October 1, 2009
I spent yesterday in Shechem and Ramallah with a small group of journalists. I'm working on a few articles from the trip, but in the meantime, take a look at some of the photos (there are almost 100, so too many to post to the blog) at http://web.me.com/jbalint1/Site/Photos.html#grid"
What you'll see are two cities completely controlled and patrolled by Arabs; not a Jew or IDF soldier anywhere in sight in either place. Arab police officers, armed and in full uniform are on most street corners. Building and commerce is going on at an incredible pace--we visited the 12-story Nablus Municipal Mall, complete with cinema and the Palestinian Securities Exchange office, both of which would not be out of place in California.
Despite all this, it's "the occupation" that's on everyone's lips in Shechem and Ramallah as they cite the difficulties of moving into the 21st century while somehow under Israel's thumb.
As we drove in our van with PA license plates between Shechem and Ramallah we encountered the remnants of Israel's control in Samaria--the dreaded checkpoints. Since last June, Israel has dismantled and abandoned hundreds of them, and the remaining ones are supposed to protect Israeli Jews living near their Arab neighbors from attack.
At the Tapuach checkpoint outside Shechem,the jumpy soldiers hastily called a close-down in both directions just as we approached. After about 10 minutes of uncertainty, we were summarily waved through. Later we learned that an Israeli was evacuated by helicopter to hospital after he was shot by Arab terrorists a couple of miles south of where we were, between Shvut Rachel and Kida.
While we were wandering around enjoying the sights and color of Shechem's Old City, I remembered that the terrorist responsible for the Park Hotel seder night bombing in Netanya as well as the Dolphinarium horror in Tel Aviv came from Shechem.
Nevertheless, the well-dressed officials in Ramallah and Shechem still intone the same old tired rhetoric about our desire for self-preservation somehow impeding their efforts to go about building their state.
I couldn't help recalling the slogan on the back of an Arab cab in Halhul that I saw a few months ago: "Life is Not Everything." Photo at http://jerusalemdiaries.blogspot.com