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The Road to the West Bank

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The Road to the West Bank

Lunch in Hebron, checkpoint troubles with the IDF, and the normal kindness of strangers

I’m back in Tel Aviv after a 48-hour trip through various spots in the West Bank. As you will hear in the audio - or, as paid subscribers will hear - I was not overly concerned about heading to Tekoa, to Hebron, even if my instructions for meeting my contact in the latter were in total, “Take the bus to the Cave of the Patriarchs, and then from there walk up Shuhada Street, turn left at the end, and then you walk through the almond grove…”

I watched Trump the other day telling an audience that America has, in so many words, become a dystopian hell hole. We hear this about San Francisco, where, yes, the fentanyl crisis has made some areas very bad, but otherwise, the city is as majestic as its ever been. Ditto, Portland, and I write this as someone who’s been extremely critical of what’s happened to the city. Last night, I had a young bartender tell me, in so many words, that it’s a shame how dangerous New York City is. I told her, I walk the streets after midnight often and the worst I’ve encountered is sometimes a guy being gross.

“Men will be men,” she said.

Israel is of course in great peril, from many sides. (Read Eli Lake’s new piece in The Free Press, “American Troops Know: Iran Is Already at War with Us.”) Many people are understandably on edge, and of course, in terrible pain, which I wrote for Reason earlier this week (“Dispatch From Israel: Inside the Hope Machine”). I did not include there that I once lost my daughter for five minutes at the Rose Bowl Flea Market and felt the floor of the world drop out from beneath my feet. Israel is in the middle of mass mourning and there is as yet no relief. After the break, you will hear a snip of a conversation I had several days ago with Jonathan Conricus, former international spokesperson for the IDF, on the pain of the hostage families and what he thinks the chances of “an amazing rescue operation.”

I wanted to go to the West Bank because stories presented themselves, including in Hebron, where I’d been with several other American journalists in November 2022. The section we were in - H2, under Israeli control - was a strange and eerie place, abandoned but fraught, which we Americans had a hard time understanding, we kept asking things like, “Why can’t a Palestinian walk on this side of the street?” and “Why are all these shops closed?”

Yesterday, I went into H1, which is under Palestinian control. The difference is stark and commerce is lively, if also under many restrictions since 1994. Some lunch gathering images below.

As for the hard time I was given by two IDF soldiers, this was more than outweighed by the kindness of three Israelis, after the break. But a taste:

The bus I needed to take to get out of Hebron pulled out 30 seconds before I got to the stop. Alas. A moment later a called pulled up next to me. The woman driving, maybe late 70s, rolled down her window and spoke to me in Hebrew. English only, I told her.

“Get in,” she said. “I’ll take you to the bus.”

She sped along, quite fast, telling me (because I asked) she was originally from Philadelphia; that she and her husband had moved here 40 years ago. How come?

“How come?” she said. “Israel, it’s the dream.”

She asked if I were jewish. I told her I was not. I asked her name. She only smiled.

“Just say a nice old Jewish lady,” she said, and when she dropped me off, the bus right behind us, she wished me a good journey and had one question for me, the journalist.

“You’re not a Jew hater, are you?”

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