Thursday, May 8, 2008


I will be lazy here and post an excerpt of an email sent to a friend about Israel primarily:

"I will admit I had a bit of apprehension about going to the Middle East, given the political situation. I was worried for Lauren, not for me because he's the one who looks like the "enemy." Surprisingly he didn't get any flack really. You will have heard about the Muslim-American young student who had a difficult time at checkpoints (in Israel)? She and 3 other American students attending Cairo University were in Jerusalem, and we were together to visit Bethlehem. Now these kids entered Israel via land and didn't get their passports stamped; they got a piece of paper, which in the case of Sahara, had been taken away at some point, so she had no entry record. At the Bethlehem border there was a lot of excitement over this, with the young-woman-with-an-uzi checkpoint guard calling her superiors etc. After a lot of la-de-dah they allowed her/us to go to Bethlehem. We didn't have trouble returning to Jerusalem. But these young kids joined a Political Tour and we learned that they had difficulty returning to Jerusalem; their Palistinian tour guide had to travel far to another check point to get that kid back into Jerusalem.

When we were in the Old City during Passover (we lucked out) there were numerous military people with uzis; and there were the checkpoints on the way to Nazareth and Masada. The soldiers are so young, and at the checkpoints and at the airport security, there are many young women. They were arrogant and made little attempt to be polite - I guess this is what power does. In the Tel Aviv airport on our way out, someone cut in front of us and when Lauren asked about this, this woman said, "I'm security and I can do anything."

I kept thinking that there was a reversal of roles there, where the abused is now the abuser. The Palistinians are clearly second-class citizens and I can imagine that they must need to have their IDs and documents in strict order at all times, in case they are quizzed. We stayed in a Palistinian hotel and used a Palistinian tour agency; they were fine. The Palistinian tour guide was an angry man and he went on about the shelling that killed children.

Too many stories really. I'll try and blog them bit by bit.

So, yes, I enjoyed the visit to both Egypt and Israel. It was safer than I imagined, but in Egypt we were insulated; our group had an armed guard. The tourist sites were great. The political situation is disturbing. I think the US is now the modern day Romans

(more later)

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