Saturday, October 18, 2008


After an early start, we arrive in Tel Aviv and get our first taste of Israeli security; lots of questions ("just here to visit Holy Sites guv"), extensive processing, random interrogations etc.

Suspicions abound. Arab faces do not.

Once we're all through, we meet up with G&G and are introduced to our driver, A, and our guide for the week, W.

Our journey gets going, on our coach with yellow number plates. Here colour matters, it determines the roads you can travel on. In particular, without Israeli yellow plates the by-pass/settlers' roads of the Occupied Territories are forbidden, even crossing the road to get to your land is vigorously controlled.

As we head in-land, leaving the modern, relatively secular world of Tel Aviv behind, we enter the West Bank and, using the superior "settler" highway, we gain our first sight of the wall. Here, abutting the settler road, the wall is clad in blockwork to avoid undue offence to the Israeli eye. Its role however is clear and we witness our first glimpse of a small gaggle of Palestinians navigating a razor wire element in a bid to cross.

Our guide points out illegal Israeli settlements and devastated Palestinian villages a pattern that will become all too familiar in the course of our week.

And so to Bethlehem, where a sign declaring Peace and Love adorns the fortified concrete monstrosity and heavily armed checkpoint, that now engulf and control the 'little town'.

We just have time to sneak into the Church of the Nativity, before closing time and see the cave and spot where Jesus was born. Or, our guide states "maybe here or here", gesturing to random points within a few metre radius, acknowledging a degree of uncertainty.

"Or maybe somewhere else entirely" says the cynic within me.

Don’t tell Israeli immigration, but I’m not sure I’m going to take to this Holy Sites malarkey.

No comments: