Day 25: Meitar to Sansana

Day 25: Meitar to Sansana

Day 25, March 24: Decided due to predicted rain to stay in Sansana, weird settlement-esque place. It better rain - sunny in morning, though cold and rainy first. Don't want to sit around all day if it doesn't rain. Night: Rained lots! Happy. Good Samaritan.

I guess real backpackers are tough enough to handle rain, but we found the prospect of hiking in a storm to be really discouraging. My excuse is that the soil there gets really, really muddy. Anyway, we knew from the list of trail angels that this town Sansana had a room for hikers, so we decided to hike the 6 or 8 km to get there, and wait out the rain.

Sansana is an interesting story. At the time, I assumed it was not a settlement since the Israel Trail stays completely out of occupied territory, and Sansana's entrance is very close to the trail. Nevertheless, it had all the hallmarks of a settlement: armed guards at the front gate, a lot of dudes carrying M-16's around, everybody in religious headgear, and most of the buildings were trailer or "caravan" type, as if they'd just been lugged in to poach some Palestinian hilltop under the indifferent eye of the IDF.

However, just recently (as of this writing in April 2012) there's been some press coverage of Sansana, and I discovered it is a settlement after all! My instinct is vindicated. Here's the latest. The article isn't all that clear, but basically some rightists in the government are trying to formally legalize Sansana and two other settlements, and Netanyahu, often castigated in the press for doing nothing whenever confronted with an impetus to do something, is acting in character. The issue of settlement legality is a bizarre one: International law agrees they're all illegal, as they're built in territory occupied by military rule, not by representative government; but according to Israeli law, some are legal and some aren't, and the criteria for determining which is which seem pretty arbitrary - contrived, often surreal, and following a tortured simulacrum of a legal process.

If you're interested in learning more, well, good luck: you have to sift through piles and piles of biased, ideological sources pretending to be impartial. But Wikipedia is a halfway decent source of facts, because both sides rabidly attack anything the other side might add to an article unless it can be unquestionably verified. Of course, absurdly partisan rants manage to slip into articles from time to time, but the edit wars often lead to a sort of uneasy homeostasis, since any attempt to introduce suspicious "facts" tends to get shot down with extreme prejudice.

In any case, the Sansana hikers' room was in one of the caravans and so not as comfortable as the place in Amasa, but when the downpour began later in the day, we were still glad for it. We spent the afternoon there and headed out the next morning. When we arrived, we'd decided to spend the rest of the day there regardless of the weather, and I sat around through some sunny hours hoping it would rain a lot to justify our sloth. When it did, I was quite pleased, and we spent a relaxing night under the rain beating on the roof.

Early in the afternoon while it was still sunny, Idan and I headed down to the nearest supermarket. It was a pretty long trek, but all downhill. On the way back we were suddenly faced with the prospect of hauling all the food, in hand-held plastic bags, back up the miles-long ascent. I just wanted to hitchhike, but Idan was reluctant because a West Bank crossing point was just down the road and he thought it would be too shady and dangerous to hitch.

However, I think the thought of the uphill schlep helped convince him, so we waited at the junction. Several cars full of religious Jews passed us by, but before too long, a beat-to-crap car stopped - driven by a grizzled old Bedouin dude. Given Idan's paranoia about (presumably) getting kidnapped by somebody from out of the West Bank and then beheaded on YouTube, he really did not want us to get in, but I talked to the driver in my iffy Arabic and in we got.

Predictably, the guy turned out to be really nice and actually drove some extra distance off the highway to drop us off right at the town gate. I might have advised against this, given the town's settlement-esque vibe - and sure enough, on spotting the keffiyah in the car, two armed guys came running up, all on edge, before they could be convinced everything was cool.

Back at the hikers' room, I told Joyce the story and asked her what Bible tale it reminded her of (she was Christian). She instantly recognized the Good Samaritan and saw the humor in it, although I don't think it really clicked for Idan even once we told him the story. I believe this may have been partly due to being salty about originally not wanting to hitchhike with the guy.

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