Withan early (and hungry) start to our day, we set out for the Palestinian city of Ramallah. While entering the West Bank, the frequent Israeli checkpoints contributed to a sense of security, however with news of an attempted terrorist attack the previous day, I was hesitant to be entering area A, which is the area controlled by the Palestinian authority. . Prior to entering Ramallah, I envisioned all Palestinian territory within the West Bank to share qualities of a slum, with Palestinian people lacking basic necessities, and cities unable to change their unfortunate predicament. Experiencing Ramallah was however, nothing like I expected it to be. Separated from Israeli settlements by a continuous wall, the only real indication we had entered Palestine was that road and building signs had changed from Hebrew to Arabic. Though the outskirts of Ramallah appeared to be less taken care of, buildings and roads shared similar conditions to nearby Israeli settlements. As we neared the city’s center, we were able to see the contrast of Israel and Palestine from a distance; the red Israeli roofs separated by a wall from the Palestinian sandstone infrastructure.
To this day, the Palestinian Liberation Organization claims that Jerusalem is Palestine’s capital. However Ramallah currently serves the function of the capital, housing certain embassiesand international organizations. Within area A, the Israeli government does not hold sovereignty, and Palestine is therefore able to control and regulate permitting and foreign aid. As a result, Ramallah has attracted many Arab countries, such as Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Qatar for the construction of new infrastructure. With the Mediterranean nearby, Ramallah tends to be cooler than other Palestinian communities, consequently fostering a summer residential community. Since 1994, Ramallah has tripled in population and with limited land, real estate prices have skyrocketed. Within the center of Ramallah, recently an acre of land sold for more than 21 million U.S. dollars.
Though the Palestinian community is overwhelmingly Muslim, and the community continues to become increasingly religious, Ramallah is a relatively liberal city. While walking throughout the city, there are many women who have their arms, chests, and hair exposed. It is also evident that other faiths are welcome, despite being a minority, in fact, the PLO requires that the mayor of Ramallah be a Christian since it was historically a Christian city. Though area A is technically free from Israeli control, Ramallah, like other Palestinian communities within the West Bank, is entirely reliant upon Israel for resources entering Israeli ports, water access, and sometimes forms of identification. The current situation of Palestine is limiting because of surrounding Israeli control; without access to any ports or airspace, Palestinians are forced to interact with Israel.
Among Palestinians, there appears to be hope of a two-state solution, however while being inside area A, it becomes evident that Palestinians will never be self-sufficient without a one-state solution. No solution will be perfect for everyone, however there is hope of other solutions.
After visiting the heart of Ramallah, we traveled to a new development called Rawabi. This Palestinian city has been being developed since 2007 with the aid of American-Palestinian and Qatari funds, and though it is still incomplete, the current development is breathtakingly beautiful. As if from a magazine, Rawabi is both an affordable and luxurious lifestyle for all Arabs. Though the process has been slowed down by Israeli land regulations, Israel does support Palestinians building such communities. Advertised as a new lifestyle, Rawabi is in “huge demand” (according to the Palestinian salesman) and offers a potential lifestyle to Palestinians living among Israeli settlers. Though the end of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not yet in sight, Rawabi did offer an insight of hope to a future of a potential one-state solution in which Israelis and Palestinians live amongst one another.