Guest Blog from Mike Todd: Day 3 in Palestine

Mike’s story below is a perfect example of our experience here, and his conclusion deserves reflection among all our friends back home. (Sorry we left you behind, Mike!)

I’m always torn when I travel. I never blog much, preferring to engage fully in what is going on. But at the same time I know that if I don’t capture the moment I’ll probably lose a lot of it. Here’s a quick snapshot of part of my day yesterday.
I’ve already mentioned that there are several Banksy’s around the West Bank. Yesterday we stopped to get some photos of the one below, which ironically I have posted before, never knowing where the original was located. It’s on the side of a gas station in Beth Sahour, just down the road from Bethlehem. Unfortunately the gas trucks didn’t cooperate and the image was partially blocked, but we managed to swarm over the area and take several photos anyway.
My new friend Becca and I were the last two taking photos, down behind the truck you can see below. Everyone else finished up and boarded the bus. Assuming everyone was on board, they left. Imagine our surprise as Becca and I rounded the corner to find an empty parking lot! I looked to the three or four guys in front of the station and motioned as if to say, “Where are they?” The pointed down the road, waved, then smiled and shrugged their shoulders. Everyone broke out laughing. As we contemplated our next move, a car leaving the gas station pulled up, and the driver said to us, “They’ve left you. Jump in.”
Becca and I looked at each other and jumped in. The irony didn’t escape either of us. The prevailing tourist dogma tells you not to get off the bus because your life is in danger. At this point in our trip we knew better.
It turns out our new friend Nasar is from Toronto but was here visiting relatives. We all assumed we would catch the bus on the road. When we didn’t, Nasar suggested we go to Nativity Square to see if we could find the group. We didn’t. We talked as he drove us around Bethlehem looking either for the bus, or our next stop, which we vaguely remembered. Nasar got on the phone and called his cousin who knew where the center was, and five minutes later we were there. I asked Nasar if I could give him some gas money, to which he replied, “Don’t insult me.” We took a photo of our new friend, shook hands, and parted ways.
This may seem like a minor thing, but it symbolic of what we have encountered here. The narrative we are exposed to back home tells us this is a dangerous place, that simply to be here is risky. It goes without saying that the narrative says don’t get into cars with strangers, that every Palestinian is a danger. This is not true. It seems the intent of this narrative is to keep us from coming, from seeing, and from abandoning the wrong story we have been told.