In a location without an airport, the plane on the ground is the only way to travel by plane

It took two decades, cost $ 100,000, and was almost wiped out by the outbreak of war.

But the dream of two Palestinian brothers is finally set to take off, as they open a patriotic restaurant in a converted Boeing mountain top.

Ata and Khamis al-Sairafi, both 60, bought the decommissioned plane in 1998 and will open the site in the spring with a grand ceremony featuring costumed flight attendants.

This isn’t the first time that an airplane has been turned into a restaurant, similarly themed restaurants are opening their doors in Costa Rica, Colorado and even Bolton in the UK.

But this remote place has a political twist: it is a symbol of Palestinians’ hopes for an independent state.

The West Bank, which the Palestinians claim as their own land, has no airport, while their freedom of movement is controlled by the Israeli military.

For the restaurant’s many visitors, this will be their only opportunity to board a commercial aircraft.

One of the last remaining Palestinian airports, Yasser Arafat International in the Gaza Strip, closed in 2000 during the Second Intifada, the Palestinian uprising against Israel.

Israel bombed its radar station and bulldozed the runway over the next two years.

The restaurant was decorated with posters of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, and King Abdullah of Jordan, whom the brothers consider national heroes.

Arrival and departure signs are also installed in the courtyard where the plane is located, on the outskirts of the city of Nablus, in the northern West Bank.

“It took us 20 years to make this dream come true,” said Ata al-Sairafi, smoking a shisha on the tarmac next to his so-called plane for nowhere. “People love the idea – it’s a fun place for a day.”

Israel controls entry and exit points to the West Bank, which, according to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, “forces Palestinians to live in constant uncertainty, which makes it difficult to carry out simple tasks. and plans ”.

Israel says the restrictions are essential for national security and that Palestinians can fly from Ben-Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv or from neighboring Jordan if they have a permit.

Even so, it means that for some Palestinians, having a meal on a disused plane in the middle of nowhere might be the closest thing to a vacation abroad.

The Oslo accords, which were signed around the time the brothers bought their plane, fell far short of the two-state solution that had at the time filled the Palestinian leadership with optimism.

More recently, the signing of the Abrahamic Accords in 2020, which saw Israel normalize its relations with its Gulf neighbors Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, left Palestinians diplomatically isolated.

Many of them regard the decision to embrace Israel before resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a betrayal.

The Palestinian leadership condemned the agreements as “a stab in the back of the Palestinian cause and the Palestinian people.”

Israel, on the other hand, hopes the agreements will allow them to bypass the Palestinians in search of new relations with Arab neighbors.

The past year saw one of the worst escalations of violence between Israel and Palestinian factions in Gaza in seven years, sparking a two-week conflict that left more than 260 dead. Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip killed at least 256 Palestinians, while Hamas rocket attacks on Israel killed 13 people.

Fighting erupted on May 10, when Hamas launched rockets at Jerusalem in retaliation against Israeli forces, injuring hundreds of Palestinians in clashes at the al-Aqsa mosque.

The imminent threat of expelling Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem has also been a key factor in the rise in tensions.

During the same period, there was an explosion of violence between Arab and Jewish communities inside Israel itself, with crowds torching schools, cars and synagogues.

Reuven Rivlin, then President of Israel, likened the situation to a “civil war”, reflecting how severely Arab-Israeli relations had deteriorated.

At a preview of the new restaurant over the summer, “people brought their children to show them how the trip works, because as Palestinians we are deprived of such things,” Mr. Sairafi.

“Since we don’t have an airport in Palestine, people felt it was important to have a plane, even if it’s not at an airport,” he added. “It gives people enthusiasm and excitement about flying.”

Mr Sairafi said the disruption caused by the Second Intifada, financial difficulties and, more recently, the pandemic had delayed the opening of the restaurant.

And it was not an easy task to bring the plane, which was purchased in the Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona, to their home in Nablus. It had to be dismantled and then moved on trucks for a hundred kilometers over the mountainous terrain.

Some obstacles remain, even as opening day approaches. The brothers are still working on the menu, which will likely feature a mix of hummus, falafel, coffee, and shisha pipes.

They are also undecided about allowing visitors to smoke shisha inside the plane, which has novelty value but risks turning it into a smoke box.

“That was the idea,” Sairafi said, inspecting the interior of the plane. “But I think it might be too much.”

The Telegraph, London

See also: The curious case of KLM’s 12-hour flight to nowhere

See also: the airline adds an apocalyptic touch to its “flights to nowhere”