Bike Riding towards Beit Jala

CB and I recently went out for a bike ride to the south. Heading towards Ramat Rachel riding down dirt paths behind the kibbutz that partly follows Derech Hebron and partly turns towards Har Homa we rode up past the monastery near the turn to Bethlehem. At one point a group of Arab girls sitting under a tree cheered on CB as she attempted to ride down a steep section of trail; “no scared, no scared,” they shouted. When we turned up a windy rode and saw it led to an Arab village we said ‘yes scared, yes scared,’ and turned around.

We rode toward Kever Rachel (Rachels Tomb) but when we got to the large security barrier checkpoint past the entrance to Bethlehem, we were told only civilians in cars or buses cold pass, -not on foot and not on bicycles. The soldier said we could lock our bikes near his post and tremp (hitchhike) but we decided to come back another time. After all, its just a few minutes ride from where we live.

With the heavily fortified passage to Rachel’s Tomb behind us we peddled into a large field filled with olive trees and green brush and although the soldiers told us it was safe to trail off in that direction we felt slightly uneasy. The scenery was breathtaking yet as we attempted to pass freely  across the land that blaring wall was constantly staring us in the face along the horizon.

APPROACHING a path just overlooking Beit Jalah near the Gush Etzion tunnel rode several dogs on the security barrier perimeter road began barking. They were fenced out and couldn’t harm us but it alerted me to the fact we were probably on somebody’s land and if they were home they were definitely alerted to our arrival. A few meters later my hunch was correct.

An old Arab woman and a young Israeli looking man in jeans and a clean white t-shirt stood on a roof of a nearby structure. Not knowing where the exit to the main road was, I figured acting friendly was a good thing so I waved. The next thing I knew we were sitting with 23 year old Aah-Lah Jadda sipping jasmine tea and discussing life, minor politics and why he doesn’t want to get married. I must admit I was a bit suspicious when he invited us to see his horse stable and during the 45 minute excursion from our bike ride I wasn’t entirely comfortable sitting on his porch breathing in the fresh air because at anytime we could have been cornered and attacked -but all those feelings were just what the wall invites.

Yes, the wall has slowed terrorists from entering Jewish population centers and I’m not saying tear it down but at the same time it creates fear, which seeds hatred. When two people live near each other but never speak, never interact, impressions are made from whatever information seeps through the cracks of their separation. Since the beginning of the Oslo process that’s what’s happened: separation and more separation. Aah-Lah agreed wholeheartedly but added the problem wasn’t the two nations but the leaders.  I didn’t want to go further into politics so I let it rest in a good place.

On our way out his hospitality didn’t cease as he showed us his chickens and gave us some eggs brought into the world that morning. He also proudly noted his pigeons and rabbits, the latter raised mainly for food. Although he eats camel and doesn’t stick to traditional Islamic Hallal certification he declared he would never eat pig.

With the afternoon hours passing we exchanged numbers and bid each other farewell. I safely packed the eggs in my pack  and we were on the road thinking about an omelet for diner and how to repay our new friend for his kindness.

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