrow streets of the Old Town. The smell of spices and holy incense was causing even more headache. As we were looking like tourists, street traders were trying hard to sell us all kinds of souvenirs from holy places. By visiting these places, I learned a lot of history and about the religions born there in the Middle East.

Some Jews didn’t like me taking this photo of their Western Wall on Sabbath.

Another excursion was to the Dead Sea. Getting into the water was pretty difficult at first and the salt was burning in the wounds, but it was all worth it! It felt magical just to float in the sea under the burning sun and see Jordanian mountains on the other side of the sea.

Notice the beautiful landscape of the Dead Sea.

Unfortunately I also experienced political problems of that region, such as problems at the airport entering Israel, as the airport authorities interrogated my mom about our nationalities even we all have Finnish passports, they also asked questions about my dad, who had to travel to Palestine through Jordan, as he was not allowed to enter Israel.

I also saw the wall, which has been built by Israelis around Palestinian areas. Fortunately, we didn’t face any security threats there. Recent news, for example reports about the conflict in Gaza aren’t inspiring travelling there with kids, as in their minds it is war everywhere in the Middle East. From the Finnish point of view, the situation in the area in Palestine where we spent our vacation is much worse than it actually feels there.

Overall, the vacation was amazing! The weather was very hot, the locals were very polite, they even speak good English! I would definitely like to go there again and study more Arabic, my dad’s native language.

A view to Bethlehem from our backyard.