Last Thursday, after my last class of the week, I met up with Josh, Rebecca, and our two Palestinian friends, Ramzy and Assad. Ramzy and Assad are Bethlehem, West Bank residents, meaning they also have no citizenship or entry rights in Israel. However, as West Bankers, they are able to request from the Israeli government short term papers/visas to come into Israel to visit family and friends within Israel. Probably because they are both Christians, Israel granted the two young men entry. Ramzy and Assad were both ready to peace out of Be'er Sheva by Thursday afternoon (they had arrived on Wednesday evening), and really wanted to see the beach. They asked for Tel Aviv, but as it was already nearing 4pm, we knew we wouldn't get to TA for minimum another hour and a half. We decided on Ashkelon, instead, figuring it was still a nice beach and it cut out half the travel time. The four of us walked out of campus, and boom, what d'you know, I immediately spotted a ten person group taxi (called a שרות, or Sherut) with a sign on the front saying "Ashkelon," and I hailed that baby down. It was almost too easy.
Anyways, with our motley crew of taxi sharing riders (including an enormous, religious woman who knew the driver a little too intimately for my comfort), we set off out of Be'er Sheva to the sandy beaches of Ashkelon. Now, some of you might have heard of Ashkelon for its large Russian community. Others know it because of its dingy yet quaint mini-amusement park "Ashkeluna," a place I know Daniel holds dear in his heart. Finally, still another group might have heard of Ashkelon for its proximity to Gaza, and its subsequent site of Qassam rocket terror attacks over the past few years. The route our driver chose to take was the most direct path--passing north east on a parallel line with Gaza through the Jewish towns of Ofakim, Sderot and Netivot, i.e. Qassamvilles. Normally, I wouldn't even think twice about it, but I couldn't help but think how ironic it would be if Qassams actually did start falling while we were in the cab and if they did hit the car and killed most of the passengers with foreigners and West Bank Arabs alike included on the list of the deceased. How would the world's media react? Israel's media? The Arab world's? The Palestinian's? What were Ramzy and Assad thinking as we drove through these towns? As Christians in the West Bank, they were surely anti-Hamas...right? The whole situation kind of just tickled and intrigued and scared me all in one.
Well, I know it was a horrible way to think, but I thought it, and as I pointed out the signs to Sderot to Assad and Ramzy, hinting that we were in Gaza Qassam range, they laughed nervously and said they had just been discussing the same thing. I made sort of a nervous, half joking out-loud prayer in English, "In'sha'allah [God willing], they won't attack us while we are on our way to or hanging out at the beach, or for that matter, ever" to which they nervously laughed again and said, "Amen."