Walking along the streets in Ramallah at night is quite an experience. A cross between dodging cars along tight mountain roads in Hong Kong, and avoiding open manhole covers on the sidewalks of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. If you fall into the rhythm, and keep yourself out of harm's way, the sights, sounds, and climate of Ramallah in September make for a pleasant evening.
In Long Beach you can walk along the streets at night, but passing cars and passing police will reward you with stares or requests for identification. You avoid looking directly into another person's eyes, particularly if they are of a different race or culture, for fear of confrontation.
In Ramallah you are greeted by everybody you pass on the street, regardless of the fact you are obviously a foreigner, and there is a good probability you do not share their culture or ideology. A smile, a nod of the head, and you pass by without fear.
The city is one of hills and moguls. And like a Beijing of the 90's, the skyline is dominated by construction and progress. This evening holds a gentle breeze, and the view of hills and valleys dotted with lights, and life, is very nice. It is good to stand off the side of the road, and look across the valleys towards Jerusalem, with its skyline lighting the distant horizon.
You feel and sense hope. Hope of people who have been through tremendous trouble and pain for the past 40 years. People who are tired of troubles, and want to think of a future that holds the rewards of working hard.
You feel that hope while walking the streets, seeing and hearing the sounds of progress.
Life in the 50s and early 60's
Imagine getting up early on a Saturday morning in Ramallah, then driving to Beirut for brunch, going to the beach in the early afternoon, having a bite to eat in Tel Aviv, and being home in Ramallah for dinner. No, it is not crazy, it is life in the 50's. An old man speaks fondly of those days, when life was good, and people of all cultures and ideologies treated each other with tolerance and respect.
The old man tells his grandchildren of a time when fences did not partition the land, checkpoints did not separate villages from each other, and free travel was an entitlement of being alive. The grandchildren listen with awe and envy, as the tales do not seem to have any reality today, in a land of occupation dominated by mistrust among neighbors who have shared the land for a thousand years.
On the way back to the hotel you finally pass your first police checkpoint set up within Ramallah. The first thought is "oh my, is there going to be some kind of trouble?" Then a memory comes back of traffic stops in Long Beach you saw the prior weekend, with police stopping every car, checking for alcohol, checking registrations, checking individual backgrounds. Not much different.
A friendly nod by the Ramallah police while walking by, and back to the hotel. A really pleasant walk.John Savageau, from Ramallah, Palestine