My Stay in Israel

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Welcome to the Ben-Gurion Airport

For the fourth time, the intelligence officer asked why I wanted to enter Israel. Once again, I explained that I was a journalist making a documentary out of Gaza City, and if I had the chance, to float in the Dead Sea. I did my best to appear unfazed by the interrogation. Trying to make a human connection, I told her that I had always wanted to see Israel. We were clearly at an impasse, so she spent another fifteen minutes consulting a superior about my case.

Ninety minutes after leaving my plane, she finally decided to allow me into Israel. My luggage was x-rayed a second time, and I was escorted into a security room filled with police officers and Arabic-looking passengers. I emptied my pockets, took off my belt lifted my shirt and stepped into an x-ray box. When the alarms remained silent, I retrieved my belongings and was escorted out.

“Enjoy your stay,” the intelligence officer said with a friendly smile.

Another Day, Another Bombing

It was four o’clock on Friday afternoon when the explosion echoed through out the city. Seconds afterwards, the gates to the Old City police station opened up and a steady stream of military jeeps, police cars and officers on horseback poured out. People in the streets gathered at television and radio sets to get the details of the latest suicide bombing.

A Palestinian woman, 20-year-old Andaleeb Takataqah from the Beit Fajar, had strategically targeted the Mahane Yehuda market. Aside from being packed with Jewish shoppers, it’s a short walk away from the international press building. By the time I arrived, there were at least fifty journalists standing behind the red police tape filing stories around the world. The Canadian press was well represented, with both Kevin Newman and Peter Mansbridge in Jerusalem for Global and CBC national newscasts.

The saddest part of the suicide bombings is that, as political statement, it works for everyone âe" and ensures that the practice will continue. For the Palestinians, it shocks the world into seeing the human cost of thirty-five years of illegal military occupation, mass arrests and torture. For the Israelis, it’s proof that the nation is at war: citizens riding the number-six bus on Jaffa Street shouldn’t be buying a ticket to the morgue. For the international community, it’s a made-for-television event.

Off camera, the rescue workers are picking through the scattered fruit and bread to find human remains. This blast was so powerful, that they are forced to crawl on the steep rooftops to fill their bags with flesh. Two blocks away, people are still shopping, gathering their own supplies before the beginning of Sabbath.

The Other Side of War

Peter Holland is a Canadian worker with Oxfam. The rumble of tanks pacing his convoy in the Occupied Territories interrupts our cell phone conversation. The Canadian embassy is escorting relief supplies — mostly blankets and medicine — to the Jenin refugee camp. Even with diplomatic help, the mission is still in danger. “We just passed the last checkpoint,” says Holland, “but we still have to avoid the flying IDF [Israeli Defense Force] patrols.”

Three thousand people have been bulldozed out of their homes and the Israeli military is making it difficult for relief supplies to get in. In official Israeli communiqués, the military stress that they’re a humanitarian army. That’s a point of view that Holland doesn’t share. He was on a similar unsuccessful mission to Nablus on Tuesday and the strain of the last few weeks is evident in his voice.

“It’s a horrible situation. These people are suffering the indignity of being refugees from a refugee camp. How terrible is that?”

Darren Boisvert is a journalist and freelance documentary maker travelling in Israel for three weeks.

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