21/7/10 - 2/8/10 80 °F
"ON THE ROAD", SO TO SPEAK...
...so after an interminable 5 hour wait at the Tel Aviv Airport, I breeze through security with no hint of issue - didn't even know I'd "gone through security" until a security person pointed that out to me. Have been lucky every step of the way. Finally start to board, but at the "ding" of the bar code swipe, she asks me to "stand over there". Oh oh...
Less than a minute later, they call my name and give me a new boarding pass. Instead of my seat 40H in steerage, I have 9F. Omigod, it's First Class! Omigod!
I still have an aisle seat, and it's a huge cocoon, with a special toiletry zip packet, ear phones, big pillow, serious blanket, flight attendants who smile constantly and address me by name and give me theirs. They seem not to know I'm a peasant. And of course I hardly know how to act in this First Class milieu, though surely they'll soon realize the magnitude of their mistake. Finally figured out it was Delta I had to thank - for noticing my high flight miles - a reward.
Two good meals - no idea whether economy got two. Feeling slightly uneasy that Dick and I were on the same plane, and after we got through security we sat together and talked while we waited and boarded together after an "adventure" or two at the airport where it seemed I was being singled out but each time was for an innocuous reason, though he didn't know that. When I was put aside after the first class designation kachinged, neither of us knew why and he continued on board. I'm sure he didn't see me again so probably assumes I'm being detained. Have to email him as soon as I can pull his address out.
All of a sudden, I'm in a completely different world where it's always cool, water is in abundance, no one here is going to attack anyone else or steal their land or tear down their home. No conversation about anything of substance.
Very old Jewish couple across the aisle - she's very old herself with difficulty moving around yet is bringing her even older husband (I suspect about 90 or so) back from visiting their daughter in Israel. She has to take him to that tiny lavatory, and sit him down when she brings him back and fix his seat belt. I don't know how she can make this flight alone. Because I had taken her hand at one point to help her get out of her seat, she felt comfortable enough asking me to help her with the customs form. She's a US citizen and speaks English but she can't read it or write it, and couldn't fill out the form. I filled it out for her (she was tickled when I asked her if she was carrying more than $10,000 - we had a chuckle).
Nice to end the trip with a reminder that at some point, we can "reach across the aisle" and communicate in spite of barriers. I wish the exchange had done something to ease the pain in my heart. It didn't.
Major challenge to figure out how to organize all this information! Heartwarming stories, uplifting stories, stories of unbelievable cruelty both state and individual, descriptions of this amazing land and what little I've learned about its culture, facts and statistics about how Israel is attempting to destroy the Palestinian people and somehow make them go away whether through flight or death they don't care. Personal journey of pain, despair and hope. Stories about and from Palestinians that made me understand that the struggle will go on, that they will not leave, will not give up, and the depth of the determination and hope that they carry.
Stories about the really wonderful folks I traveled with and how it was being with that particular group of people that kept me from exploding with rage, enabling me to reflect and contemplate and find compassion for those Israelis who are pained and angry at what their state does in their name - I still haven't found any for the ideological settlers, and not much for the soldiers, who can always say no (yes, I understand how difficult that is and the myriad reasons it's so difficult. I know I myself will never be tested in that way and that it is arrogant of me to expect particular behavior that I myself will never be called upon to perform. Still, I have little compassion - at this moment, I'm simply stuck with that).
If I hear one more version of how Israelis are "shooting and crying" - feeling so badly about what they "have to do" (Dancing with Bahsir comes to mind...) I swear I'll scream.
Constantly reminded of the water imbalance, with Jewish settlers getting more water than they could possibly need, and Palestinians never having enough, even for drinking. Outside major cities, they have to buy drinking water in bottles. Jewish settlers drink from the tap, and their water rates are about 25% that of Palestinians.
Everywhere in the settlement of Efrat and in Jewish neighborhoods in Hebron and Jerusalem, water pipes are all over the ground, watering trees and other vegetation. Native trees don't need watering as they thrive on what the area gives them. Don't know yet if the oleander and bougainvillea that blooms along the highways is native, but much of it gets watered anyway in private Jewish or state areas.
Of course olive trees do far better if they get water, and Palestinians work hard to water them, but how many stories did we hear of the settlers or the army destroying irrigation systems and water cisterns, of breaking the pipes into tiny pieces in order to ensure they could not be put together again.
One ultra-satisfying story of a Palestinian who had experienced this destruction over and over on what was left of his olive trees (most of his land was confiscated for a settlement that sits above him and from which children and adults throw rocks and garbage at his children). He had tapped in to the settlement water through a method I won't describe and he and several others now have a steady source.
The settlers know he is "stealing" water (his own water!) but can't figure out how. They're very angry about it because theft of water (from Palestinians) is a major factor in what the state seems to believe will cause Palestinians to abandon their land, so when they see one who is not only not leaving but somehow getting water they're very upset.
LATER NOTE – same day I wrote this, I found out he had been arrested for “stealing” his own water. You can see it on YouTube, including his 5-year old son screaming and crying as the soldiers took him away.