Bible belt by bike
Sir, – Paul Cullen’s article (Go Israel, Magazine, June 16th) fails to clarify that East Jerusalem is recognised by the United Nations and the Irish government as a Palestinian occupied territory. Similarly, it is implied that Bethlehem is located within the state of Israel. Unfortunately, the fate of Palestine as a tourist destination is inevitably linked to Israel.
There is no Palestinian airport, which means visitors either have to land in Tel Aviv or arrive from Jordan. Border controls mean Israelis call the shots and so Israeli operators dominate the tourist itineraries. Most visitors spend too little time and cash in Palestine where the constraints of the Israeli occupation have dramatically diminished sources of employment. The majority spend a couple of hours and then return to Israel, where they spend most of their holiday money.
There are several long-distance footpaths in Palestine for the intrepid walker or biker, such as Masar Ibrahim al-Khalil – literally Path of Abraham the Friend of God, that meander through olive groves, wheatfields and meadows of scarlet poppies.
What makes visiting Palestine so special is that you see the scars of occupation on the landscape, but you also see the true face of Palestine and its legendary fadal (welcome and hospitality). See visitpalestine.ps. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – There are a number of problems with Paul Cullen’s article on Israel (Go Israel, magazine, June 16th). Bethlehem is mentioned when listing places in Israel, although it is part of the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). He also writes about “rivalry” in Jerusalem without mentioning the illegal annexation of East Jerusalem. It seems Palestinians are not worthy of mention and can be dismissed simply with “[b]eyond the Jewish majority there are so many other groups”.
The “controversial wall or fence Israel has built along the border with the Palestinian territories” to which Paul Cullen refers is unfortunately not built along, or in many places even near, the 1967 Green Line.
The wall annexes Palestinian land and according to Amnesty International its route “has been designed so as to encompass a large number of Israeli settlements inside the Occupied Territories, which have been built and continue to be expanded in violation of international law. Some 54 Israeli settlements in the West Bank and 12 in East Jerusalem are located on Palestinian land, which is being cut off from the rest of the West Bank by the fence/wall.”
Cullen rejoices that “Israel has the motorways, high-end hotels and drinkable water to calm the nerves of even the most nervous traveller.” Unfortunately there is no such comfort for Palestinians.
In addition to the wall and checkpoints, a network of Israeli-only roads and roads with restricted access for Palestinians prevent and limit movement. There is a huge disparity in the allocation and availability of water resources – while Israeli citizens and settlers have unlimited access to water at subsidised prices, Palestinians pay higher rates and face severe shortages and according to B’Tselem “per capita use [of water] in Israel is three and a half times higher than in the West Bank”.
He goes on to share the Israeli tourism ministry’s warning: “expect intense, even un-PC questioning before being allowed to board. It wasn’t that bad.” I agree to an extent. When I visited Israel/Palestine in November as a white Westerner I was not treated “too badly”. I was, however, horrified at the blanket and systematic racism implicit in this questioning.
Moreover, while this can be uncomfortable, this is nothing compared to the treatment of Palestinians, most of whom are not permitted to travel through Tel Aviv airport. – Yours, etc,