As an American with Muslim roots, I've tried at times to dispassionately understand the Israel/Palestinian conflict and no matter how hard I try, I see the conflict as one sided and end up getting frustrated.
So, visiting Israel we thought was important to try and see it with our own eyes and talk to as many people as we could for their thoughts. In the beginning, we weren't even sure if we'd get a visa being born in Pakistan but after a 3 hour detainment at the Jordan/Israel border were allowed to proceed after multiple round of questions about our background, whereabouts, and interest in coming to Israel.
You see a lot of guns in Israel, big machine guns carried by teenagers many of them walking with a swagger and looking like extras from a Van Damme film. We decided to stay in the old city of Jerusalem, which was noisy, full of felafel vendors, and more Arab and Muslim. Israel is full of contrast such as the difference in people, quality of living, cleanliness, culture and many are really stark such as going a few streets down to Western Jerusalem. You see a lot of club goers here, bars, techno music, western outfits, western food chains, and no hijabs or bearded Muslims.
We would witness more of these contrasts throughout the country.
Israel is troubled because of the West Bank or vice versa but the situation from talking to the Palestinians seemed better at the moment and not as tense as in the past. Ramallah looked to be the most livable with many NGOs working on behalf of the Palestinians, such as a Children's Center that encouraged also adults to come practice their arts and draw and sketch. The walls were covered with some amazing works and lots of chatty kids busy at their desks.
One of the teenage kids accompanied us for the day and decided to hang out with us after getting permission from his mom who also worked there. Sabeen spotted a sign for an NGO working on behalf of women Palestinian prisoners and so walked in. They were extremely gracious, gave us a lot of information, and were able to chat with lawyers working on the issues.
We ended the day with yet another delicious road side felefal and bit goodbyes to our friends Saif and Rafit.