Traveling from cities and villages across the West Bank, thousands of Palestinians celebrate the holiday of Eid a-Fitr at the beach. For many, it was their first time there. For others, it was their first time in half a century.
By Oren Ziv
Thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank celebrated the holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, on the beaches of Tel Aviv and Jaffa over the past two days. For many, it was their first time there — a visit made possible by special entry permits issued by the army for the holiday.
In the evening hours, between the Jaffa Clock Tower and the beach, van drivers shout, “Nil’in, Beit Sira, Qalandia checkpoint, Hebron,” waiting to fill their vans to drive back to the West Bank. Most of the revelers, however, prefer to spend every minute they can on the beach.
That’s where I meet Raed from the village of Nil’in in the West Bank. “This is my son’s first time at the beach,” Raed says. “He’s very excited.” By his side, in a wheelchair, sits his 85-year-old mother. She bends down to touch the water, which she hasn’t seen for nearly 50 years.
For many Palestinians living in the West Bank, entry permits to Israel unrelated to work or medical care are rare and hard to come by. Over the past several years, during Eid al-Fitr, tens of thousands of Palestinians receive temporary entry permits — and many choose to spend their time at the beach. In the West Bank, only a small part of the Dead Sea is accessible to Palestinians.
Further down the beach in Tel Aviv, I meet a couple from Ramallah in their 30s. They sit on the rocks and watch a police patrol boat near the shore. It is the woman’s first time at the beach. “We crossed by way of the Modi’in checkpoint and there were tons of people from the West Bank on their way here,” she says. “The children just go crazy, they don’t want to leave.”
As we talk, loudspeakers shout instructions and warnings to the swimmers in Hebrew and Arabic. The lifeguards ask those remaining to exit the water, but most aren’t listing. They want to make the most of every moment they have until midnight — when their permits expire and they must return home.
“If only we could come here every day,” the woman from Ramallah continues. “But they only give us permits for a day or two a year.”
A different family from Nablus says they received permits for the whole family, but that when they arrived to the checkpoint on the way to the beach, the teenagers were not allowed to pass.
Oren Ziv is a photojournalist with the Activestills collective. This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.