Saturday, 6 January 2007
Side by Side: I wasn't born in Jerusalem
I’m back in Ben Gurion Airport, Tel Aviv, to continue my photography project with Palestinian and Israeli kids. Last time I tried to leave this country, I was interrogated for two and a half hours. They seemed particularly fascinated by my bag. “We can’t understand why you don’t have a bag with wheels…why doesn’t your bag have wheels?”
“Because I prefer to carry my bag.”
“So why do you have it on a trolly now?”
I just played along politely, without any of the smart answers running through my head. This time, I was given the interrogation on the way in. They seemed surprised that I hadn’t been questioned on the way in the first time I arrived only one month ago.
“You should have been questioned last time.”
Things have changed since last time. The place suddenly became more dangerous as the battle between Hamas and Fatah has spilled over from Gaza into the West Bank. I hear Faleh was shot not long ago.
“A friend was shot two days ago,” Khlaed explains. “Oh. You know him. Faleh.” I met him last time I was here. He works with Al-Tariq, the Palestinian institute for Development and Democracy, and is a committed peace activist. Not a new-age, soft, leftist peace activist you understand, but someone who has seen the horrors himself, been through the process of trying to make changes, and finally concluded that non-violent resistance and activism were the most powerful, and most effective tools. He was shot in the kneecaps – whoever it was that shot him wasn’t trying to kill him, just send a message. Now he was lying in hospital recovering.
I began to worry - not just for him but for myself. Khaled hadn’t told me earlier that he, as well as everyone else involved in this project, was active in Fatah. Now it seemed people like him were a target, and I often stayed in his flat.
That night, two of Khaled’s friends sit in front of an electric heater in his flat as he explains the story: (the short version) “We were all sitting around, it was late, maybe 2am. I said ‘let’s see the Saddam execution video’ so we looked online for the Saddam video. After a while, I got a call from Faleh. I immediately asking him ‘what’s wrong’ because his voice was very weak, but he just said ‘come over straight away’ so we dropped everything and drove straight there. When I pushed open the door at his house, I saw him lying on the floor in a pool of blood, like when they slaughter an animal. His kids and wife were there, looking at him, not knowing what to do. I tried bandaging him up, but eventually we had to go to hospital…[later] whoever it was, they knew exactly where he’d be, they knew his front door and what window he’d be standing at.”
Khaled and his friends then begin arguing the reasons behind the shooting, who they think was responsible. They each have their own theories: some say Hamas, some says another Fatah faction, some say Israeli undercover police. There are reasons for all of them, and each man had his own evidence. I tried listening, but could only imagine his family looking down at him, not knowing what to do. Faleh hoping his family was safe, maybe afraid of dying, maybe just afraid that his family was hurt. But they were looking down at him, the pool of blood expanding as they stood their, helpless, waiting for someone to show up. Outside the sound of a car speeding away.