Thursday, 15 May 2008

Behind the wall

It took a year, but yesterday I finally did it.

Contrary to what I had been told by everyone, it's remarkably easy to get into the West Bank - a walk through the Old City to the Damascus Gate, hop on a bus and half an hour later, you're there. Certainly a lot cheaper, and more fun, than hiring a cab and driver, as I had been advised to do by more than one person.

Work took me there - I'd wrangled an invitation to Al-Quds University to report on something or the other happening there. I'm not going to say too much about it now - I actually need to sit down and file my report first - but a few off the cuff observations:

The student population seemed, from a very unscientific sample, to be at least 60% female. Possibly more.

The campus was very well appointed, in stark contradistinction to the general environment of Abu Dis which, without actually being poor - I've seen worse, much worse in England, the States and Nigeria - was rather run down.

Economic necessities dictate that there is far more interaction between the two populations, Jewish and Arabic, than one would expect. The garages, general stores and so on all had Hebrew script advertising their services, alongside standard Arabic.

The Judean Desert is beautiful. Stunningly so.

The Wall (ignoring the arbitrariness of its existence) is an ugly scar on the landscape. On the other side, it is generally disguised by foliage and greenery whenever it approaches a conurbation. No such attempt here, and why should there be?

More later...perhaps. At the end of the function, a bigwig approached me.

'You're a journalist, I hear. Who are you reporting for...a local newspaper?' He wasn't unfriendly, but there was something...

Nope, I replied. I'm freelance, and on duty for a magazine many many miles from this troubled land.

'Good. That's far away, not important to us here. We don't want this reported at all locally.' And he walked off.

Now, I'm not sure what he meant by local - Palestine? Israel? But either way, it's interesting, the overarching imperative to control news output, and the factors that drive this need.

I should say that the event, under normal circumstances, should have been a VERY BIG DEAL indeed. But I was the only journalist there.

This country is strange, sometimes.

On the theme of the wall, I'm about to start reading this. Mrs Goy read it a while ago in Hebrew, and recommended it. I'll let you know how it goes.


1 comment:

Dr M said...

I didn't actually read it, i want to. I read something else by the same writer.