It was January of 2007, I turned 25 that December, when I found myself standing in a small room, decorated with a beautiful blue and gold traditional rug adorning the wall, holding my pack. The
flight from Pristina, Kosovo had been short in comparison to recent transoceanic hauls, but it brought a sense of tension and trepidation unknown on other travels. I arrived in Tel Aviv late in the afternoon for a 10 day trip, beginning in Jerusalem. A family friend met me at the airport, explaining that it was a good time for me to be there. A recent streak of violence had just ended, and the Israelis, it appeared, were coming to terms with the new Hamas government. While they were never going to except its legitimacy, or forget the apparent violent threat it posed, it seemed, for the moment, the seas had calmed.
On the drive to my new, temporary home, an expansive flat located in a large Lutheran compound near the Mt. of Olives, with beautiful views of the surrounding valleys, my host explained the most recent goings on. The election of the Hamas government, which the United States deemed a terrorist organization (and still does), forced all U.S. government personnel from Palestine. My host, an employee of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), a component of the U.S. State Department, said all projects in Palestine had been indefinitely suspended, forcing scores of aid workers to leave as a recognized timetable for the resumption of diplomatic relations hadn’t been negotiated, until shortly before my arrival. Continue reading