Let’s face it, the threat of experiencing violence while traveling is omnipresent. It follows us everywhere we go, regardless of whether we are home or abroad. Heck, I live in Washington, D.C. and the threat of terrorism is often palatable here. Despite these facts, I would be remiss if I didn’t share that I was on constant edge in Israel.
1. Threat of Violence
Part 1 of my Israel post details that this trip was educational in nature so part of the itinerary included discussing the conflict in the region. Perhaps these discussions heightened my sensitivity. Regardless of what it was, I was on edge the whole time.
I constantly looked over my shoulders and it wasn’t helpful that military personnel is everywhere, carrying arms and policing about. It was disconcerting and unnerving.
While I was in Israel, a molotov Cocktail was thrown in Jerusalem a few hours before I was scheduled to visit and rockets were launched towards Tel Aviv a few days after I left that city. Friends and family from home kept reaching out to see if I was ok. It didn’t help that I also visited the Golan Heights, a military training city, and crawled through mock tunnels that mimic those built by Hamas, a terrorist organization.
Peace on the trip was elusive because I constantly worried about the alarming frequency of these incidents.
While in the region, I briefly visited Palestine. Though my visit was limited to only a day, it was sufficient time to notice the disparity that exists between the two countries. Palestinians are subject to frequent checkpoints and live on the other side of a barbed wired wall. Long queues form at the various checkpoints and processing sometimes takes hours.
Palestine is plagued by a host of issues: unemployment, power shortages, and water and sanitation issues, just to name a few. As an example, I saw large piles of debris and trash that, according to our tour guide, often go weeks without being picked up.
Witnessing the impacts of a militarized wall, separating two countries, was a scary foreshadowing of what the U.S. border with Mexico can look like. It was unsettling and solidified my belief that walls don’t solve anything.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is hard to unpack so if you are interested in this topic below are some articles that can serve as a starting point:
From my first stroll along the beach in Tel Aviv, I felt it. That undeniable feeling that a pair of eyes are on you. When I looked around I received confirmation that I was indeed being stared at by a group enjoying Shabbat. A few hours later, I experienced the same feeling while having dinner with my friend. The group behind our table was unabashedly gawking, and they made no efforts to hide their inappropriate behavior.
By the end of the trip, I had to come to terms that people were just going to stare at me non-stop. Some of the looks I received seemed innocuous, even out of curiosity, while others were laced with malintent. I had to exit a souvenir shop almost as soon as I entered because the attendant’s accosting gaze instantly made me uncomfortable. I convinced myself that paranoia had gotten the best of me, but then I vented with other people of color on the trip and they all had similar experiences.
So if you are a person of color traveling to Israel, be prepared for both positive and negative ogling.
As I reflect back on my trip to Israel, I can’t overcome the sense of uneasiness that I felt throughout the journey. I wonder if that is the sense of uncertainty that pervades the region. I’m overflowing with empathy for people that live under these conditions.
Have any of you traveled to a placed that left you uneasy? If so, leave me comments down below. I am riddled with so much guilt that I didn’t have the most positive experience.