These two lovely girls, Tasneem and Intisar, saw me struggling when I got off the bus near the Damascus Gate and helped me. Then when I arrived at the hotel a really kind woman helped me up the steps with the cases. So here I am in the Old City after an incredible day, (see Political Archaeology post).
The next day I took a shared taxi to the airport, which quickly filled up with orthodox Jewish men and women. We all got into conversation about where they lived, how safe they felt and whether they wanted to live in Israel. I was asked how I felt about where I live and said I felt very happy and secure, but then I was not a practicing Jew. One of the young men told us that his family lived in Paris and I asked him if they wanted to leave to come to Israel and he said that they were very happy there and had no desire to move. I said how pleased I was to hear that.
It was good to be among ordinary Jews as a Jew myself and therefore able to take part in such a conversation without being threatening in any way.
I got quite a grilling at Israel security at the airport. Nothing serious, but I think the man who questioned me was training someone else. Thankfully I am well trained in my responses. I was with Jewish friends for 5 nights in Israel and Christian friends for 4 nights in Bethlehem. I was able to immediately name the family I stayed with and was also able to tell them where I spent my last night in Jerusalem. I did plan my route reasonably carefully because of such questions, as the H (Hebron) word is definitely off limits!
I am very lucky that I tick all the racial profiling boxes. My name is not a problem, I don’t have dark skin, I am a European, I am an older woman and by the time I get to security I am usually so tired that I am beyond caring so they don’t pick up any anxiety except about delays!!!
I have spent my last 10 days with a group of Jewish women, Palestinian Christians and Palestinian Muslims (a few secular Palestinians as well – they do exist!). They were all lovely people. Each had their fears, beliefs and problems, but the huge difference between all the Jews I met compared to all the others in this small area of land, was that the Jews all had total freedom of movement except within Area A (a grand total of 18% of the West Bank, but can go there anyway if they want), whereas most of the Palestinians in the West Bank cannot even reach Jerusalem, let alone ever have the chance to see the sea or visit another country. Palestinians cannot even move freely around the West Bank from one town or village to another, because of all the Israeli run security barriers. Not to mention that whereas the buildings for Jewish Israelis are increasing in the West Bank constantly, those of the Palestinians are being taken over or demolished by Israel at an alarming rate. UN: In 2014, Israel demolished 1,177 Palestinians’ homes in the West Bank, http://mondoweiss.net/2015/02/israel-demolished-palestinians.
I have not mentioned Gaza here, because although I am reasonably knowledgeable, I have not actually been there and it would require a whole blog of its own.
So am I biased? I frequently get accused of being biased and much worse by those who support Israel unreservedly. I do not think that wanting equal rights, including freedom of movement and equality over the use of owned land as well as much else, is being biased. I don’t think that wanting both Jews and Palestinians to be secure, free and autonomous is being biased.
And I ask the questions once again:
Why should my security as a Jew be at the expense of the security of another?
Why should my Right of Return be at the expense of another’s right to remain?