When I told friends back at home in the states that I was moving to Ramallah, they didn’t know exactly how to react. “Be safe,” someone said. “Don’t get blown up,” another friend warned.
Few people had a clear idea of what life in the West Bank was like, or even where Ramallah was.
Don’t worry, I would say. Ramallah is peaceful. It’s a small, bustling Palestinian city, full of coffee shops, clothing stores and restaurants. It’s the most liberal and progressive city in the West Bank and is also the seat of the Palestinian National Authority. It’s the de facto capital.
In February, I moved into an apartment in Lower Ramallah. In my neighborhood there are four hummus restaurants, one coffee shop, a bakery and a handful of fresh vegetable stands. Every day, I can walk onto the street, make friends, and practice my Arabic.
There’s a mosque next door and five times a day I hear the call to prayer, broadcast over loudspeakers. It used to wake me up in the morning, but now I’m used to it. Next door to the mosque is a Greek Orthodox Church.
“Ramallah is safe,” a Palestinian friend tells me the first day I arrive. “We’re not as close to the conflict.” Unlike places like Nablus, Hebron, or East Jerusalem, Ramallah doesn’t see violence regularly; there aren’t clashes with settlers or Israeli soldiers. Some places, this happens weekly.
“It’s an oasis,” my friend says. He pauses, and lets out a short, dry laugh. “Or maybe it’s more like a mirage.”
You’re never too far from the conflict here.