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70 years of Israel - for better and for worse

Today marks the 70-years anniversary of the state of Israel. It may be the right time to reflect. The USA has opened their new embassy in Jerusalem, the situation on the Gaza Strip has reached unacceptable levels and on a lighter note, Israel has just won the Eurovision Song Contest. The latter is interesting as it means Israel will host the contest next year. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already taken the opportunity to make politics out of it by saying it will be held in Jerusalem.

Why is that so controversial?

The same year Israel was established, the UN made an agreement with Israel and Palestine to make Jerusalem a city in international territory. This came to an end when Israel occupied the city in 1967 and has done since.

I want to point out that both Palestinians and Israelis need to be respectful of their claims. Right now, Palestine has authorities who want to eliminate Israel. This also goes for a few of the other countries in the region. So I understand why Israel needs to defend themselves. And I understand their land claims in their holy cities. Hebron is regarded as the second holiest city for Jews, after Jerusalem. In Islam, it's one of the four holy cities. So access to this city is very important for both.

I visited Hebron earlier this year, the only city which is still divided into a Palestinian and an Israeli-administered sector. I arrived the Palestinian sector in the morning, by minibus from Bethlehem. It was a city full of life. I heard cars honking, people having a laugh and I saw fruit stalls in all directions. After walking for a while through the narrow streets, suddenly I came to a passage where all shops were closed down. Then I passed through a checkpoint, like a security scan at the airport.

Without really knowing it, I had entered the Israeli sector of the city. Here the streets were almost empty, and there were Israeli checkpoints on every corner. An extreme contrast to the other sector. I had to stop and show my passport several times.

The picture shows a large group of Palestinians at a graveyard. It didn't take long before the Israeli Defence Forces walked over to them and made them split up.

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I very well understand why Israel claims the territory. However, the situation for the Palestinians living in the Israeli sector is unacceptable. As it appears to me, this is nothing less than an occupation. Most shops in this sector have been closed down for "security reasons".

It seems to me, access to holy sites is essential when trying to establish peace in the region. I hope both authorities show more respect for each other's claims. And I hope the UN manages to establish an international zone in Jerusalem. It seems far-fetched at the moment, but if there's one region familiar with miracles, it's this one. Donald Trumps decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem is a big step in the wrong direction. I wish Israel good luck with their next 70 years and I wish for peace to everyone living in areas claimed by Israel.

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Additional Photos by Fredrik Henriksen (Bergenphotos) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 271 W: 53 N: 646] (3310)
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