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the round trip

  • The Round Trip part 12: Too bad

    From Kafr Qasim to Givon Hahadasha via a salvaged olive grove, a once-imprisoned pool-hall owner and a Portuguese-styled shower. On the train from my soft bed back to Rosh Ha'ayin the following morning, I read the freebie "Israel Hayom," Israel's most widely read newspaper. The chief headline refers to the brutal treatment of the Danish demonstrator (who by now deserves to be named, he is Andreas Ias) by a high-ranking Israeli officer (who also deserves to be named. He is Shalom Eisner. The headline reads: "Made a mistake, too bad." Next to this heartwarming expression of acceptence, a smaller headline sets…

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  • The Round Trip part 11: Good takeaways

    Brom Barkai to Rosh Ha'ayin, via a tragic location for charming weddings, an educational paradise, a fallen people's republic and a Yemenite drug dealership. At the Border Police monument, Israel becomes exceedingly slender. Less than 20 kilometers separate the Green Line from the sea shore. Here I am also a quick 40-minute drive away from Tel Aviv by sherut (minivan). It only makes sense, therefore, that while exploring the western edge of the West Bank, I'll spend my nights at home. The city overwhelms me. Nine days in the countryside caused me to forget its magnitude, and the one night…

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  • The Round Trip part 10: Trapped

    From Jenin to Mishmar Hagvul junction via a rat maze and a divided town. This is no country for the paranoid. Come twilight, the driver and I arrive in the city of Jenin. He drops me off by a hotel in the middle of Jenin's market area. It's about as basic as a gas station's toilets, but I'll be glad to sleep in some gas station's toilets tonight, so long as no one asks me for ID. The hotel warden does ask for my passport. I say that I left it in Ramallah and must head there first thing in the morning.…

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  • The Round Trip part 9: Country living

    From Tzemach to Raba via Kurdistan, Morocco, the stone age and the wild west. I spend another night in Hukok with Danielle and the dumb but cute Great Dane she is watching, then in the morning return to where I left off. Tzemach junction is at the southern tip of the Kinneret, not far from the graveyard, where a book of poetry is tucked away. I was worried I wouldn't find a place to have breakfast, this being Saturday in the countryside, but in overpopulated, over-commercialized Israel there's always a strip mall when you need one. My first destination today…

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  • The Round Trip part 8: Forget-me-nots

    From Gonen to Hamat Gader, via a demilitarized zone - childhood memories, some Galilee fish, some Roman nettle, and a debunked conspiracy. For a couple of hours I hitchhike around the short-lived green paradise of the northern Golan, in the hopes of meeting the Israeli settlers (called in Hebrew by a different, less charged term than the one applied to West Bank settlers) and understanding who they are. The option of returning the Golan to Syria is currently very much off the table, so I don't even bother bringing this question up. Instead I try to figure out what the…

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  • The Round Trip part 7: The beautiful and damned

    From Dan to Mas'ade, via a ski resort, an imposter village, a gathering of Assad sympathizers and a house with a mattress door. I spend the night at the gym of Dan, a veteran kibbutz in the very northern reaches of the Hula valley. The celebrated "Israel Trail" begins - or ends - right around the corner, and the kibbutz accommodates backpackers who wish to hit the trail early for only 25 sheqels a head. There are insect-free mattresses, toilets and even a tv set on wheels, but the night is punishingly cold and I'm not having the best time. Stepping…

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  • The Round Trip part 6: I once was lost

    From Baram to Metula via the Caucasus, the Great War trenches, Zakopane, Libya and South Lebanon. Trying to walk straight. This journey is an easy one to navigate. First the sea provided a clear course, then the border fence kept peeking over the hills. Besides, at every turning point stands some unmissable landmark. Rosh Hanikra's white cape sent a clear signal to turn right, and now, where the border with Lebanon curves towards the north, we are confronted with the sight of Mt. Meron, the tallest mountain in Israel proper. Adi and I are tired of exploring for the day.…

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  • The Round Trip part 5: Nothing's normal

    While meeting Nasrallah's next door neighbors in Hanita, Ya'ara and Arab Al Aramshe, I can't help but ponder a very basic concept. As soon as I reach Hanita I know that I'm going to like it. This isn't to be taken for granted. I have a certain difficulty with places that appear to be in the open countryside while being in fact half enclosed by an electric fence. Hanita is such a place. The point at which I finally managed to distance myself from the border fence is where that fence begins to curve around the northern kibbutz, keeping it…

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  • The Round Trip part 4: Turning the corner

    From Haifa to the Lebanese border, but I mean all the way to the border, via two self proclaimed republics and a Persian paradise. The train rolls north from Haifa, through an industrial hell I'd rather not describe, and I anyway already did, when passing here on the September Journey). I'm not staying here, I'm headed for a pretty place. Outside the ancient city of Acre is the tomb of Bahá'u'lláh, the Persian-born founder of the Bahá'í faith. Bahá'u'lláh was brought to Acre as prisoner by the Ottomans and kept in a cell in the city's grand crusader castle. He…

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  • The Round Trip part 3: Roots and branches

    On foot from Jisr az-Zarka to Haifa, via Slovakia, Burning Man, Egypt, Sudan, a strip mall and a sub-tropical concentration camp.  As darkness falls on the first day of my journey, I am at a coffeeshop in Jisr A-Zarqa, smoking nargileh and speaking to the friendly owner Hamis and to his equally friendly clientele. On television, an old Egyptian film is broadcast. "You've gone into another world," says Dib, a regular. "Several by now," I reply. But Jisr is truly another world, distinct even from other Palestinian towns. Its people come from a wetland area in Sudan. They were brought…

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  • The Round Trip part 2: Tiny borders

    You'll never believe what I found on the way from Tel-Aviv to Caesarea. Hint: It's designed to kill people The Passover Seder is a recreation of the night preceding the exodus from Egypt. In other words, it is a celebration of going on the road. How can I not love it? And especially when my dad lets me use the gorgeous Hagada illustrated in 1940 by the inimitable Arthur Szyck. My niece is the first veteran star of this series to make a guest appearance. She appeared on post 19 of the September Journey. Tonight she sang the traditional song…

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  • The Round Trip part 1: In a thorny labyrinth

    The only way to enjoy living in this slender, tiny corral of a country is to be a border enthusiast, which is what I'm planning to become for the next three weeks. The photo above was taken early in 2006 on Lebanese soil. Israelis are not allowed to visit Lebanon, and yet this is me, wearing my grandfather's old leather jacket. I did not serve as a soldier in Lebanon, I do not possess a foreign passport, and I did not climb the border fence.  I made it into Lebanon because our borders make no sense. The village of Ghajar…

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