Tuesday, July 22, 2008

What I did this Weekend, Part I

"Have a lot of Israelis been shot here?"

This was the question I asked each time the scenery changed—about once every five minutes. I was in a car, in the West Bank, traveling to a dinner with Gadi, one of the organizers of a group which brings together wounded Israelis and wounded Palestinians for dialogue. The dinner was being hosted by one of the Palestinian members of the group. For all that the group is dedicated to non-violent action, to say I was nervous was an understatement. All I know about Arab villages is from what I read in the papers, and the papers rarely report on anything all that positive. In particular, I had not gotten the impression from the papers that the concept of "non-violent action" was particularly popular on in the Arab sector.

In order to increase my chances of emerging from the experience alive, I asked Gadi for instructions as to how to dress. I have never been to an Arab village before, much less an Arab's home, and certainly not the home of a Muslim Arab. Muslim=Taliban=religious radicalism =repression=violence=vandalism=attacks on non-conformists. (Of course, certain Jewish communities would also fit in perfectly with this equation. But then, I do not go to those neighborhoods either. I am afraid of them too. ) But Gadi was not sure how to answer. "Perhaps I should dress the way I would to go to a potentially rock-throwing religious neighborhood?" He supposed that would be fine. Accordingly, I broke out the extreme modesty garb: a long flowing skirt paired with a loose, long sleeved blouse. In order to ensure that there was no cleavage, I wore a tank top under the blouse. It was only once we were on the road and I discovered that the dinner I thought was to take place in Bet Jala was actually taking place somewhere else far, far way, and rather deep in the territories that I realized that my demure and modest outfit was, in fact, really offensive. I was dressed like a settler chick. Given the context in which I (eventually) found myself: an Arab village smack dab in the middle of settlements with which it doubtless has less than warm relationships, I would have been better off showing up in a tankini. That way, I would immediately be identified as a clueless, harmless, left-wing nutcase in town to do a solidarity-building sunbathing session, as opposed to a right-wing nutcase off to terrorize the populace. Granted, the sight of me in a tankini might also cause damage, but all one must do in order to offset that is throw a towel over me.

(As it turned out, my concerns about the modesty issue were overdone. Later on that evening, X, a Christian Palestinian who works with the group laughed when I explained my outfit to her, and pointed to her own, trendy garb. All of the other women there were similarly well dressed. I was more conservatively dressed than any other woman there, with the exception of the lady of the house, and if I had brought a head scarf, I could have given her a run for her money.)

But this was later. First we had to get to our destination. In between answering phone calls from other participants, telling me that I would be fine, that our hosts were lovely, that the other members of the group were lovely and committed to peace and answering my incessant questions about how likely I was to be shot in any given location, Gadi provided a running commentary about the areas we were passing through. The city we were passing through—Beit Jala. The city in the distance—Beit Lechem. The white city on the left—the Har Homa neighborhood of Jerusalem. The big, ugly gray thing appearing to border Har Homa—the separation fence. The odd looking metal section of the wall bordering the road—an emergency entrance for tanks. The road we were on—only open to Israelis, residents of the various settlements in the shtachim.

Well, apart from the metal section, at least this wall was pretty, made up of bricks of various colors. I said so. Gadi told me to look at the other side. As we went up a hill, I could do just that. The other side was, indeed, ugly. Then something clicked. "Wait—isn’t this the road where they were shooting Israelis?" Gadi conceded that it is. I consider asking whether that is why there is a wall then, to keep people from being shot. I decided not to. My mental energies were now directed pretty obsessively to waiting for someone to pop out and shoot me. Besides, the answer was pretty obvious.

Unless it is not, and there is another reason. Which could also be the case. Who the hell knows what is true around here?


Anonymous said...

The wall along the tunnel road, as it is known, was started prior the separation fence, and was built because of the shootings. In the same way that there are cement barriers in Gilo because of rocket fire from Beit Jala.

So what was your final destination?

Anonymous said...


Jack Steiner said...


Andy Levy-Stevenson said...

From your description, it sounds like you were on Route 60, the "tunnel road".

That's certainly not "only open to Israelis" as you can easily see by all the PA licence plates that you see. Trucks, cabs, private cars, busses, NGO cars, UN cars and yes, Israeli cars all use that road.

Gila said...

Will clarify this. Perhaps I misunderstood him...

orieyenta said...

Wait a minute...I thought you were saving that "long flowing skirt paired with a loose, long sleeved blouse" for our trip to Kever Rachel. Hee hee.

So how did the dinner turn out? We can obviously see that you at least made it home!

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Anonymous said...

I am not scared but you should be kleine Maus. I don't mean a disabling fear but a realization of the dangerous situation you are in and a resolve to fight it.

Two choices. Lay down and die or fight.

Have you forgotten about "Never Again"? Where's your resolve here kleine maus?

I understand someone risking and even giving her life for her country, but if Gila would have been shot and died this last weekend, would it have been worth it?

If you are going to give up your life Gila please do it for something of value.

And I know you know better than I what I am talking about Gila.

Anonymous said...

"I was in a car, in the West Bank, traveling to a dinner with Gadi, one of the organizers of a group which brings together wounded Israelis and wounded Palestinians for dialogue."

I had always thought that you wouldn't allow yourself to be used politically like this, Gila.

But it seems that you saw beyond the propaganda to understand what Gadi was about. I hope now you realize that it wasn't worth your life to go there.

And you as much as anyone knows that sometimes it's not the other person it happens to. Most people don't realize that. They think they do, but they don't.

Anonymous said...

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.

The both of you are not in any way related to B'Tselem I suppose.


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RivkA with a capital A said...

There are no roads anywhere in Israel that are open only to Jews.

Conversly, there are roads that have big red signs on them, declaring that the roads are closed to Israelis - and by that, you can undestand it to mean "no Jews allowed", because Israeli Arabs are able to travel thse roads.

The wall on the road into the Gush was built following all the roadside shootings that made it life-threatening for residents of Efrat, Elazar, etc, to go home at night, or for guests to visit.

Want to know the "truth"? Ask anyone who has lived in Gush Etzion for over 15 years. Ask residents about how things changed -- like when they stopped shopping for groceries in Beit Lehem, because it became dangerous.

No one on the left talks about the co-existance that truly existed BEFORE. It might not have been perfect, but it was better than what we have today.

BEFORE, we travelled through Beit Lechem, through Ramallah, through Hevron WITHOUT guns. BEFORE, Jews could shop in those towns, visit medical professionals (yes, back then, Jews even went to Arab doctors and dentists in Arab towns).

If enough time passes, we will forget. But there are still plenty of people alive who remember.

I certainly do (and I'm not that old) -- but my kids don't.

Gila said...

Very quick comment here....

In respect to the various comments about Lisa Goldman, to those of you not familiar with her work, it can be sampled at http://lisagoldman.net/. Lisa made headlines here in August 2007 when she travelled to Lebanon to do a story on Lebanon-one year later.

A favor to ask of all of you comparing me to Lisa and portraying me as a wise, seasoned traveller and Lisa as a naive, blithering idiot: could you please get real?

You have got it backwards.

Lisa is a professional journalist. I have no doubt that she knows the area and the players far better than I do. She has been actively "into" the whole situation for years now. She interviews people--I suspect on both sides of the conflict. She goes places. She studies things. She writes.

All I have under my belt is 1) getting blown up and 2) occassionally (and I do mean ocassionally) scanning the online English Haaretz. I know four words of Arabic (water, expensive, no and thank you--I learned them travelling to Egypt 12 years ago) and have one Arab friend (a former co-worker). I know squat.

As for the argument that I realize the dangers...I cannot attest to what Lisa realizes or does not realize. I can tell you, based on a conversation with another professional journalist who 1) was himself seriously injured in a bombing and 2) likes war zones because of the risk...it could be that she is aware of the dangers but decides that her work is worth it. Maybe she enjoys the adventure?

You know...like all of the other journalists who report from combat zones. Because, again, that is what she is-a professional journalist.

Do I realize the dangers? Sure! I realize that it is dangerous to ride in cars because you might be in an accident (a fate far more likely than getting blown up). I still ride in cars? Does that make me foolhardy? Do you ride in cars? Does that make you foolhardy?

Please folks--you can bash me (within limits) but I do ask that you leave other bloggers alone, and in particular when the critiques are silly.

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Anonymous said...

It's always the other person until it isn't.

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Anonymous said...

There is a huge difference between your and my stupid.


Gila said...

Hi everyone... It has come to my attention that an annonymous someone has decided to use my blog as their newest anti-Lisa Goldman venom airing group.

This is not acceptable. I also find it troubling that the person chooses to hide behind an annonymous badge. Nu, if you believe it your views so much, why hide your face when you are expressing them?

I have deleted comments as I see appropriate and have enabled comment moderation. As you can see from the comments I left up...I do not ask that you agree with me, just that you be respectful, polite etc....

Andy Levy-Stevenson said...

Curious whether you were able to clarify the question about that road being open to Arab traffic or not?

Anonymous said...


Gila said:
>> Of course, certain Jewish
>> communities would also fit
>> in perfectly with this
>> equation. But then, I do not go
>> to those neighborhoods either.
>> I am afraid of them too.

You are more than welcome in our neighborhoods. Those "Jewish communites" are not what some people want you to think they are. Whatever you are being told by antisemitic Jews in the media and elsewhere, the last thing you should be afraid of in this world is us and our places.
You are more than welcome to try.