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The Al-Aqsa Rock in Jerusalem Is the Golden Pagan Idol for the Muhammadans
A Mosque For the Sake of God, O Muslims!
Hassan Nasrallah Tops Poll
Our Journey to Israel and Palestine (3)

Our Journey to Israel and Palestine (3)

Published in March 31th  

Authored by: Dr. Ahmed Subhy Mansour

Translated by: Ahmed Fathy

Sixthly: about security checkpoints:

1- The security checkpoints represented the extreme worry to us all the time before we commenced this journey, as we heard a lot about the strict measures and humiliation suffered by some people there. We remember that within the era of the Mubarak regime, the police security checkpoints for cars in many streets of the Egyptian capital, Cairo, were very difficult and strict, and many citizens were humiliated as we have seen when we experienced these checkpoints in the 1990s when we lived there.

2- Our first experience with Israeli security checkpoints took place on Sunday when we journeyed from Nablus to Jerusalem to meet professor Friedmann; we were accompanied by Mohamed and Hossam in a car rented for us by Amir. A young woman in her twenties examined our papers as we stopped at a passage leading to Jerusalem; she let us pass, while we expected a thorough examination of the car and of ourselves; this did not occur; we could hardly believe that we passed an Israeli checkpoint peacefully without any sort of annoyance or inconvenience at all as we moved from the West Bank to Israel.    

3- In the next day, which was Monday, we decided to rest all day long at the house rented to us by Amir; the wedding party took place and the bridegroom was busy with his bride, our encounters with the professors in Jerusalem ended, and we bid farewell to professor Singer and thanked him; we were to return home to VA, the USA, on Tuesday. Our plan to rest was interrupted by our wife and three sons, Mohamed, Sherif, and Hossam, who desired to have an outing today to enjoy themselves; it is a rare opportunity that we gather together outside the USA; I could not let them down by refusing their request, especially that strict measures and humiliation at security checkpoints turned out to be mere rumors and we suffered none of them at all. Our sons desired to visit Acre and Jaffa and enjoy swimming in the Mediterranean Sea; yet, as fate would have it, this will never happen. Hossam was driving the car; he made a mistake by entering into the wrong road; we found ourselves before an Israeli settlement. The security checkpoint there was led by an Israeli soldier who was a male youth with European features, probably an Ashkenazi Jew who does not speak Arabic. Hossam talked to him in English to ask about the right road; the male youth smiled and replied politely to the question, showing to us the right road to take. Hossam drove the car until we reached the borders with Israel at Qalqilya; the Israeli soldier this time was a male youth with Arab features who stopped our car and talked to us using the Palestinian dialect of Arabic; he asked for the passport of Hossam, who did not bring it as he had his American driving license with him. The Arab Israeli soldier told Hossam firmly to return to Nablus to bring passports of all of those in the car! None of us brought our passports with us, in fact. Moreover, he searched the insides of the car thoroughly before letting us go. This have been very strict measures taken for no reason at all, in our view. Thus, the course of the journey has changed; instead of returning to Nablus, we went to Jericho and then to the Dead Sea, where our sons enjoyed swimming while we and our wife enjoyed resting at the beach.        

4- We have been told that searching people and their cars would be meticulous and the measures would be very strict at security checkpoints only in cases when a terrorist crime takes place against Israelis (e.g., stabbings or driving cars into passers-by). We have been told that Israeli settlements rely on Palestinian workers; they are searched thoroughly before being allowed to enter into any Israeli settlement. This is approved and deemed as OK by our person; within borders between friendly countries (e.g., the USA and Mexico and the USA and Canada), there are security checkpoints where people are searched along with their cars and luggage and their passports are checked; let alone the case of Israel and its hostile neighbors in the West Bank? The Palestinians will suffer more if they face the ordeal of the Egyptian police checkpoints in the streets of Cairo as poor citizens were humiliated as we have witnessed during the era of Mubarak in the 1990s.    

 

Seventhly: about Nablus:

1- We have noticed that the roads in Israel are as wide and beautiful as those in the USA; signs, signposts, and traffic lights are written in Hebrew and Arabic, and sometimes in English; drivers will not get lost and will know their way, especially with GPS. 

2- Highways and other roads in the West Bank and inside Nablus are better than those in Egypt; we have been told that the EU and the UN undertook the mission of making such roads; yet, there are not sufficient traffic lights and the GPS of Israel never works inside the Palestinian cities. The area of the city of Nablus stretches now to include the mountainous area, and this should have entailed making excellent asphalt roads; the roads there are serpentine ones with ups and downs and are poorly made, and cars in them go both ways; most of the roads are without names and traffic lights; to make things worse, many mountainous roads are without iron fences to protect cars from falling down! The two new cities on the mountains are New Nablus and Sama Nablus; many very beautiful and luxurious villas and palaces are found everywhere, and in the middle of the mountains, one sees olive trees, orange trees, and the rest of the woods and green areas, like the rest of the cities of the West Bank. There is a strange contrast between such villas and palaces and the poor roads leading to them up the mountains; cars are likely to fall since there are no iron fences, and it was very frightening to our person to see rooftops of the palaces under us when we were inside the car, especially when the car would swerve to avoid a car coming in front of us; we felt afraid lest we might fall into an abyss!        

3- In spite of the above, the two new cities on the mountains are like Cairo in its crowdedness and busy streets filled with cars, but, of course, the number of residents differ a great deal when we compare between Nablus and Cairo; both simple and expensive restaurants (even fast-food ones) are crowded with customers even within late hours. There are countless types of salads served with meals; prices are less than those in Cairo, Egypt, and in the USA. The currency used is the Israeli shekel, of course. We saw ordinary workers and craftsmen filling these restaurants and confectionary stores, eating the famous kanafeh of Nablus. There is no doubt that the residents of Nablus enjoy a high standard of living; we lament the fact that the opposite is true about the residents of Cairo, Egypt!    

4- New Nablus and Sama Nablus contain many luxurious palaces and houses built using white stones cut from the mountains; many palaces are literally cut into the mountains, with various, fascinating designs and colors, complete with Western roofs; the mountains contain many trees and we felt happy as we saw nature and architecture in perfect harmony. Amir rented for us the ground floor of one spacious palace, with luxurious furniture and ceramics and a big, lush garden. This seems ordinary when compared to other bigger and more spacious palaces in this mountainous area. It was obvious that some owners of the palaces work abroad; a relative of the in-laws of Amir held a party in honor of the bride and the bridegroom inside his palace in Nablus; when we passed through the gate of the high stone wall, we saw four palaces; each of them carry the name of one of the sons of the host, and all of them are surrounded with lush, verdant gardens; the food was superb and expensive and fancy cars were parking outside. The host was very modest, generous, and polite; he has a high-rank post in a factory; we could not prevent ourselves from asking so villainously about the type of palaces owned by Mahmoud Abbas and his men. We have been told that their houses are ordinary ones because they smuggle their money abroad. Thus, the Palestinians who live abroad transfer their money into the Palestinian territories to enrich the economy, whereas the 'pious' and 'innocent' men of the Palestinian authority smuggle their ill-gotten money abroad and never spend any money to make iron fences within mountain roads to protect cars or to give names to the streets.       

 

Eighthly: about the wedding party:

1- The Palestinian nation preserves its inherited customs and its Palestinian dialect of Arabic; this is exemplified in marriages and wedding parties; the father-in-law of Amir has told us about some of these customs, which include the 'right' of the bride's paternal uncle's son to permit the young woman to marry someone else and not him, as he has the priority to ask for her hand to himself and he has the 'power' to prevent the marriage even during the wedding party when the bride is wearing the wedding dress on horseback, heading towards her bridegroom! We told him that this weird, humiliating custom is against the freedom, dignity, and rights of women. Another custom is that the folks of the bride would receive the folks of the bridegroom in a spacious hall, right before the wedding party, and hear one of them demand the hand of the bride in a very loud voice! This is the way in which the Palestinian wedding parties should commence. Luckily, such customs were tactfully avoided in the wedding party of Amir and Bisan; the ceremony was confined to the henna-night followed by the wedding party celebrations in the very next night.     

2- The henna-night celebrations are attended only by women who gather around the bride; the bridegroom attends the henna-night for a short while and then gets out of the hall. Without the presence of men, women and girls spend the henna-night dancing and singing as much as they please, while wearing the intricately designed, colorful, richly embroidered, expensive Palestinian traditional clothes, as per what our wife has narrated to us; some of the hand-made garments cost one thousand US$. Women at the henna-night compete with one another in wearing unique, very elegant, hand-made garments.

3- The wedding party was held in the Citadel of Al-Qaid (i.e., literally in Arabic: the leader), built in a village named Sebastia, inside Nablus, which was built by a Roman military leader named Spatius. This citadel is a very important monument that remains of the history of a revolting leader who revolted against the Ottoman authority but his revolt failed; the descendant of this leader is the guardian/curator of this citadel, and he is a hospitable, generous, cultured man; we were engaged into an enjoyable conversation with him about the history of his great-grandfather the revolting leader who rebelled against the Ottomans.     

4- The customary celebrations within the wedding party began with a Palestinian folkloric band whose members sing and dance and precede the bride and the bridegroom into the gate of the citadel before entering into a spacious hall filled with chairs, and when the attendees sat down and the happy couple sat on the ornamented wedding couch, the band performed the Palestinian Dabkeh dance; this Dabkeh dance involves stamping on the floor with their feet and lifting their legs into the air (and into our faces, sometimes!) while smiling and singing traditional, folkloric Palestinian songs that express taking pride in the Palestinian identity; the songs are often mixed with a sense of melancholy. Within our own mind, we compared the Palestinian Dabkeh dance with the Egyptian provocative belly-dancing that involves women shaking their bottoms and bellies in an obscene, lewd manner, but the Egyptians are used to watching it shamelessly.     

 

Ninthly: returning home (God bless the USA):

1- Our flight to return home was before 10:00AM next day, we and our son, Sherif, left Nablus at 3:00AM to reach Ben-Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv. Because of the long interrogations we have been told about in Israeli airports regarding even those who leave Israel, we were advised to reach the airport four hours before the time of our flight, especially that we have to return the rented car first; Sherif drove the car from the highest point in the mountain to Nablus and to the highway and we were searched quickly at the Qalqilya checkpoint, and then we reached Tel Aviv. This time, the security officer at the Ben-Gurion Airport asked us about the reason for our visit to Israel, and when we told him about our attending the wedding party of our son in Nablus; he congratulated us and let us enter into the airport. We were surprised as we found out that we had arrived two hours before the time of our flight. We waited for two hours. The airport routine was easy and everything went smoothly, and the last measure was the feared interrogation; yet, it took only one minute; our names in our passports were checked and then we received the exit visa. This easy, quick interrogation was unexpected, of course, and we felt very much relieved.          

2- Inside the plane heading to Washington, we suffered as we sat in a narrow chair for 12 hours nonstop and our feet were swollen; this occurred also in the flight from Washington to Tel Aviv; we bore patiently with the swollen feet in both flights; we felt happy to return to our homeland: the USA. Inside the Dallas International Airport, the officer asked us and our son about where we are going; we answered him in unison: home! Our son Sameh was waiting for us outside the airport to drive us home to VA; we smelled the breeze of Washington with joy; we have been away from homeland for more than a week; we have returned home with a happy heart and swollen feet!

 

Lastly:

 We offer our cordial greetings to all the great people whom we have met in Israel and in Palestine; we implore Almighty God to grant peace and safety to the land of peace.

 

 

 

COMMENTS:

 

(1) Saeed Ali: Welcome home, my dear Dr. Mansour; I have enjoyed your narration of your great journey and reflected for hours on end on the lessons I've drawn from your narration. Please visit a doctor to make sure you are OK; you might have high blood pressure; I advise you to walk daily for an hour to restore your health. I hope that reasonable people in Israel would read your wise words: it serves the interests of Israel to provide security, employment, social justice, and a decent standard of living to the Palestinians; I tend to think that there should be one homeland to both the Israelis and the Palestinians within peaceful coexistence while religion is only for God to judge on the Last Day. Palestinians and Israelis who are born inside the same land have the right to live in it; the whole earth is God's land; youths of both sides must forget about the ideologies of theocracy and religious fanaticism and extremism. Suicide bombers and crimes of Arab extremists are a natural result of Israeli oppressive measures; I hope peace would one day reign supreme in the Holy Land.

(2) Dr. Othman M. Ali: Congratulations, Dr. Mansour! I'm so happy you're back home. Congratulations to Amir and his pretty bride. I've  particularly enjoyed the account of your journey, but I felt extremely worried about you as you might be fatigued; may God protect you and grant you good health. I wish that the forum was videoed so that the rest of the Israelis (in world academia and all thinkers) would get to know about the peaceful Quranist trend of reform. I hope your single sons, Hossam and Mounir, get married very soon; I smile now as I wish they'd marry young women from other Arab nationalities so that your family members would form a miniature Arab League!  

(3) Adel Bin Ahmad: In media worldwide, there are endless scandals about the criminal gang that rule the West Bank and Gaza Strip; instead of using the financial aid of millions of US$ granted by many countries (e.g., from Algeria in 2008 to help the people of Gaza) to ease the suffering of Palestinians and ameliorate their conditions, people like Mahmoud Abbas and the terrorist Hamas group confiscate such money to themselves. The costs of the three-day wedding party of one of the sons of Dahlan in 2015exceeded two million US$ in Fairmont Nile Tower Hotel in Cairo, and there were 400 guests who attended the wedding party, including a male famous Egyptian singer and a female famous belly-dancer. Money was spent extravagantly within all details of this wedding party; the wedding party took place after a scandal of leaked photos of the bridegroom who was drunk and accompanied by female sex workers and belly-dancers in Dubai; Dahlan had to force his son to get married to avoid the scandal. Scandals of corruption of the Hamas government and ministers make headlines in the Arab press; the minister of health brought illegal drugs and Viagra pills to be sold in the Gaza Strip; many officials and ministers are corrupt ones who stole and confiscated money and took bribes. Some Hamas members have invested 500 million US$ in Syria within many projects; these money is stolen from the financial aid granted by Qatar and Iran. Khaled Mashaal has brought assets in Qatar that worth about 200 million US$. This is not to mention illegal tunnels between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, where almost everything is being smuggled by Palestinian  criminals; this is not to mention Palestinians inside Gaza and the West Bank who work as spies/agents serving Zionists. Hamas leaders invest millions of US$ in many projects outside Palestine, while the ordinary people of Gaza suffer hunger and impecuniousness.             

(4) Ben Levante: Congratulations to you, Dr. Mansour, and to your son and his bride and all the family; may God grant them matrimonial bliss. I have some comments about your journey to Palestine that I'd like to share; so as not to be misunderstood, e assure you that I'm not chauvinistic at all; all human beings are brethren regardless of their colors, races, faiths, and nationalities. Of course, languages plat a pivotal role in mutual understanding among people who live in the same geographical area. I' one of those who believe in the solution of one State for both the Israelis and the Palestinians, where all people are first class citizens regardless of religious affiliations and who enjoy the same rights and abide by the same laws within equality. As I live in Germany, as you know Dr. Mansour, I'm not a naïve person to believe any piece of news within Arab channels and website without verifying it by other non-Arab sources. Besides, I've never been to Palestine. Yet, hundreds of pieces of news (even from Jewish sources) narrate tales of misery of painful reality suffered by those Arabs who live inside the West Bank in general and not just at the security checkpoints. In Germany, criticizing Israel or Jews would make people accuse you of being anti-Semitic. By the way, the Jewish Israelis are not gullible people; they know what they want and seek it; their only problem is Arabs/Palestinians in the West Bank. You, Dr. Mansour, have entered Israel through the airport in Tel Aviv and rented an Israeli car; you and your family were tourists; you will not suffer anything like what is being inflicted on the Palestinians on a daily basis. You had to make you Jewish friend take photocopies of your passports to facilitate matters. In the West Bank, there is about 380000 Jews and 210000 Jews who live in Jerusalem who live in many settlements unacknowledged by the international community. Thus, Israelis steal and nibble more pieces of land from the Palestinian people who live in 22% of Palestine; Israel is established on 78% of Palestine. No thieves are kind-hearted, you know. I do not believe that Palestinians are treated kindly inside Israel, even if they have obtained the Israeli nationality; the Palestinians are persecuted inside Israel and inside the Arab countries as well; they have no homeland until now. Israel is a country where there is Law; yet, extremists there demand what is known as Der Judenstaat or the Jewish/Hebrew State. It is wrong to make a race or a faith as synonymous with nationalism; this means that non-Jews will never be citizens, even if they have obtained the Israeli nationality. This is racism leading to discrimination and mistreatment. Of course, Arab countries have their own problems; yet, Israel that falsely claims to apply human rights and democracy (while persecuting the Palestinians) must be measured by the yardstick of other West democracies and not by conditions in the Arab countries.       

(5) Lotfiya Saeed: Dear Dr. Mansour, I write this comment about the last items of your great article: I wish your good health would be restored after having some rest; it is more important that your heart is happy. One's heart is the basis of everything; Abraham knew this fact as I discern from these verses: "And do not disgrace me on the Day they are resurrected. The Day when neither wealth nor children will help. Except for him who comes to God with a sound heart."" (26:87-89). I join you in greeting the good, great, reasonable persons inside Israel and inside Palestine; I hope one day that peace would dominate the Holy Land; this is the sincere wish of all sincere reformists. God bless you.     


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