Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Arriving in Palestine, Dispatch One

A good friend, with better than good politics, is currently in Palestine, witnessing the ongoing ethnic cleansing being carried out by the Israeli state. She has been sending dispatches, and i just heard from her that she's ok with my posting them here, so expect to see more of these over the next days and weeks.

Playing catch up for now, this was sent last week:

i awoke in the gate, seeing a line-up. worried that i'd missed the boarding announcement, i haphazardly joined the line. but i had to know if there had been an announcement - or was i that tired that i'd slept through it? i asked several passengers.

there had been no announcement.

odd, i thought. do israelis and jews just decide, hey, it's time, let's board? or are we all so paranoid, we don't want to announce anymore that we are going to the land that we stole based on a tale from so many centuries ago? is the heat on high enough? or are most just chalking it up to antisemitism?

i noticed as we waited to board a number of settlers. dressed in a kind of hippie fashion - women dressed in long dresses, kerchiefs atop the heads, many children. not all settlers dress like this, so perhaps there were even more than i thought. i began to experience the dis-ease i sometimes feel in large group of jews. there's the feeling like a target for someone's hate-on for the day. then there's wondering if the other passengers are all raving zionists and if they knew where i was
going and what i would be doing, what do they think about the issues, are they active participants in the dispossession of palestinians, do they care about the inequity that is written into the fabric of israel? and just a feeling of not belonging yet belonging. has it always been like this? is that why we in the various jewish communities are always wondering "what is a jew?" should i even be paranoid that for the first dispatch, this is what i send to y'all, a mixed group of people i do and don't know? worried some will think i'm disparaging being jewish while others will wonder exactly what kind of solidarity activist i am, going on about being jewish. aren't i just hijacking the cause and looking at my goddamned navel?

not all of the passengers were israeli jews and jews. some were christians, none palestinian. when dinner came, the flight attendents flew round separately, without carts, to different seats with kosher meals. this is what happens with vegetarian and other special meals on many flights. there are usually not so many and it usually takes a few seconds. so i noticed. the selection process came to mind...and so did the idea of chosenness. perhaps i need a bit more sleep...and reflection.

we landed 30 minutes late in tel aviv, at 6 in the morning. adding in a little jet lag, i felt confused and exhausted and geared up for whatever questions "passport control" would have for me. the young woman in the booth took my document, barely glanced in my direction, stamped it and handed the booklet back to me. i waited and nothing. i asked "where do i go," and she pointed in the direction of baggage claim.

what, no visa? i worried and went out. what did this mean? membership has its privileges, that's certain. was it that i had flown british airways? or that i had flown with a ukrainian company the last time (where i had a bit of questioning)? so i gathered my bags, brushed my privileged teeth and went towards the sherut (shared taxi) stands. it took over an to fill, but by 9:30 a.m. we lit out for jerusalem. there were signs along the way for various west bank settlements...petah tiqwa, modi'in, if they were part of israel. as if there wasn't a war going on. as if other people did not live there.

i had asked to be dropped at the damascus gate, so i could get a bus to ramallah. but before i got let out, we drove around for nigh on an hour, dropping off visiting christians at an evangelical hotel, others to parts of east jerusalem i know are settlements (we drove near pisgat ze'ev where my uncle settler lives) and eventually i got off in front of the jerusalem hotel.

after coffee and gathering information via the internet, i caught the bus to ramallah. we didn't get stopped at the checkpoint, we merely had to slow down. and everywhere that blasted wall. how anyone could ever think this was about security...a wall that bisects a street in half. i remeber seeing it in pieces awaiting assembly in al-ram three years ago. and here it was.

ramallah has the vibrant energy of manhattan. people walk everywhere and are aware of each other thus rendering the streets into a kind of dance between cars and pedestrians. no one bumps into each other as in toronto. everyone seems equipped with peripheral vision. after lunch with a friend, i met another who i would be heading out with to the house in hares. a demonstration was organizing in the manara (the central square - round, really - in ramallah). it was against what was going on in gaza at that moment. as many of you know, israel attacked gaza yet again, as factions of fatah and hamas fought each other. over 20 dead and counting. there have been many demonstations by palestinians against the infighting.

as i got off the bus from ramallah in hares, i noticed the new watchtower. it hovers, seemingly taller than any of the minarets. it has a camera and openings for snipers. in this agricultural village, it is incredibly out of place. the sensibility is prison camp. i have arrived in palestine.

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