According to googlemaps, my local climbing gym is approximately 6.3 kilometers from my apartment. I'll have to walk two miles and take two buses to get there. Oh yeah. And cross a checkpoint. As I walked through Beit Sahour today with sweat trickling down my back in the early-morning 90 degree heat, the Palestinian soldiers shifted their assault rifles, eyeing me dispassionately and the thought occurred to me that I might be off my rocker. When I explained to my bemused Palestinian friends that I wanted to go to Jerusalem to find the climbing gym, they were incredulous. And reasonably so. For who in their right mind, would subject themselves to the exhaustion of crossing from the West Bank into Israel simply to climb a wall for a few hours? In one friend's words, "But why go to Jerusalem to climb a wall? The IDF was kind enough to build one for us here. You can climb that." My friends are hilarious. But as I stood in line again waiting for a soldier to glance at my passport and wave me through with an apathetic flick of the wrist, I wondered if maybe it was worth it.
|The wall. Bethlehem, 2009|
In order to get to the gym, I walk a mile through town to get to the bus. There isn't so much a station for the bus to Jerusalem as there is a general area of town where everyone knows (through some unspoken agreement) that the bus to Jerusalem waits. I go to this area and wander around until I see the familiar blue and white bus. As soon as the bus is full we zoom off, careening through narrow roads with steep drop-offs. After 5-10 minutes (in which the bus driver might randomly stop to chat with a cousin), we reach the checkpoint into Jerusalem. We shuffle off the bus with our ID's in hand. The soldiers check the bus, and then examine our ID's. If we pass the test, we re-board the bus and move onward and into Jerusalem. Outside the old city, right before The Tower of David, I get off the bus and walk a half mile to the next bus station. From there I can catch the bus to the climbing gym.
|Tower of David, Jerusalem, 2009|