Thursday, May 03, 2007

Stomach Flipping

As part of a story I'm working on, I needed to go to the West Bank. You know, the same West Bank where Palestinians live. Palestinians who don't care for Israelis all that much because ever since Israel began running "the neighborhood" in 1967, relations have been strained. Funny that.

But there was no way around going. I needed that colorful adjective-filled narrative only gotten "on location" for the article.

There were two issues at hand: 1) I'm an Israeli citizen so technically I'm not allowed to go into certain parts of the West Bank unless...2) I hold a press card - which I do. But it expired a few months ago. I haven't renewed it because I dread dealing with the government press office. But that's another story.

So I spoke with some contacts and "got around" the whole shebang. A Palestinian driver would meet me in a neutral area and take me to my destination: a small village outside Jericho.

I got to Jericho, made contact with my contact Mohammed and before you can say sahafeeya (Arabic: "Journalist") I was sitting in the front yard of a village home among eight males conducting my interview. All was good, polite and formal. They had no idea I hold Israeli citizenship. I was an "American journalist working on a magazine story."

Then things sorta changed. They were angry. And talking about the Israelis. And about the occupation. And the fact that hundreds of soldiers had descended upon the village a day prior searching house by house for someone hidden therein.

I got nervous. And thought nervous thoughts. About being female, American (probably global enemy #2 behind Israel), alone, in the company of males, the army search a day prior, the fact that they were harboring someone, the words spoken earlier that morning by an Israeli: That village? It's full of terrorists! You can't go there...

And then one of the men shook his finger in anger: "And we take one Israeli soldier and look what happens? What about the 11,000 Palestinian prisoners the Israelis are holding?" And my thoughts turned to Alan Johnston - still out there somewhere - and to ....oh all sorts of things, really. Oh shit. That's it. I'm doomed. Shit.

Cause, you know, they were pretty angry. And fed up. Things suck for them.

And so I talked... about the angle of my story... the fact that their situation is understood the world over...the fact that everyone else interviewed for the story agreed that they're in a terrible place...that the international community sees the grave nature of their plight...I appeased.

And the edge disappeared. And I was ashamed.

Yesterday in Tel Aviv I had coffee with an long-time friend who works for CBS. I told him the story. You went alone? I nodded. He didn't say anything.

Stupid, huh?
He nodded an affirmative.

You can't do that these days. It doesn't work anymore. Things have gotten too weird. This isn't 1995. The stakes are high.

Damn. And lucky me. Damn.

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