Neighbors on vacation by Chaitze – Israel

Rivka and I had planned a vacation to Sinai (Egypt), but, the day before we were scheduled to leave, the Israeli government closed the Sinai borders due to a threat they had received. So, there went our vacation. There went our plans, and there went our money. I was sulking in my misery and self-pity until Elli, a friend and previous travel partner, told me of the possibility of entering Egypt from another way, via Jordan. As my bags were already packed and by the door, I phoned my friend Rivka and half-asked, half-begged her to rebook our trip and come on an adventure with me. Now let’s start at the beginning.. It all started with a phone call. I wanted to take some time off from work, and was looking for a partner to travel with. As most of my adventures in life start, I phoned my best friend, Naomi, and asked her for an idea. She immediately told me that her younger sister Rivka was exactly the person I had been looking for. Rivka is adventurous, fun, calm, and easy going. So together we planned a trip to Sinai. We didn’t know it was going to be such a hassle. By now, we had already been through a lot together as we had booked, canceled and rebooked our vacation again. That night, we got into the car and headed to Eilat. Early in the morning we crossed the border to Aqaba (Jordan) and boarded a ferry to Sinai. It was a sunny day. There were clear blue skies. The ferry was just stunning. The waters were clear, and as Rivka and I sat on the top deck, we kept on getting lightly sprayed by the waves. It felt so peaceful to lie there in quiet and just absorb the sunshine. Meanwhile a beautiful older lady had sat down right next to us. She had large, magnificent blue eyes, and she exuded a sense of royalty. She was taking pictures by the railing until a large wave came and got us all wet. Rivka, the beautiful lady, and I all started laughing at once. It was as if the water and gentle rocking of the boat had a soothing power on us. Everyone on the boat was laughing and talking with random strangers around them. We were chatting with the beautiful old lady that sat near us in a mixture of Hebrew, Arabic, English and sign language. As the conversation went along, she introduced her daughter-in-law, son, grandchildren and daughter to us. We discovered that although they were a Palestinian family from Tulkarem, we had so much in common. By the time we got off the boat, we were exchanging recipes, medical advice and all eating lunch together. I can’t imagine this conversation taking place at home, where everyone is running from work to home and back, where politics and prejudicial thoughts clutter our minds. Although we never saw each other again, it just felt right. The whole experience did. The flow of the conversation, the immediate closeness that formed between us, even if just for a moment, it was so simple and had a magical effect on us all. I feel truly lucky to have had this opportunity, and I am proud of myself for overcoming an obstacle and making the most of it. May we all live in peace and true love with our neighbors.
This is just one example of the important work produced YaLa’s citizen journalists, a program funded by the European Union’s Peacebuilding Initiative in order to enable young leaders from across the Middle East and North Africa to document and share their experiences of the region.
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