NOTE: The beach at Kalia described in the article below is part of an illegal settlement that is co-owned by Ahava and is subsidised by its profits.
Ramzi is a very handsome Palestinian who hails from the Tulkarm Refugee camp in the northern West Bank.
Ramzi has never seen the Mediterranean – merely 10 miles from his home – but he loves the sea. His ideal vacation has always involved summer, sand and the sea. Perhaps this is why his typical suggestion to “what shall we do this weekend?” is always “let’s go to the Dead Sea!”
I’m not always enthusiastic about going to the Dead Sea because of the lack of services, the lack of chairs, the expensive entry and the overall feel that the place is not well taken care of. But I always comply because the Dead Sea is the only saltwater body Ramzi has access to.
Since the Dead Sea shore is divided, the southern beaches are inside the internationally-recognised borders of Israel and the northern beaches are Israeli-run but inside the Occupied West Bank. Ramzi can only travel within the West Bank because he carries the Palestinian Authority ID.
Ramzi always picked northern beaches that “allowed Arabs” – run by Israelis in an area that the Palestinian Authority has no control over – regardless of the fact that one can see the cheaper and better quality northern beaches on the other side. Those are Jewish-only beaches.
I never really gave this form of segregation much thought. I went there because Ramzi wanted to go there and because I liked hanging around with him.
It was not until my best friend Carla, an Argentine, decided to visit me in Palestine for the first time. “What shall we do this weekend?” Ramzi’s response was very clear. Off to the Dead Sea we went. But this time, we chose Kalia beach because we wanted Carla to feel comfortable wearing her bikini – rarely seen on the beach I always go to which “allowed Arabs”.
We reached the entrance. I, a pale-skinned-Palestinian-holder-of-an-Israeli-passport, paid my ticket. Carla paid her ticket. Now it was Ramzi’s turn.