Yes, Palestine is an unconventional choice. Google for “Palestine” and you get “conflict” and “Gaza” in your search results. But the wife and me went ahead anyway. It’s not such a bad place to go for a honeymoon. Really.
Her first choice was Venice, but I managed to convince her that we should go to Palestine. We’ve always had a soft spot for Palestinians. Having an activist blood, and ever-curious minds, this honeymoon was an opportune time to witness for ourselves the daily lives of Palestinians- both Muslims and Christians.
Here’s what we learnt from our honeymoon trip.
1. The best way to travel in life, is with a company of friends.
We chose not to go on a tour, but travel with our another couple, our best friends instead. This is the best way to get to know local Palestinians. It was important for us to put a face to the news we keep reading or listening about.
2. Keep calm in the face of a danger, and develop unwavering patience.
The first moment we stepped on Israeli checkpoint premises to get to the holy land however, we had to ask ourselves if it was the right decision.
“You! You!!! Show me your passport!” A soldier shouted at us while pointing his rifle at my wife. Five hours later, after incessant, and rather pointless, waiting and questioning- we were allowed to leave the place and proceed with our journey to Al-Aqsa sanctuary, but we faced constant military checks.
This is what almost every Muslim who has been to the blessed land will experience: excessive waiting at the immigration, constant military checks virtually everywhere. Yet, to state that it was worth it would be a gross understatement, and insult to the land and its people.
3. Learn to be gracious and smile always from Palestinians, no matter your life situation.
Now at this point I could easily go on about how the Palestinians are being treated unfairly in their own land, about how the international community has failed the Palestinians, about how simple daily affairs that we all take for granted are considered privileges for them – and all of that would be true of course – yet that would be doing a great disservice to the Palestinians.
Although we didn’t board a gondola through the Venetian canals, or visit Verona to see the house of Juliet from Shakespeare’s plays, the beauty of the Palestine land touched our hearts. Every single Palestinian that we met – be it in Jerusalem or Hebron – behaved in a manner that would have never betrayed the fact that they are living under conditions of injustice.
They were always happy, continuously smiling, ever ready to assist anyone, and treated guests like kings. Never mind if they could barely make ends meet, hospitality is a key tenet of Palestinian society.
None of those we encountered pleaded for sympathy; all they asked was that we keep them in our prayers, and tell our fellow Singaporeans to visit Palestine and see the situation for themselves.
4. Show courage without vengeance.
They also displayed courage. An 80 year old woman we met who lived alone near Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem said that even if her house were to be bulldozed , she would not leave her place. An 8 year old girl told us that she is not afraid of any army, and no one can stop her from fulfilling her dream: which is to attain a high level of education, with the hope that she will play a part in liberating her people.
We could only reflect on our own notions of ‘courage’ as we heard these real people speaking with so much courage, yet with so little vengeance. One must not mistake their bravery for aggression, and neither must one mistake their forgiving nature with docility.
The only problem for me: considering that the first ever destination I went with my wife was Palestine, now it seems like no trip could ever top that!