Simon's Diary

Israel 2002

Day 5


Everyone in the house has gone to bed. I am sitting in the lower part of the house, writing this and listening to Jonathan's mp3 collection. At the moment it's the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, and for some reason I keep thinking my mobile phone keeps vibrating, which as you know is an anathema to me. Not the vibration, I like that obviously, but the thought of being charged loads of money. So far I've had two wrong numbers, someone calling me because they thought I'd called them, and a text message joke (which probably cost me more than a joke book). As you can see I'm getting (some people would say I was already there) in to the sterotypical image of Jewish culture.

I'm feeling quite proud of my self right now, as I fancied a cup of tea and a snack. Miri had told me to help my self, and make myself at home. This is something I never say to guests just in case I come home and find they've moved the furniture round or decorated the place. Instead I feel it is suffice to tell them to make a cup of tea if they fancy and don't look through my drawers. Anyway Miri had said it was OK, which sounds very kind until you take in to consideration MR WOLF their German Shepherd dog, his real name is TAZ. In the day time Taz is an affectionate cuddly dog who slobbers on you when you least expect it. At night you can't see him, you can only hear his growling. It's a bit of a no win situation because if he ever did attack me it would either end with me being mauled (possibly to death) or worse still the embarrasement of explaining to my hosts why I had to kill sweet little Taz. Anyway I felt like a drink so I took my life in to my hands and made my way to the kitchen, putting any light on I could find as I went along. After I'd raided the apple pie (with a tea spoon, so I'll have to make up an excuse as to why I couldn't cut a piece off neatly- having short arms does have its uses sometimes!) I went to the front room and sat down to drink my tea. I surreptioously looked across to where Taz sleeps only to find he was not there. Either he's sleeping with my hosts, or like some horror film he's waiting in my bed.

Today was a "not on holiday" day, instead it was a go out shopping with Eddie to the local computer shop, and start working on a web site for Miri, day. Going out to the local shopping Mall was quite interesting. First we stopped off at a shopping precinct which reminded me of town centres in England where there's lots of unemployment. Lots of people hanging around in groups, girls with buggies, and a slight feeling of intimidation in the air.

We bumped in to an artist friend of Eddie's who had only immigrated from Russia to here six months ago. He spoke Russian to Eddie because he could hardly speak Hebrew, however Israel is strict on learning Hebrew if you're an immigrant, so he will no doubt be speaking it soon enough. Recently back at home the British Government had suggested a similar policy, partly as a reaction to the riots in the North last year, which the Government says is partly due to the ghettoisatioon and segmentation of racial groups in our society. Over here it's different because essentially there's a notion of the nation pulling together to build up Israel in the face of adversity. Ohad joked to me the other day "Thank God for the Arabs, without them we would be attacking ourselves." Even so there's already two main areas of tension within the Israeli community. First there's a big rift between the traditional Religious Jews, and the Secular ones, then there's a lot of resentment between nearly everyone and the recently immigrated Russian commuinity. Since the Soviet Union collapsed over 1 million Russians have immigrated. Partly because Russian Jews did not practice circumcision, and partly because most religions were not encouraged in the Soviet Union, and therefore there's little documentation to prove what religion a person is, people from Russia can say they're Jewish and as Israel has an open door policy to all Jews (after all this is the Promised Land) it has to let them in.

In Britain and the US peoples's racist feelings tend to focus on people's colour. Over here there are many racial types, but it's nationality or religion that's focused on. Of course Arabs are seen as a racial group that are not identified with. What many people from outside Israel don't realise is that although there are the Palestinian sections which we hear about on the news, there are many areas within the main part of Israel that are populated almost entirely by Arabs. These are Israeli Arabs, but now because there's such tension between the Arab world and the Israeli's there's a perception by the Jewish Israelis that the Arab Israeli's have a conflict of identity and interest. The Arab Israelis are seen by the Jewish Israelis as a possible threat, a Trojan Horse in their midst. At the beginning of the present "Inta-fada" many previously quiet Arab townships broke into rioting, which up till then had not been seen.

Jaffa is an area just South of Tel-Aviv, it's a port where your oranges got stamped as they passed through it. Old Jaffa is an Arab town, and is mainly a tourist area now. During the call for a Jehad (holy war) just over a year ago, local Arab people in Jaffa rioted. The Jewish Israeli's responded over the next few months by boycotting the area, causing many of the local Arab businesses to go bust. This is one of the ways in which the Jewish Israeli's avenge Palestinian terrorist acts. By closing down the area's trade routes,communicatioon links, and financial veins it slowly tries to strangle the Palestinians into submission. So while Israel strikes surgically at known terrorists with precision weapons it's policy of "blockading" the Palestinians is less discriminating.

After the September 11th attack on the Twin Towers's and it's horrifically killed and damaged victims and survivors, Tony Blair made me laugh when he said that the Israeli problem had to be sorted out. I don't think he meant to sound so naive, but for me there's so much hate, fear and mistrust in this region at the moment that it would be a miracle if even a cease fire could successfully be put into place.

Two years ago the Israeli's offered a peace plan which went further than any had gone previously. Many Israeli's were against it, but Israel can force policy on it's citizens, so it was a serious offer. The Palestinians have not however been fighting all these years for peace, they want this region to no longer be run by Jews. For the last two thousand years this area has not been run by it's indigenous population, so neither Jew nor Arab can cite a recent ownership to the land, so instead both parties look to either religious policies on the matter or what other nations say.

The future for Israel is a waiting game. Even if in the meantime it completely segregates the Palestinans from the Israelis it may still have to wait hundreds of years for a change in attitude to occur on the Palestinian side (and that's probably being optomistic). Meanwhile the Palestinians (and possibly it's nearby allies) are waiting for a moment of weakness when maybe they can conquer Israel. At the moment Israel is a nuclear power, which probably does have the effect of keeping local Arab states at bay, but who knows what defence systems may become accessible to the Palestinians in the future which may tip the balance of power.

Three years ago I took a bus from Tel-Aviv to Eliat (a five hour journey), so I could go swimming with Dolphins. At one point the bus pulled up and took on board some Arab looking young men. A soldier sitting near me unclipped his pistol holster. It's an interesting feeling wondering whether you're just about to be caught in the cross fire of someone elses battle. Likewise if Israel or the Arab States ever decides in desperatioon to let off some nuclear weapons who knows what effect it could have on the rest of the world.

Something else happened on that bus trip. I had done my normal theft of food from the breakfast buffet at the hotel, and had used my loot to prepare a packed lunch for the journey. Smuggly I sat near the front of the bus munching away while other people had to buy food at expensive road side places. At our last stop off point I put a chocolate yoghurt carton between my thighs and started peeling off the lid, I glanced up for some reason and when I looked back down the whole carton had spilled between my legs. In shock I pretended nothing had happened, then someone asked me if i wanted to get up. I pressed my legs squelchingly together. And told them I was "ok thanks". Once the coach was empty I took off the only item of warm clothing I had with me and started to wipe up the mess. I was tempted to lick some of it up, but the thought of someone coming across a man with short arms and a brown stain on his trousers apparently eating a rather disgusting looking mess from his seat was even below my level of tolerance. Also the thought of the driver coming across the stain on the seat later on is almost unbearable to me still. Although this would be embarrassing to most people I think having a disability gives it an extra level of squirm because while I shouldn't take on other people's expectations (or lack of them) I do and cosequently I feel worse for failing in my competence. I think this is possibly a problem for a lot of people, which is a shame because life's hard enough without making it worse for ourselves.

It's 5am and I'm now listening to the Eagles' "Hotel California", so I think I better "Stop for the night".

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