The idea of being a refugee in your own land is alien to most of us that live in Europe. Yet that is the reality faced by hundreds of thousands of people in the occupied territories of Palestine. Michael Carabott writes from the Aida camp near Bethlehem
Walking through the old city of Jerusalem is a mesmerising experience. As soon as you enter the old city’s walls through Damascus Gate, you are thrown right into the mix of thousands of tourists.
The more adventurous will ventures into the bowels of the city, down the winding alleyways and dead ends. As soon as you get away from the tourist hotspots of the Holy Sepulchre Church and the Via Dolorosa and the thronging junk shops, you come to a realisation. In this city, in the middle of a hotbed of unrest, instability and contention, you have a mix of people living together harmoniously. There’s the Orthodox community, the Christian community, the Jewish community and the Muslim Community. All live side by side and without incident. It is only when you go right to edge of the walled city that you actually realise that politics and religious divide can overcome the human spirit. And that is at the Arab crossing to the Al Aqsa Mosque. It is only here that you can see the underlying problems that spill out as soon as you leave the city and venture into the heartland.
The first thing that strikes you is the border crossings and the immense concrete walls that enclose the Palestinian people. The crossing into Ramallah is fairly nondescript. Your papers are checked and your car is checked and the wall encircles countryside. It is only when you see the sign “Entry prohibited to Israeli citizens, it is dangerous to cross into Palestinian territory and it could be a threat to your life,” that you realise that this is not what you expected it to be.