When Jewish Pilgrims Visit West Bank — And Nothing Goes Wrong
The Israeli armored convoy rolls into the West Bank town of Jericho and comes to a halt outside a building with a Palestinian flag fluttering over it.
At first glance, it might have looked like another incursion. But then out of the bus guarded by Israeli troops emerge Jewish pilgrims, on a visit to the ruins of a Byzantine-era synagogue entrusted to Palestinian security forces.
Such trips also play out at other Jewish heritage sites in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where Palestinian and Israeli forces still carry out vestiges of cooperation.
The West Bank is the cradle of Judaism, which claims more than a dozen graves and shrines that dot the hills and deserts that some Israelis know by the biblical names Judea and Samaria.
Some of the sites have become political flashpoints. But elsewhere, rarely making headlines, the pilgrimages continue more peacefully, a gesture to the kind of religious pluralism that the authors of the peace process envisaged.
“It is very good that there is the ability to come to these places with this coordination,” said Shmuel Yosef, whom Reuters accompanied on a recent Jericho visit.
Asked how it felt to see Palestinian flags over Jewish heritage sites, he laughed and said: “Somewhat unusual, but that’s part of the experience.”—Reuters
This story "When Jewish Pilgrims Visit West Bank — And Nothing Goes Wrong" was written by Dan Williams and Ali Sawafta.