Sunday, October 19, 2008


Exiting through the Ethiopian monastery, we pass back out into the city and pause to regroup aside a strange building, topped with a room staffed by an armed guard (provided at tax payer expense).

The sight of such buildings is becoming familiar as 'settlers' (a term that is fast becoming unfitting, with it's cosy suggestions of wagons seeking out an uninhabited land) move into properties through a range of laws, policies and practices that actively and aggressively drive out non-Jewish families.

Alongside the reconsideration of terminology, the sight of the Israeli flag is swiftly also changing its meaning in my head. Diminishing are the innocent memories of Eurovision Song Contest entries of yore as the flag takes on a more malevolent meaning in the context of these settlements. Here the flag bearing the star of David, becomes almost sinister, aggressive, bullying.

Never a fan of seeing the St George's cross flown extensively in England (outside of major sporting events), I've always accepted that in other, less post-colonial countries patriotism through the flag is a slightly less problematic issue.

Here though, on these encroachments, a country's flag appears to be adopting all of the unhelpful colonising attributes.

On returning home, numerous people have asked me if I was scared at times. My honest answer has been that among Palestinians I never felt anything other than welcomed, safe and secure. I cannot say the same for our times in Israel and when interacting with Israeli security personnel. There's something about the posturing, that is imposing and intimidating, that speaks of force that goes beyond defence and into offence and domination.

Standing in the shadow of this building, I feel deeply uneasy, unsafe, threatened.

I find all this hard to reconcile with the feelings of the morning re an underlying understanding of the desire for a Jewish homeland.

I was ill-prepared to be so troubled with the pervasive nature of the occupation. I want to be able to say that the problems are primarily limited to the wrong-headed outworking of those in power (military occupation, the wall, discrimination under the law etc) and not the cognitive daily life of the average Israeli. What I'm finding is that the activity of occupation, the oppression of the Palestinian people goes much deeper into society. Sure a large number of citizens are no doubt ignorantly complicit, but a far higher number than I had anticipated, are seemingly actively engaged in the tangible expressions of oppression and occupation.

This morning I saw a people celebrating their freedom of expression, of religion, of ethnicity, of being. This afternoon I'm increasingly asking what cost has this been achieved at.

My head is awash with thought and counter-thought; my heart troubled by feeling and counter-feeling.

Good job we're on our way to St George's Anglican cathedral complex really; as we pass through the welcoming gateway I have to laugh at the orderly parking bays and rose bushes laid out in the courtyard. Outside may be a city of troubles and upheaval, but here is a little corner that will be forever Anglican.

Mind you the promised cuppa fails to appear.

Someone call Rowan and have a word eh?

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