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Hiking and climbing in Palestine with PAMSD

This is a full transcript of the episode

In this week’s episode you are joining us on a hike!

I was invited by my friend Rosemary, who is also married to a Palestinian and lives very close to our house actually, to join for a 1,5 hours hike followed by an iftar meal at sunset. We are still in the month of Ramadan, the end is expected on 12th or 13th of May.

The hike was organized by the Palestinian Association for Mountain Sports Development and the food was cooked by women of the Noor Empowerment Group, we talked about them two episodes ago.

So I brought my recorder to talk to the organizers and participants about hiking and mountain climbing In Palestine. But before we start walking let me introduce you to Rosemary who is a super energetic and enthusiastic volunteer to explain you a bit more about the PAMSD. ( I keep forgetting the other of this abbreviation, I had to write it down)

Rosemary: I’m Rose Mary Norton and I come from France and I moved to Palestine in September 2017. Where I had the idea of taking a break because I had just obtained my diploma because I’m an osteopath and I wanted to travel a bit and I didn’t really know exactly what I wanted to do. And I had friends living here.

So I came and then after that, I started to do volunteering and combining humanitarian work with osteopathy. Then after that I met my husbands, which I met in Ein Karem in the Center where I was volunteering. And we got married quite quickly. His name is Khaled. He comes from Acco and we both living in Jerusalem now since three years already.

[00:00:47] Kristel: What are the activities that you do in your daily life?

[00:00:51] Rosemary: I’m an osteopath. So my main aim is to really develop the health care here in Palestine, in Jerusalem where I’m living, in Bethlehem. And I’ve been working in different clinics that already existing with physiotherapists, but because osteopathy, I’m like a pioneer of osteopathy here. It’s not really existing. I know that there’s a chiropractor living also, in Beit Sahour. And every so often I meet people that are in the field. I’m really the first. So people don’t know what osteopathy is. I’m really wanting to develop the health care, what I’ve learned and what my passion is about osteopathy, which is a manual therapy. That really benefits for everybody and believes in the ability of the body to heal itself. Self-regulation so we’re not using any medications. We’re using just two hands and understanding exactly the body. So this is what I’m doing. And now I’m working in Jerusalem East, and also doing volunteering in the Noor Rehabilitation Center where I’m the osteopath there since a couple of years now, maybe two or three years.

[00:01:56]And also what I love sports and climbing and hiking. I love to meet new people. So I got involved also with PAMSD, the Palestinian Association Mountain Sports Development which we’re going to talk about.

[00:02:15] Kristel: You were the one who introduced me to that. I knew that in the last years there were a lot of new initiatives about hiking and rock climbing. I remember even going to Battir and meeting a couple with two children that just came from rock climbing in the Wadi Makhrour. So they had probably been with you because I think that’s the kind of things that you do. So can you just explain before we go on the hike, what is P A M S D?

[00:02:47] Rosemary: PAMSD it’s an organization it’s registered like it’s official organization. It’s Palestinian Association for Mountain Sports Development. Me I’ve only been involved with it since a couple of years, 2019. The people who have founded they are Palestinians it’s run by Palestinians. So of course me I am here a foreigner in active Palestinian society, I’m not a tourist. I’m just part of this Palestinian organization. And I met Hijazi, who is one of the founders of PAMSD and he’s very active today. He’s a Palestinian guide since maybe thirty years and he’s been a tour guide for a lot of French tourists, because he loves France he’s French speaker.

[00:03:31] And then in parallel to his private activity he founded PAMSD in 2014. There were workers and volunteers and the team that has evolved is a very alive organization that is always very dependent on the people that are willing to give their time and to give their ideas, to share their ideas. So even anybody who wants to get involved with PAMSD can, just the way I did it very naturally, actually I just one day started to, so I met Hijazi in 2018. He was with, he was with, you want me to tell you how I met him or no?!

[00:04:05] I had a French friend who was a tourist here in Palestine. She was with a group and she told me that she’d be in Bethlehem and have lunch.

[00:04:13] And so we decided that we’d meet up one day. It was three years ago in April, 2018. So when I went that time, I was really interested in meeting more the Palestinians than to seeing French group of people. So I was happy to see her. It was great. She was actually the mother of a friend, so it was nice to see her, but I was really interested in Hijazi.

[00:04:31] Like where he comes from, what was his background? Everything like, and we talked and he asked me, do you rock climb, Rosemary? We have the project to open the climbing center soon. So even PAMSD existed 2014, the climbing hall that’s indoor climbing in Bethlehem exists three years or something. So when you take the year of COVID 19 out because there was a whole year where we did nothing at all. It’s just been active since a couple of years.

[00:04:56] Kristel: And now you are every week, once you are at the climbing center, volunteering. And can you tell me a bit about that? Who comes there and why is it important? Is it the only climbing center that is existing in Bethlehem?

[00:05:10] Rosemary: For now. Yes. I think it is the only climbing hall actually is true also there is in Ramallah wadi climbing and they’re doing great activities there. It’s really, really nice place. I’ve been a few times but it’s a bit far also, so I’ve spent a lot more time with PAMSD and the concept is not the same also, PAMSD is an organization that’s run by Palestinians for Palestinians.

[00:05:33] And our activities, yes we trying to be the most active possible. There’s a whole program, a whole schedule for the whole year of 2021 that’s ready organized, and that’s ready in place. So since one month, because of the Ramadan, people are fasting, so people are a bit tired. So everything’s slowed down. So there’s just this hike, mid-Ramadan that we decided to make, very small for the friends of PAMSD, the volunteers, the close friends, the people that are always involved and there’s people that come quite regularly, to climb to hike. And this is our aim to get a community of people that enjoy gathering and meeting. And if they want to come once they can, if they can come weekly or every two weeks and build a community in this way and to share and to participate also in PAMSD, it’s great.

[00:06:16] So that was more for the more intimate people, but we ended up over 30 people for the hike.

[00:06:23] Kristel: And for example, I’m thinking about taking my children to the climbing hall. Why would you say that climbing is a good activity for kids to do.

[00:06:32] Rosemary: Well, you can just ask them and see for yourself. They absolutely love climbing.

[00:06:38] Kids generally love it. If they don’t at least they’ve tried. It’s an activity where maybe some children won’t, but generally children really love it. And not just children though. A lot of people have great passion with rock climbing actually. Climbing is something that’s a bit exciting because it can be a bit frightening to start climbing and you’re going to have a harness around the waist and you’re going to have a rope if you’re going outside. In the climbing hall also you can do it. It’s a small climbing hall so it’s more for initiation to climbing. If you’re a good rock climber probably like spend one day over there and then you won’t come back because it’s more to have the initiation to climbing.

[00:07:13] It’s exciting because you’re getting up the wall. You’re climbing up. You’ve got adrenaline, you’ve got stress. You’re supported by someone. If you reach the top or if you don’t, well, people will be really happy for you. It’s a journey that’s really personal when you’re climbing in the end, you’re living it with everybody that you’re climbing with.

[00:07:30] And it’s not something that you do on your own to climb really. It’s something that you do in a team, but in general, when you’re climbing you’re on your own. And you’ve got the support of other people. I’m so happy when I see people achieving things that were complicated for them reaching the top. And when they reached the top everybody’s happy. Or we give them advice while they’re climbing we tell them “yeah put your foot there” and stuff. And it’s just, we altogether in here and it’s just really a fun moment.

[00:07:52] Kristel: Is it mainly children that are interested to do that? Or do you have a lot of Palestinians who are coming? Are there any women coming.

[00:07:59] Rosemary: Yes, we do have women. And also we want to empower women. For me personally, because everybody’s got the experience or their idea of how PAMSD grew. But me since two, three years, where I’ve committed to volunteering and being with them, it’s really in the idea to empower women.

[00:08:17] For example, I had my friend Sajja whom I was working with who is a physiotherapist. I told her, yes, come climb with us, come hike. And then after, she liked it, you know? And she had never really been hiking before. She had never climbed before, for sure. And she really enjoyed it. And then it was her who was sending me text messages to come and join them to hike and to open new trails.

[00:08:37] Cause PAMSD also does hiking. So we opening new trails in different areas where there’s no hiking trails and she’s really actively part of PAMSD now. And she comes also to open the climbing center on Thursdays afternoon. As physiotherapist also, it’s a, it’s a, Oh, I need to talk to you about it because we’ve got also a medical project where I can combine osteopathy with PAMSD, physiotherapy and create a medical team within PAMSD so that we can bring in children who have disability. I’m already doing it with Noor Rehabilitation. Since January we’ve started, but I want to do it with a proper program where we’re going to do a proper evaluation with this medical team of each child. And what are the goals? What can they achieve? What can they do, what they can’t do, and to follow them like this in the medical way for it to be part of their rehabilitation program.

[00:09:30] So I think you really need to speak with all the different members of PAMSD for them to share with you their creative ideas and based on what they like, there’s people there that are doing photography, video, that they’re always filming.

[00:09:41] Like Sanad from Nablus he does great videos of outings and he’s very inspired by nature. And all these people, they’re adding something to PAMSD. They’re part of it. And this is what we want to have a growing community in Palestine, where people appreciate hiking and that inspires them and that they have friendships that they grow. They have like a social background thanks to PAMSD. We do stuff together. You know that we just have fun.

[00:10:05] Kristel: It sounds great. I think we should go on the hike.

This walk took us from the southern part of Battir, towards the West into a forestry area and as we were walking we crossed the unmarked boarder or green line into what is now the State of Israel but considered by Palestinians as historic Palestine that was undivided until 1948. The majority of the people in our group have Westbank ID cards which technically does not allow them to cross the checkpoints into Israel. But as you could hear in the two episodes about Battir a few weeks ago, Battir has a special situation since the armistice agreements in 1948 and there is no to prevent Palestinians from entering into Israel here. Although there are Israeli soldiers patrolling the area. But we did not encounter them during this walk. We walked with about 30 people during the last two hours of the day before sunset and before the iftar.

Kristel: Hello, what’s your name?

[00:00:02] Khaled: My name is Khaled.

[00:00:03] Kristel: Khaled, what are we doing? Where are we walking and why?

[00:00:06] Khaled: Hiking in Battir. It’s like hike before the Iftar we choose this time. So it will not be difficult for people that fasting and it’s kind of one hour and a half hike.

[00:00:19]Kristel: And we are now on the Southern side of Battir and is there a tour guide? Are we with someone who knows the way?

[00:00:28] Khaled: Yeah, actually we are with some tour guides. His name is Hijazi and there is also Bilal, he is local from here from Battir.

[00:00:35] Kristel: I will go and find them and ask them some questions about where we are. But is this something that you do more often?

[00:00:42]Khaled: Yeah. Yeah, there is all the time we organizing all the time, hikes, climbing, rock climbing. It’s something like weekly. Now we’ve stopped a little bit because of Ramadan, but usually we have weekly, weekly activities. It’s more about getting people involved on the nature , encouraging people more to go to the nature, to go to hike, to discover and let also other people from outside Palestine to know the area.

[00:01:08] Kristel: Is that something you feel that is part of the Palestinian culture to go out hiking and exploring the nature?

[00:01:16] Khaled: I think culturally people like to go into nature. To make food together in family in nature is something culturally there. But to make hikes in the way of hike to walk for one hour, I think it’s less. I think we need to work more to introduce it for people. Rock climbing is the same thing. Even rock climbing is still less. We have girls now with us that started to climb, which is a great thing , because it wasn’t something usual for women or girls to go climb here. And now girls are coming more and more and they like it, and they’re coming back all the time.

[00:01:50] Kristel: Do you think that maybe because of COVID people started to explore more the nature around them than thinking about traveling?

[00:01:58] Khaled: I think, yeah. I think it’s big reason of this. Usually you as Palestinian you don’t travel a lot unfortunately.

[00:02:07] But yeah, I think, yes people get tired from being home all the time. So nature is nice landscape for them and they will go. So yeah,

[00:02:21] [Laughing and chatting]

[00:02:35] I’m walking here with a tour guide that I have known about for a long time and we have met each other, but we haven’t had the chance to talk to each other very much. And now we’re on this hike and we see each other. Can you tell me a little bit about yourself? About your work, your hiking, your tour guiding, because I think that a lot of people who are interested to go to Palestine would love to go hiking.

[00:03:00]Hijazi: Thanks Kris nice meeting you again. I’m Hijazi Eid. I’m a tour guide since 1998. I started my, let me say profession and passion as a guide for Palestine, as historical religious city tours. By 2008, actually, I discovered that, we have a high potential for creating hiking trails in Palestine and to attract people to walk in the country.

[00:03:25] Then we started to create the trails along the country. We started walking by ourselves, me and some other colleagues, to explore the area and connecting the villages together. And it was funny when we first met some villagers in their fields working and saw us walking and they said, what, what are you going to do?

[00:03:45] Go from, let’s say, from Battir to Hussan, why we don’t use a car? I said I want to walk. But are you okay? Aren’t you crazy that you’re walking. So we just, you know, and fortunately by 2013, after I received several groups, internationals definitely to walk in Palestine. We discovered when we meet the locals, either at their homes for home stays or sharing food, the lunch, or whatever pick nicks in the fields, the shock for me was that many Palestinian in new generations, mostly the youth, they have no idea about their country. They don’t know it. And we can understand that, due the situation that some families, they are afraid about their children not to be out in the nature due the settlers or due the occupation army could be stopped, could be questioned or harassed.

[00:04:34] So, we started a new idea to create a new association for Palestinians. We call it Palestinian Association for Mountain Sports Development and our target people are the Palestinians. So we want Palestinians themselves to be in charge in this kind of activities. So we start our association 2013.

[00:04:55] Kristel: Do you have a favorite part of the West bank where you like to hike? What is your top three?

[00:05:00] Hijazi: That is a good question actually for me, there is no favorite place actually, because everywhere you go in this country, you have beautiful things. Talking about the dessert, the dessert is the silence and even this, let me see naked mountains are so beautiful even at night or during the daytime. Either you’re meeting some camels or gazelles or ibex or your walking in like this area in the forest in the jungle in the beautiful green terraces. Or working in other valleys or mountains. So everywhere it has its own character. So there is no favorite place. The country is full and over full of places where you can hike for either some hours or a day or several days.

[00:05:45] And now there’s several trails in the country crossing West bank from North to the South. And there’s a lot of other cross trails from West to the East, including the local loop trails around the villages or areas like Battir area, Husan, Wadi Fukin, Nahalin or Rasheda or in Jenin area, wherever you go, you can walk and enjoy it.

[00:06:11]Kristel: Hijazi I have one more question. Do you feel that now during the COVID that you started to see more domestic tourism and more Palestinians getting out of their houses, trying to go hiking and be in the nature?

[00:06:26] Hijazi: Actually, this is good question again, because since 2013, when we started our association to encourage Palestinians to come out and then to discover their country, we started seeing more and more people going out and more and more groups created along the country, definitively at the time of the COVID as people, they mostly they are at homes, they have nothing to do, they started getting more and more being out, walk and to discover their country. And maybe you will know that a lot of hiking groups are organized along the weekends in the country. So yes, more people are going out and we see a lot of people. So like we say, we see the fruits of our seeds coming out. Hamdulillah.

[00:07:12]Kristel: Can I ask you, what’s your name?

[00:07:20]Hala: Hala Kanan

[00:07:21] Kristel: And where are you from in Palestine?

[00:07:23] Hala: From Bethlehem.

[00:07:25]Kristel: Why are you joining this hike? And what does it mean for you to do this hiking now, when you probably were fasting today? Were you fasting today?

[00:07:33] Hala: Yeah. And so, yeah, since we are Palestinians so when you love your land, so you must walk in it to get to know your land, everything in nature. So, yeah. You feel like there’s a relation between yourself and your land.

[00:07:49] Kristel: And did you come because you had an invitation to come or did you hear about it in another way?

[00:07:56]Hala: I actually heard about it on Facebook. I asked about this group and we asked them to join them and it’s very amazing how they organize everything here.

[00:08:05] So you had not been on a hike with them before?

[00:08:09] With this group? No, but I came here before with other groups while I was at college, yeah. I came here with you know, with my colleagues and we did this.

[00:08:18] Kristel: And so if you want to hike or walk in Palestine, there are different opportunities or options to do that?

[00:08:25] Yeah. Actually, since let’s say 2012, there began many, many groups from actually very young people, like from, let’s say 18 to 40 and they began to organize groups like this to, to walk in the lands from the east – west of Palestine. And it’s really amazing ideas I mean to get to know lands that near to where you live, but you didn’t get there before.

[00:08:53] And how do you feel? Because if you haven’t had food or water all day?!

[00:08:57]Hala: It’s actually really hard, but hamdulillah the weather is really good. And you will get how we believe it, you will get, I don’t know how to say it in English, it’s like ‘Ajar’ you, you will get more ‘Ajar’ while you are walking, yeah.

[00:09:13]Kristel: I hope that you will make it for the next hour and then we will have our iftar together. Yeah. Thank you so much.

[00:09:29] Can you tell me your name?

[00:09:30] Sanad: My name is Sanad.

[00:09:32] Kristel: And where are you from?

[00:09:33] Sanad: From Nablus.

[00:09:34] Kristel: And how did you get to this hike all the way down here, two hours drive away in Battir?

[00:09:40] Sanad: You know today is Tuesday the road is full of traffic. So, but we leave Nablus at one and we arrive Bethlehem here in Battir at four, so it’s too long really but it’s deserve.

[00:09:53] Kristel: Yeah, because what you are passionate about hiking or what?

[00:09:57] Sanad: For sure. I have a passion and a good passion for hiking climbing and also camping because here in Palestine they have a good environment to be connect with nature.

[00:10:10] Kristel: So how often do you do that? Hiking?

[00:10:13] Sanad: So I have a weekend, I have a Friday and have a Saturday? So it’s this chance for me to go outside.

[00:10:19]Kristel: Do you go usually around Nablus or do you go all parts of the West bank?

[00:10:24]Sanad: This is the first time I cross my border to go in the West of Jerusalem for me.

[00:10:31] But all the time I used to go around surrounding all the West bank from the South to the North. And it’s full of rare and unique environment, unique landscape. Yeah.

[00:10:41] Kristel: Do you have a preferred landscape? If you got to make like a top three of areas that you prefer in Palestine?

[00:10:49] Sanad: Eh, for ranking, I will put Battir in number one, for sure. And also then I will put the Dead Sea, number two, for it’s best place for camping and to see the sun rising on there. And for three, I will put Al Qelt Valley. This is also amazing valley full of water, full of springs, full of green . It’s amazing place.

[00:11:13] Kristel: How do you find out about the trails that you want to hike? Is it organized or do you do that by yourself?

[00:11:20] Sanad: Sometimes it’s organized by some group. We can contact each other on social media so we can meet and we can go organized all the trip. And sometimes I’m going for myself to explore some places. It’s new for me because I was going hiking since 2013. So it’s a long time for me to go hiking. So we need to discover new places.

[00:11:46]Kristel: And this trip now is organized by whom?

[00:11:50]Sanad: It’s organized by Palestinian Association for Climbing in Bethlehem.

[00:11:55]Kristel: And how did you know about them?

[00:11:57]Sanad: The first time when I met them in climbing here in Battir because for me it’s the first time was a climbing here, was in Battir and then we know each other. And after that we keep contact on WhatsApp and in other group, and we met here.

[00:12:14]Kristel: And when you speak about climbing, what should we imagine? How are the mountains? What kind of climbing is that?

[00:12:22]Sanad: Okay. Here it’s different places in West bank. For example, if you go to Jericho, it’s a flat city. And if you’re going, for example, to Nablus it’s full of mountain and also in Battir they have a mountain, depending on the area. What is climbing looking for? It’s for the heights and for the experience full of adrenaline.

[00:12:43] Kristel: And then if you get up, do you go back abseiling or do you just climb back?

[00:12:48]Sanad: Climbing. And after that, when you go down, we going by a ‘seiling’ yep.

[00:12:54] Kristel: On the rope back down like flying almost.

[00:12:57] Sanad: Like flying, like jumping, I believe can fly, you can just, ha ha ha.

[00:13:05] Kristel: Well it is a quite liberating experience. I remember when I was maybe 12 years old as a girl and I was kind of maybe not the best in gymnastics and in sports. And then we went on a summer camp and that was the first thing we did was ‘abseilen’. And we went down from a mountain and after I did it, I felt like, Oh my God, I can fly. I can do this. Yeah. It gave me so much courage.

[00:13:30] Sanad: It’s full of power, full of adrenaline. You can feel your body is free. You can Leave your hand and leave your leg and feel like a bird for some seconds.

[00:13:42] Kristel: That’s also interesting, like as a Palestinian, not probably having that much chances to travel and to go abroad. So you really have to focus on what we call domestic tourism and doing things in your own country. Like how do you experience that?

[00:13:58] Sanad: Yeah. This is the idea for the hiking here in Palestine. Really. We have a border, it’s closed and the occupation is controlled all over the Westbank. Because of that we going hiking through the Westbank as entire tourism. And we start for some group. And after that, we find for every city have many groups to going outside, especially in Friday because it’s a weekend. So because of that. And also for us, it’s a chance to discover my country to discover it because you know, here the people full of fears to go outside because they have a lot of checkpoints, they have a lot of settlements surrounding the village, surrounding the cities, because of that, we need to go outside the circle we need just to feel confident just to feel we are free to go outside to erase our fears. And as a chance for us to go hiking and to feel like that.

[00:14:53]Kristel: Did you ever experience that you were on a hike and you were coming to close to a settlement and the situation was becoming difficult or tense or, …

[00:15:02] Sanad: Yeah it’s happened for me a lot really. Sometimes we face myself in my car at the door and the gate of the settlement and Israeli soldier put the gun my face and they screaming on Hebrew and I cannot understand what’s going on? I told him. Please can you speak Arabic? Said no, Arabic. I said, can you speak English and no English also. So how we can contact each other? I don’t know. And after that he called another one and he called, yeah, we are so lucky because one of the soldiers speak English and we could talk to him. I’m here by accidentally and he said for me give me your ID. And he checked on computer and they said, okay, don’t go here again. We are so lucky to go, to be alive till now.

[00:15:48] Kristel: Wow. Yeah. Yeah. So that’s just, you’re on a hike. You’re just wandering about discovering the area and all of a sudden you find that there is a settlement and that you are in a kind of a danger zone for you. Yeah, that’s, that’s crazy.

[00:16:02] Sanad: Sometimes we face settlers, so it’s more dangerous than the soldiers and they can do whatever they want. Sometimes throw rocks, sometimes they have guns and we are, you know, we just go hiking here without just equipment for tea and coffee and enjoy it. And most of the time they come here with the guns. To hiking. We have children also in our group, so we’ll feel so, so horrible. Yeah.

[chatting and singing]

[00:17:28] Kristel: Bilal, can I ask you a question as we are walking. I just understood that we have actually crossed the border between the Westbank and what is now the State of Israel, how and where did that happen and how is it possible that as Palestinians with Westbank IDs, we can walk here.

[00:17:51] Bilal: First of all, here, this place is open place and so easy. We are coming for the nature. And we do not do any problems to Israel so they are letting us to enjoy the places. And I think Palestine and Israel there is no walls between them. It’s one and we have to walk where we can, we love this place and we can enjoy our land. Yeah.

[00:18:14]Kristel: I remember somebody explaining to some American tourists that, you know, Israel and Palestine is the same place. And they were looking at him like, what are you talking about? And he’s like, well, it’s just what you call it, it’s just the name, the location, the geographic location is the same. The hills are the same. The sea is the same. The plants are the same.

[00:18:35] Bilal, are you originally from Battir?

[00:18:37] Bilal: Yeah. Yeah. My roots are from Husan and I’m living in Battir.

[00:18:41]Kristel: And is this something that you do more often take people on hikes?

[00:18:44] Bilal: Yes. Yes. So beautiful to enjoy with the people, the hiking, we are coming to the nature and enjoy the nature and take care of the nature also.

[00:18:54]Kristel: How do people find you? If they want to organize something?

[00:18:57] Bilal: Facebook page, they can find us and they can enjoy the hiking.

[00:19:04] Kristel: And is this something that if you take people on a hike that you explain them also about the history or the nature or the plants?

[00:19:12]Bilal: First of all, the nature is the most important thing for us. Nature and to take care of the forest and the plants and a lot of things. And it’s history and the stories about us in the past. So it’s a lot of stories. The hiking is joy and I think it’s a big knowledge.

[00:19:32]Kristel: Do you ever meet also Israeli people here? Do they come and take this trail?

[00:19:36] Bilal: Yeah, sometimes. Yes, but when people are meeting, people are so kind and no problem, but when you see soldier they will say to you: go back to your home. Don’t come to here it’s our area and something like this. But if you are meeting people, one time, we go me and Merlin to hike, then we forget the kettle. We have coffee, we have everything, but we don’t have the kettle and we find Jewish people are sitting. Hello, how are you? We don’t have a kettle, can your borrow us? And they gave us and we make our coffee and we return it back to them. It’s a joy, it’s a joy why to be in a war, why? We can be in peace.

Kristel: The last part of the hike I could not do any recording because we passed through an area that was swarmed with little flies or maybe they were flying ants!! We all covered ourselves and closed our mouth and ran for several hundred meters. It reminded me of the days back in Holland when we would ride our bike and chat and then all of a sudden drive into a cloud of small flies … !! Mouth full!!

We climbed back up on the terraces and saw the water channels of the irrigation system that you can learn all about in the two episodes of Battir that I recorded with Hassan Muamer on the other side of the town. Just go back several episodes and you will find them.

As we saw the restaurant, our final destinations, in front of us, we also heard the Quran reading from the mosque and we knew that in a couple of minutes the adhan, the call for prayer, would sound from the mosque, the sign that the day is over, the sun set and the Muslims in our group could break their fasting.

We did not eat from the restaurant’s kitchen, they kindly let us use their big terrace overlooking the beautiful valley, but we had home cooked food from Noor Women Empowerment Group, the charity that you heard about in the previous podcast episode! So this was a way to generate some income for them and to generate some income for the work of their Rehabilitation Center and school. They brought maqloube, the traditional Palestinian dish with rice, fried vegetables and chicken. There was also bamia, salad and my favorite: fried cauliflower in tahina sauce. It was a buffet, self service.

[chattering and sounds of food serving]

If you are in Palestine and you are interested in joining the activities of PAMSD you can find them on Facebook and Instagram. I will post a link in the show notes. Their climbing hall is open three days a week, Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday, depending on availability of their volunteers, so check in advance. I just went with my children and they really loved it. It is located in the mini mall above the central bus station in Bethlehem, upper floor, yes, the building that has a Kentucky Fried Chicken.

On Fridays and Saturdays there will be hiking and climbing days that will start after Ramadan. They worked on nine new hiking trails in the Bethlehem district.

They are also working on creating memberships so that people will be more coming on a more regular basis and the membership gives free access to the climbing hall.

Several volunteers who had their training at PAMSD have started their own initiatives and PAMSD is very happy about that, because that is actually part of their aims, to empower Palestinians to start their own initiatives and to introduce more and more people to hiking and climbing.

For example Tales of Roots and To the Moon these are other initiatives sprouted from PAMSD that offer hiking, climbing and camping in Palestine.

Check the links in the show notes. If you are abroad and traveling to Palestine in the future then you can also contact them to see what activities there are at your time of visit.

In the future I will also do an episode about the Palestinian Heritage Trail, formerly known as Massar Ibrahim, a trail that runs from the north of the Westbank to the South from Jenin to Hebron and it contains 330 mapped walking trails. Many local families and local guides on that trail have been trained to receive foreign tourists and it is a wonderful way to discover and explore Palestine while hiking. That’s an episode for the future.

I would like to prepare you for the fact that I am going to take a podcast break in June. I will, inshalla, be traveling to see my family in the Netherlands, now that I am fully vaccinated and the airports are opening up. But that break will give you some time to catch up with older episodes you haven’t heard yet! And then I will be back in July and August with a special summer edition of shorter episodes, while I will probably still be in Holland.

Also I came across an amazing podcast called Jerusalem Unplugged and I have so much enjoyed listening to some of the episodes. Super interesting interviews with a wide range of people about the city and life and history of Jerusalem. So definitely that’s a podcast you also want to check out, Jerusalem Unplugged, also on Facebook and Instagram. See the link in the show notes.