Tuesday 18 December 2012
Just arrived in Tel Aviv, Israel, which I have to pass through to get to Palestine. I was expecting heavy security at Ben Gurion International Airport, given what I have read, and especially after the third degree I got from the Israeli officials as I boarded the plane for Israel at Bangkok Airport, but in fat I breezed through passport control and got a visa with no trouble at all.
Too early really for first impressions, but as we flew in fairly low over what must have been Jerusalem, I did notice the infamous ‘Separation Wall’ (to keep the Palestinians out), the new Israeli ‘Settlement’ housig developments built on Palestinian land, and the new super highways that Palestinians aren’t allowed to drive on.
Tel Aviv seems like anywhere really, tough probably more like LA than anywhere else, though there are some European touches and not much to say we are in the Middle East. It also seems very secular and western, so roll on Palestine.
I’ll up-date you when I’ve had time to observe more.
Only a few days before I leave for Palestine, and therefore time to set down my thoughts.
I’ll be leaving with some trepidation, but this is more because I’ll be out of my comfort zone rather than fear of really being in danger. After the Gaza truce things seem rather quiet, though as the Blogs, Tweets and Facebook posts I am reading make quite clear, this is because of Palestinian forebearance rather than Israel genuinely keeping the peace – indeed, I am very disappointed at Israel’s continuing intransigence. It is interesting, and of course disappointing, that these Israeli violations don’t make it to the mainstream news. Is this laziness, indifference, or deliberate?
In practical terms getting there once I’m on the ground will not be quite as easy as I thought it would be, as we are no longer being met in Tel Aviv and taken as a group to the project’s site and accommodation in Bethlehem, but instead have been advised that we have to make our own way, though of course we have been given very specific directions as to how to do so. I think I’ll take the train from Tel Aviv and then ‘shared’ taxis to Bethlehem. Though it will make me rely on my own wits that is in fact quite appealing as I will be living a locals life a bit sooner than I thought I would be. Negotiating the Israeli checkpoint between Jerusalem and Bethlehem will be interesting.
I hope the advice I was given from the project organisers (International Peace Volunteers) about simply asking for a tourist visa when I arrive at Tel Aviv airport was correct, and that I have no trouble in that regard. I did ask for a visa application form from the Israeli Embassy in Canberra, but found it impossible to complete as it wanted me to include where exactly I would be staying, and of course I didn’t know, and in fact still don’t. In hindsight perhaps I could have fudged it and given the address of the hotel I have booked for my ‘post-project’ stay in Jerusalem, but thinking about it more that could be problemtatic as I imagine Israeli security would check up on such details before I arrive, thereby catching me in a white lie, and causing problems, if not refusal of entry. So hoefully the adv ice I was given proves to be correct.
As well as wondering and indeed worrying about such issues, and continuing to read all I can about Palestine, my mind is exercised by thoughts about the Palerstinian predicament. Though to my mind the UN vote granting Palestine observer status is encouraging, I can’t see the Israelis allowing a viable two state solution to happen, in that they have invested too much in ensuring that what they have grudgingly allowed the Palestinians won’t lead to a viable state, given that the territory they have allowed consists only of individual towns and small plots of land, seperated by the Wall and settler only roads, anmd of course, riddled by Israeli settlements.
And then there is the continuingly asserted intenjtion by Hamas not only to recognise Israel but to destroy it. I can well understand their thinking, though given my commitment to peace and non-violence it is not something I can even remotely endorse.
I think the Israeli intention is not only to ensure that there will never be a viable Palestinian state, but also, though ethnic cleansing, rid the territories of Palstinians altogether, so that they can have the whole of ‘Greater Israel’ as an enlarged Jewish state.
I think at the moment my prefered solution is for one state, with everyone given full citizenship and the Palestinian refugees given full right of return, financial assistance to do so, and also compensation, but as this would mean that the Jewish desire for their own exclusively Jewish state would would disappear, as they would be outnumbered by Palestinians, I can’t see it happening unless there is a major upheaval in the area, and as it would most likely be violent, it is not something I could endorse.
It will be interesting to see if other solutions are brought up whilst I am there. I seriously doubt anything doable will emgerge, but hopefully there will be ideas which perhaps could grow into something people could seriously consider, but in the meantime I’ll appreciate the debate and in practical terms, do my work to help the Palestinians, which will be the practical component of this peae project. I’ll document it all in subsequent entries to my blog.