Saturday, February 21, 2009

AIC and Border confusion in Bethlehem

The reason I went to Bethlehem last week (other than to see the Church of the Nativity) was to attend a "Cafe" put on by the Alternative Information Center (AIC). Two of the people in my program have their internships with the AIC, so they invited us all along for the event. Last week's topic was:

2009 Israeli Elections: Results, Meanings and Consequences

Michael (Mikado) Warschawski, Alternative Information Center

What are the results of the last week's national elections in Israel and what do they say about Israeli society in 2009?
What type of government is likely to be formed from the current coalition negotiations and what are its probable socio-economic policies?
And of course, what will this new government mean for possible peace negotiations with the Palestinians, an end to the Israeli occupation and regional stability?
The speaker, Mikado, is one of the co-founders of the AIC, which is a far left-wing (and often controversial) media organization. Mikado, an Israeli whose father was a rabbi, is a life-long radical activist for Palestinian rights and has gone to all sorts of extremes to pursue what he believes in, including being a political prisoner for 20 months in the 1980s. He is an extremely good speaker and his thoughts were fascinating. The results of the election were extraordinarily upsetting to him; he described it as the 'death of the left.' His feelings on the matter were summed up at the end when he told us that for the first time in his entire life, he realized that Israel is not a place where he wants his grandchildren to live, and that he had talked to his son that day about moving overseas. As for himself, however, he said he would never leave.

After the talk, we were all exhausted and very cold. We caught a cab back to the border with no problems and were directed to the terminal for security checks. When we walked into the terminal, however, we were met with ... nothing. Just a huge, vacuous space with locked down doors on all side, blaring flourescent lights - and... nothing. Not one other person was there, no guard, no people crossing, nothing (apparently the border closes to Palestinians at some point, though it is supposed to be open 24 hours - tourists are supposed to be able to cross at any time). To make matters worse, all of the doors were locked, so there was no way for us to get through. After about 5 minutes of confusion, I started yelling at the top of my lungs ... "SHALOOOOOOOM! HELLLLLO!" and a couple of minutes later, a voice came over the intercom and directed us to one of the gates. We were then able to show our passports and pass through...
However, on the other side of the terminal, it was no more alive. There were NO cabs, no taxis, no cars, no buses... nothing. Just an empty road leading back to Jerusalem. So we walked, in the dark, back up the road for a couple of kilometers until we finally got to an intersection where two cabs were able to pick us up.... and took us back to our apartments.


Jennifer said...

was it scary?

Victor said...

It sounds so. I suppose that you let the cab driver go (the one who drove you to the Church of the Nativity). Glad you found one on the way back.

I think people like Mikado are quite amazing. How one can completely see outside of his situation, rise above the perspective of his/her environment and view things from another vantage point is beyond me. It's utterly amazing in a world dominated by your own viewpoint especially when your world is saturated with other people who see the same thing. I would like to know how Mikado arrived at the life and perspective he holds.