Archive for category West Bank

First Steps into the West Bank

Day three of our Israel/Palestine adventure started more or less like day two ended, we got lost. Somehow this appears to become a reoccurring thing here in Jerusalem. This time it was on the search for a supermarket. After some walking around and backtracking we managed to find a little place to buy Pita and Hummus. With these provisions for the road, we embarked bus 19 leaving near Damascus Gate for Ramallah.

We had both seen the wall and the checkpoints before, but nonetheless they remain an intimidating sight. We crossed the checkpoint without any trouble and saw the West Bank for the first time. Ramallah is a very busy and hectic town, where everything is a little more chaotic and disorganized in the best way possible. Cars are driving going through roundabouts in the opposite direction, you hear constant honking and at the same time everyone is so willing to help these two westerners that have no idea how to get from A to B.

Once there, we went to the Heinrich-Böll-Foundation, a group affiliated with the Green Party in Germany, which was hosting an open day, celebrating their office’s 15th anniversary. Great people, that made us feel very welcome and promised to help in the future should we need anything.

The way back to Jerusalem took a little longer than expected, because we naively decided to go during the rush hour. Apart from that everything went smoothly and the Israeli soldiers with their big guns only looked at our passports for two seconds.

I have to admit, that the climate is taking its toll. It is only 7pm and I feel exhausted from only walking around a couple of hours. I guess I will need a few more days to adjust to this.

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Day 2 in Jerusalem

It’s Day 2 here for Lukas and I in Jerusalem, and we just got in from exploring the city and our surroundings. There is so much to see here, and we are trying to take it all in and learn our way around the city.

After Lukas and I arrived in Jerusalem yesterday afternoon, we spent the evening walking around the Old City and reminiscing on our previous trips here. Lukas knows his way around the city better than I do, which is incredibly helpful because I am terrible with directions and navigation. Our apartment is in the perfect location – we can see Damascus Gate, one of the entrances into the Old City, from our apartment window. We didn’t spend too much time exploring, because we both had a hectic day of travel, and I am adjusting to a seven hour time-zone difference. Today, we spent the morning exploring Ben Yehuda and Jaffa Streets, which have loads of restaurants, bars, and places to shop. After taking a break this afternoon, we found ourselves back in the Old City, where we explored the areas we weren’t as familiar with. At one point, we found stairs that led to the roofs of some buildings, and there was a gorgeous view of Temple Mount. Later on we found ourselves lost and walking along the outside wall of the Old City, and eventually we made our way home. Tonight, we are going to be meeting with one of Lukas’ friends for drinks.

The average person probably would have no idea that there are issues concerning water here. No one seems in desperate need, and its fairly easy and cheap to buy a bottle of water. Of course, we aren’t in the West Bank, where the issue is more prevalent, but if you look closely you can see some divides here in Jerusalem. Some homes in certain neighborhoods have black water jugs to catch rain water. From some of my background research and my previous visit, I’ve been told that these neighborhoods are mostly Arab. While walking around today Lukas and I didn’t even notice them at first – but once you see them, they become hard to miss. These jugs clearly show divides between people within Jerusalem.

Tomorrow we are hoping to go into Ramallah and start contacting some organizations for our research. Hopefully we wont get too lost along the way, but with my lack of directional skills, we will probably get at least a little confused.

Here are some pictures from these first couple of days!


This first photo is a view from our apartment. It’s hard to make out, but on the right side you can see Damascus Gate and the Old City. We got so lucky with our apartment. The location is perfect, and we don’t have to walk very far to see famous sites, go out to eat, or go shopping.


This is the Western Wall with the Temple Mount (the gold building on the left). These are two of the most iconic images of Jerusalem and Israel. Jerusalem in general is gorgeous, but when we were on this overlook looking out at these two historic sites is one of my favorite parts of Jerusalem.


Another picture of the Temple Mount. Lukas and I found ourselves lost in the Old City, and somehow ended up on the roof of some buildings. We hope that we can find this place again, because it is so peaceful looking out above Jerusalem.

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Prepping for the Middle East

Sitting in front of me is a growing checklist of everything I have to get done before I leave Virginia in 5 days and embark on my journey to Israel and the West Bank. I cannot believe how quickly time has passed since I first found out I was going to be a Peacebuilder’s Fellow, and now that I’m just a few days out from my trip, I can’ t help but feel overwhelmed and excited. I’ve been spending what little free time I have researching issues related to the water crisis in the region. Like every other issue involving the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, it is a very complicated problem, but for me that is what makes this research even intriguing, and I know we will learn some amazing, heartbreaking, and inspiring stories from the Palestinian people.

This isn’t my first journey to Israel and the West Bank. In March 2012, I had the opportunity to learn more about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a study abroad program sponsored by my undergraduate university, and it was during this time I fell in love with the region. My experiences encouraged me to pursue a career in conflict resolution and international diplomacy, and since then I’ve been dreaming of the time that I can return to the land that I fell in love with. I’ve just dug up my journal where I kept a daily log of everything I experienced when I was there before, which has made me even more excited to begin this two month adventure.

Planning this trip has been a whirlwind, to say the least. Like Lukas mentioned below, there were a few hiccups that made prepping for our adventure more stressful than anticipated. But we’ve got our tickets booked and an apartment reserved (and it’s super close to the Old City, which was my favorite place in Israel when I visited previously), so it’s just a matter of packing and traveling to Tel Aviv.

While this blog will be updated regularly with our research and the stories we obtain,there are so many places to see in Israel and the West  Bank, and Lukas and I plan on taking advantage of every opportunity presented to us. I will be creating a personal blog sharing these experiences, check out or follow me on twitter – @allycollender



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Preparing for the West Bank

مرحبا / שלום

My plane taking me to Tel Aviv, where I will meet my fellow peacebuilder Ally for the first time and from where we will continue to Jerusalem is now not even six days away. The past weeks of preparation have been stressful and uncertain whether we would be allowed to go through with the project. However, thanks to a lot of work and convincing by our organizer Pushpa everything got sorted out and as the day of departure gets closer and closer the excitement rises. I have visited the region for the first and last time three years ago and have always wanted to go back.

Ally and I have spent quite some time on finding a place to stay, which proved to be difficult in a city like Jerusalem in summer time. Luckily a friend living there could put us in contact with someone subletting a place and now we have our little flat right in the city centre. I am looking forward to seeing and experiencing the city and the culture of the region from a perspective other than the tourist one and my friend in Jerusalem already promised to show us the ‘real’ Jerusalem.

Right now, I am sitting in my room and outside my window it is raining heavily. The temperature is at 12°C/53.6°F while the weather forecast for Jerusalem on sunday predicts up to 36°C/96.8°F. I guess adapting to the different climate is also going to be a challenge…

Apart from soaking in the culture, I cannot wait to start working. We have contacted friends, colleagues and NGOs we will meet and that tell us their stories or help us finding people that will. Water is a fundamental human right, necessary to live a life in dignity. Telling the stories of people that had this right taken from them will be a big task, but I am determined to make their voices heard.

For my last days in Germany I am planning to spend as much time with my family, my girlfriend and my friends as I can. Sure, it is not the first time I leave, but this time appears to be the most exciting journey yet.

Twitter @lukasCCS

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