Saturday 4 February 2017

My Month In Abu Dis: Mixed Beginnings

“Welcome to Israel”. The billboard that greets every excited passenger on disembarking the arriving flights into Ben Guirion airport. I can't help but think though, perhaps a more honest message would be appropriate. Maybe something like “get ready for your interrogation if you disagree with our government's actions”, for example. Although less catchy, and admittedly a bit confusing for a welcome sign, it would have people quite prepared for what I, and numerous other visitors to Israel and Palestine have had to experience. I take no pleasure in writing that I was detained for 5 hours. During this time I was subject to very harsh and strange questioning regarding events I still know nothing about, by a pair of security officers that I can safely say had perfected a bad cop, worse cop routine. A very unsettling highlight of the whole ordeal was when one of the officers gleefully discussed items from my notebook (used on a short visit last November, which was later taken from my luggage when leaving) and demanded an explanation. I was also threatened numerous times with deportation by the other officer unless I told her the 'truth' regarding the non existent, violent demonstrations that me and my friends were part of. .

Despite my travel plans being somewhat ruined by the staff at the airport, I made headway to my destination. Following my stressful arrival, I was so grateful for the warm welcome and help I received from ordinary Israelis and Palestinians. In contrast to the news reports regarding the increasing level of violence in the past months, I was struck by how relaxed and peaceful Tel Aiv, Jerusalem and the town was and ironically, felt more safe there than I ever have in Ben Guirion International, where there is what seems like a small army of security officers. As I write this now, sitting on the balcony of my accommodation in Abu Dis, perhaps the welcome sign at the airport can finally be appreciated.

Good morning from Abu Dis.

A quick pause for breakfast.

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