Strawberries from Palestine

This article was originally published on The Hindu thREAD.

I shuffle through the songs on my playlist restlessly while the bus remains firmly lodged in traffic. I was supposed to meet Zahra at 11 a.m., and I’m already half an hour late. Zahra sounds calm as she replies to my apologetic text, assuring me that she understands and would wait for me.

I’d moved to Israel a short while ago to volunteer with an NGO in West Jerusalem that cares for adults with intellectual disabilities. Having spent the first couple of weekends exploring Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, I was ready to head into the West Bank. I’d written to a few Palestinians on Facebook asking if they’d like to meet for coffee. Zahra, who lives not too far away from Nablus, had responded quickly and positively.

Nablus is a predominantly Muslim city in the northern West Bank and a major hub of commerce and culture. To get there from Jerusalem, one has to take a bus across the Qalandia checkpoint followed by another bus or shared taxi.

The Internet is rife with articles and blogposts offering advice on travelling to conflict-prone regions of the world, particularly for solo female travellers. I, for one, am not easily perturbed. After all, I’d grown up in India — deemed among the more unsafe countries in the world to be a woman — and I turned out okay, sort of…

Read the rest here.

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