For different reasons we became afraid about how we should act at the entry in the country, I actually was very insecure if they will let me in. We heard so many stories about the intense security and the questions that they put before giving the permit to enter and we tried to prepare ourselves for this experience. First of all, we convenient to say that we travel alone and it was a good decision for the beginning because we could have compared our experiences. In my case, they were interested a little bit in my background, my job in Romania, the reasons for visiting the country, why I’m traveling alone and what I want to visit specifically. Anna, one of my colleagues from Hungary, stayed less than me because she said only that she is a tourist and travel alone and she received quickly the permit. Concerning the other colleague from Malta, Karen, the situation was a little bit different because she had to give more explanations and answers about the reasons for traveling alone, she had to wait around one hour in their office in order to receive the permission of going in. Why this difference? Probably because they are extra careful with travelers that could have an Arabic appearance and because they are also suspicious about solo travelers, backpackers that could be journalists or investigators in Palestinian areas.
When you travel in the West Bank from the areas A, B to area C, you have to pass a checkpoint, a barrier controlled by the Israeli Army in order to grow the security of Israel and Israeli settlements. All the Palestinians are checked each time they pass these control points and they should have their documents all the time with them. When we saw this intense military presence, we felt grateful that we are just European travelers that don’t receive too much attention from the soldiers, of course, they still verified our permits for visiting the country and our passports.
Every day, over 80000 Palestinians cross into Israel. Eighty-five percent of them are men who work in Israel. The rest come for medical, educational or other purposes. Traveling from Bethlehem to Ramalha we had to change buses in Jerusalem and to pass through Checkpoint 300. For me, it was a shock to see how Palestinians that don’t have the permit of residence in Jerusalem went out of the bus and waited outside for the soldiers who were checking us on the bus first. It felt totally unfair but at the same time, I was feeling lucky that I’m not in their place. I passed three different checkpoints during my travel there, Checkpoint 300 from Bethlehem to Jerusalem, another one from Abu Dis to Jerusalem, smaller but with the same security and from the Dead Sea to Jerusalem. The first two I passed by bus with locals and I could observe how they are checked, the last one we were in an Israeli car because we hitchhiked and we weren’t verified at all. I was prepared to show my passport and I realized that the driver wouldn’t even stop and I put my documents back in the bag.
On the day of coming back, we decided to pass the control together to see if it will be a different experience. Quick advice for you, it’s better to come earlier to the airport to be sure that you won’t miss the flight if the control will be more detailed. Going as a group it was easier for Karen because we all received the same questions and we passed together with the control point. We stayed in a long line and they verified all our luggage but it was ok. Be aware of what would you buy from Palestine because they will verify your bag too. I had a book about the right of education for kids in prison and when I saw that they open everything, I had some moments of despair…lucky me that I had also a notebook and maps from Jerusalem so it wasn’t so obvious. We passed the border all three and because it seemed too easy for me, I was still thinking as a paranoiac until the plane took off.