Tuesday, May 08, 2007


I have been here in Israel a month now and I'm leaving today. As I've promised myself that I wouldn't fly and with the infamous Israeli passport stamp travelling through the Middle East has become infinitely more problematic. My only solution as I saw it, without unnecessary backtracking, was by boat. Finding one here in Haifa was altogether less adventurous and far more easy than in Djibouti: I went to the port, who told me to try a travel agency, who gave me the name of a shipping company, and a short conversation and credit card transaction later I was the proud owner of a ticket by cargo ship to Piraeus, Greece. OK, so the process wasn't particularly glamorous, it's slightly more expensive than flying and it will take two and a half days to get there, but I'm stubborn and I decided to go by boat so I'll bloody well go by boat (plus it's a far more environmentally friendly way to travel than by air).

So, as my time here in the Promised Land (a.k.a. The Conflict Zone) is drawing to a close what are my thoughts? Well, first of all it would have been easier for my political views if the Israelis were all obnoxious, overbearing, conceited fascists. Unfortunately they are friendly, welcoming and hospitable people; and so too are the Palestinians. So what's causing the mess here and how can it be resolved? Well I'll be buggered if I know. But it seems to me that there is an irrational part to many people's minds when it comes to discussing the situation and that it has been festering for so long that people don't know what to do without it; it has become its own raison d'etre. I even met a Palestinian who stated that the Koran says this region will have continual violence and that there's no point in trying to stop it. Such fatalistic attitudes are not particularly helpful. I was, however, heartened to meet a great deal of Israelis who detest their own country's colonialist stance and would love to give back the Golan, the West Bank and Gaza for peace but there are too many interested parties on both sides to be able to reach some sort of consensus. (Actually, come to think of it, I didn't talk to a single religious Israeli, and if I hadn't seen all the yarmulkes and curly side-locks in Jerusalem and Hebron I would have thought the Jewish Israeli was just a myth.) Personally I think the opportunity was missed right at the start in 1948 when a single, federal state was proposed as a solution but rejected. Such a settlement may not have been perfectly harmonious, but it could hardly have been worse. A Palestinian state cut in two by another (not necessarily friendly) neighbour just isn't viable, especially given its small size. But who am I to judge, far cleverer people have spent years trying to resolve the Gordian knot that is Palestine and Israel, but there's just not getting over the twin irrationalities of nationalistic pride and religion to make any sensible solution possible.
To illustrate the point people from both sides they have no problems with people from the other, often saying that they even have Israeli/Arab friends. Often Israelis will even say they prefer Arabs, on a personal level, to Europeans. So when I was hitching in the desert I put on my keffiyeh to protect me from the harsh noon sun. I was standing for quite a while before I eventually got picked up by a kind couple. They saw that I was a foreign backpacker, but advised me not to wear the keffiyeh as people "might think I'm an Arab".

But enough of politics, from a purely touristy aspect there is a multitude of things to see here and despite the small size of the place I particularly enjoyed some of the natural highlights; and especially the verdant hills of the Golan (after the parched, open landscapes of the Middle East) have made me long for the greenery of Europe and certainly appreciate plain, simple grass more. So, Europe, here I come!


Kangaroo said...

*g* - you can do it, Erik - quite enjoyable and witty post.
What's your next destination then? Home???? Do not come to Europe - it's raining here!

Sabine from B. in G., sitting at her d.

Inihtar said...

Isn't it strange? So often, we think of the political situation somewhere and equate the government or leaders' position (and agression) with the common people they supposedly represent. So many times (I'd even go as far as to say in a majority of cases) that's not the case.