Tuesday 19 June 2007

silent borders

19 June 2007

Please note that these field notes are babblings full of assumptions and biases from a strangers perspective of what I see going on around me. This is because my cultural identity influences my perceptions and it is impossible to remove them from my being. Thus, the reason for this project; is to allow the culture itself to be its own voice in what they see and feel regarding their surroundings. As I generate my own voice of what I see in my current surroundings. (A side note: it is scary to understand the ramification that can occur from a major media outlet that reports from there foreign perspective of current events. It can change the world over. Remember the colonization and the influence of foreign 3rd parties in the Rwanda conflict in 1992-1995…including the genocide that occurred in 1994. This is where the 3rd parties that were involved most likely had “other agendas” in mind, like increasing the coffee exports…because of possible foreign investments through foreign colonization and in turn would produce an increase of profit. This of course was at the expense of the local peasants who was at that time 95% of the population and highly illiterate. This is all 3rd party influence, pressure, greed filled with assumptions and cultural biases mainly through ignorance with the lack of understanding of the other culture.)

One cannot ignore the political sensitivities going on here while conducting research in a bubbling civil war inside Gaza and possibly boiling over into the West Bank, when every conversation entails a blurb about the situation weather you are talking to an Israeli, Palestinian or a foreigner.

I must be aware of any tense areas, keep up on the news and talk to people before I go out on another excursion. The news/media intensifies the tension here with hints of riots inside of Ramallah, when the reality is that 10 people were yelling at each other. The Hamas and the Fatah.

The atmosphere in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Ramallah is quite different than that of Gaza. The Palestinians here want to get on with their lives and are tired of the inner tensions between the two.

One cannot ignore the silent boundaries within Jerusalem, and cannot ignore when one crosses onto the other side. I notice when an Israeli is shopping in E. Jerusalem (The Arab side) on Salah A Din Street. I notice when I eat at a nice restaurant in the E. Side and the table next to me is speaking in Hebrew, complaining about the Arabic music that is playing inside. The owner turns off the music to please his Israeli customer.

The other day I went to have a slice of Pizza in E. Jerusalem a woman and a man were eating, one was Israeli and the other was Arab who was fluent in Hebrew. I could not help but to go over there (my journalistic personality) and ask them if they were uncomfortable being there. She said very strongly, “No, it is my right to be here, this is Israel and I am allowed to walk on these streets.” I asked again, but aren’t you scared? She said no, but some people are scared and will not come over here. I feel fine.

Of course at first she was a bit defensive with a foreigner perceived as a possible a pro-Palestinian NGO worker. But after a few minutes she clearly saw that I was interested in the unspoken diving line between West Jerusalem (the Israeli side) and E. Jerusalem.

The dividing line is sometimes marked by a Israeli Defense Force truck and a few soldiers standing outside of their truck holding their M-16’s stopping random cars on the street and stopping buses and asking the occupants to get out, stand against the wall and show their documents.

This occurs down the street of where I am staying and normally happens on Friday, Saturday and Sunday the mixed cultures holy days: Muslim, Jewish and Christians.

Today I went to the West side of Jerusalem to acclimate to the Hebrew before my next meeting with Givat Zev. The cultural difference on the outside is like night and day with modern shops, restaurants, and the street bubbling with people doing the same thing. There are clean parks and places to sit to visit with others and Israeli soldiers walking around protecting its citizens.
On the way back to my abode, after the bus dropped me off I was walking on Highway 1, a large major road that leads to the West Bank Settlements, turns off into Ramallah and other West Bank towns. There was a police car stopped on the side of the road, blocking a lane of traffic and two Israeli police standing outside of the car on the sidewalk. As I came closer, I noticed an Arab all crouched on his knees clenching his heart, talking in a pleading cry in Hebrew into his cell phone. The 25ish year old man was desperate. At first, I thought that the man was having a heart attack. But I had to stop and remind myself that I am in Israel, not in Italy.

I turned around and the image reminded me of an animal standing over its conquered prey. This is what was going on. The Palestinian was caught and the proud soldier was standing over him with his finger on the trigger of his gun. The cars kept driving by, as we walked by and the world keeps ticking along.

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