We awoke at 3:30am not because we felt well rested, but because our jet lagged bodies determined this was not the time of day we should be sleeping. The hotel has been very quiet since we arrived here, so when it was finally time to have breakfast, we were shocked to see the breakfast room buzzing with people. From what our inquiring ears could hear, none of them spoke English as a first language. A huge tour group looked Filippino or maybe Indonesian and smaller clusters of people looked and dressed European, but spoke no language I could recognize. Even though the food on the buffet was labeled, there was little that we knew. We ate stir-fry looking mixtures that seemed dinner-ish and there was sausage, bread and cheese that was lunch-ish. Most importantly, there was lots of coffee and we could wait on ourselves. The waiters were working hard cleaning up and emptying tables and would have never gotten around to serving us as much coffee as we needed.
We lallygagged around the room dozing and reading. Ken was able to stream the Bears game from home and I watched them break his heart once again. Things got more interesting once our fellow travelers arrived and we met Mustafa, who took us for a walk to the town center. Since there are few signs that I can read, it was with his guidance that we began to recognize that our neighborhood has more to offer than we recognized last night. We stopped in a shawarma shop and had a tasty lunch. Mustafa pointed out the green and white Palestinian license plates on the local cars. We also saw plenty of the yellow Israeli ones. Palestinian plated cars are not allowed in Israel, but it was obvious that the converse was not true. Mustafa is a well educated man with two masters degrees in finance and accounting. He met his wife who is a nurse at a hospital where he managed the accounting and billing department. In 2002 he lost that job as the wall was erected and he is no longer allowed to set foot in Israel until he turns 55. Ironically, his wife is still allowed to work at that same hospital as a nurse since there is a nursing shortage. It takes her two hours each way to cross the border to go to work. And Mustafa is stuck wasting his considerable talents on shepherding around old tourists from the US. Jerusalem is fifteen minutes away by car. The concierge told us he has been there twice, because he hopped the fence in an unpatroled area. He earns about $600/month and is saving hard for a car. A decent new one costs $200,000. He's going to be saving for a long, long time. Neither of these men can leave the country by taking a plane from Tel Aviv as we just have. They can get a two week pass that allow them to enter Jordan through Aqaba and take a flight from there. We understand that we could be subject to pop-up check points as we travel anywhere in Israel. We can certainly understand that the Israelis could no longer tolerate the suicide bombers that caused so much destruction before 2002, but the way these Palestinians have to live is untenable as well. We were vaguely aware of these developments from things we read at home, but there is no substitute for seeing them for ourselves. That's why we're here.