Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Pilgrimage to 48 Land

On Monday last week, I traveled for the first time inside Israel (not including Jerusalem). I took a train all the way to the north of Israel, literally to the border between Israel and Lebanon. It’s not that I’ve been boycotting Israel exactly, I just felt that there was so much to see and do in the West Bank, that I could explore Israel next time . . .

The reason that I traveled all the way to Lebanon, practically, was to visit a village called Al-Bassa. Well, it used to be a village. It is in 1948 land, which means before 1948 Palestinians lived there, and after 1948 Israelis live there . . . I went to Al-Bassa, now called Scholomo, because a friend of mine from Syracuse is originally from the village, and he asked me to bring him back some soil, if I had time. Of course, I made time . . .

By the time I arrived in Al-Bassa it was already dark, but having been to southern Lebanon and from the train ride I can image how beautiful the area must be in daylight. My friend Bob accompanied me on the trip, so once we got to the closest train station to the area, we hailed a taxi and asked the driver if he had heard of Al-Bassa. He hadn’t, but he made some phone calls and drove around for a while until we finally found the right place.

It was obvious from the buildings around Al-Bassa that the area was very old, and we found the remains of both a church and a mosque, so apparently the Palestinian residents of Al-Bassa were both Christian and Muslim. Bob and I climbed down to the remains of the mosque, and I filled up my little plastic baggee with as much soil as it would hold.

The moment while I was scooping the soil with my hands and placing it in the bag was particularly poignant for me . . . I’m not Palestinian, but the thought of asking someone to perform this sort of pilgrimage, or ritual, for the sake of your family, your children and future generations touched something very deep in me. Sadly, this sort of trip is not unusual. There are many Palestinian families both in the West Bank and in the diaspora who have little containers of soil, old keys and ownership documention to houses that are inside Israel; and endless stories about their land, lives and homes before 1948.


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