AN ISRAEL-PALESTINE DIARY
(April 29th 2003)
by Rory McLeod
Do you know anyone in Israel? Who invited you? Where will you be staying?
Have you met these people before? I experienced the most thorough search
of my baggage, belongings I've ever had, sifting, scanning with the metal
detecting rod, inside-out, every bit of navel fluff, coin, harmonica,
razor blades. Even my emptied bags were X-rayed.
Why so many Spoons?" I was asked. Eventually 2 hours later, they
had separated my belongings in boxes. I had waited patiently, it was
an experience in itself, and I was in no hurry. I even thought they might
find something I'd lost. I had been invited to play at the Jacobs Ladder
Folk Festival’. (I was only visiting for eight days, my shortest
visit anywhere as my partner and I were expecting a second child in June
and it might decide to come early.)
All this careful security is so extreme, but I am content to go along
with it for obvious reasons of security, considering the Iraq war, and
the continuing war with the Palestinians and colonial occupation of Palestinian
lands. The fear is palpable in the way they have to search my bags like
this, for fear and terror of bomb. We all share this fear. So I watch
them empty every pocket, bag, I'm existentially interested, relaxed as
I watch them pick and pull out things I'd packed carefully. I've nothing
to hide. But they don't know this. And of course someone could have tricked
me into taking something in my bag. And of course someone may have planted
something in my bags.
Has any of your equipment been repaired recently?" I was asked.
Gloves were worn to prevent infection both ways so I sat there, behind
the curtains, again I was asked "Do you know anyone in Israel, who
invited you, when? Have you been before, where are you going to stay?
(I had been written to by the Jacobs Ladder Folk Festival’ organizers
in reply to a letter I’d written to them, and they had respectfully
written and asked me, or advised me, not to say I was going to ‘Palestine’ but
to Israel. That would get me in trouble and make my entry more difficult.
Letter reproduced below):
“March 17, 2003
I am sitting here just waiting for this senseless war to begin, hoping
it will be over soon, with few casualties, and praying that Israel will
not be involved.
There are a few things that I have to say, before you come here, that
must be understood and agreed upon. Please forgive me if these things
go without saying, do not apply to you, or are preposterous- but they
must be said.
I know from what I have read about you, and what I see on your website,
that you are politically aware, outspoken and involved.
Terrible and tragic things have happened between the Palestinians and
us, and continue to happen. These acts and this situation are things
that the decent citizens of Israel are struggling to end.
Jacob's Ladder provides a haven of peace. People come to the festival
specifically to get away, for one weekend, from all politics and reminders
of war and tragedy. Most of the people at the festival will have been
close to someone killed or injured in wars, bomb blasts, or terrorist
acts of one form or another. There will be both Arabs and Jews among
the audience- relaxing and enjoying peaceful moments together.
We keep politics and controversy out of the festival- we want people
to be able to promote the goodness in life, and to overcome differences.
I am sure, that as a mature man, and as a professional performer, this
will be obvious to you, and that you will respect it.”
We require that no political statements concerning Israel & Palestine
be made on stage. This must also apply to your performance at the Tzora
Folk Club, where people will get a pre-festival impression of you.
I am sure that you will travel, meet people, view what is going on and
have free discussions with people-I hope that you will see that there
are people of vision here working towards a decent future for Israel
and all of the peoples of the region. I look forward to reading your
road diaries of your trip to Israel.
You are of course entitled to your views, and we respect you, and your
right to have them
We feel very privileged that you are coming here, and we, and many, many
people look forward to meeting you.
Looking forward to your response,
Menachem & Yehudit Vinegrad”
Aren't you scared to come to Israel?
The El Al Israel security personnel asked me
I replied my wife was scared for me.
" You'll have to leave your radio, what's this?"
It was my guitar microphone-pick up, and Guitar tuner.
" You can't take this, we must keep it. You'll have to leave it."
I need these tools." I told them. I offered to show them how they worked
but they had no guitar amplifier to demonstrate. We can't let these go on this
plane we have no way of activating our electronic monitoring equipment on this
I made them promise to send these things on to me. I finally boarded the plane.
After a 5-6 hour flight full of Ultra Orthodox Jewish
men wearing Homburgs and black coats and most were bearded and wore
thick lenses, in their
spectacles, from reading the Torah every minute of the day, week and
year, I suspected. There were secular Jews on board too and other groups.
Kosher food was served on the plane, choices: vegetarian, Chicken or
fish or ‘veg-aquarian’ etc.....
Lynn and Liron were at Tel Aviv to pick me up at the airport after I'd
had to queue to report my 'lost' pick up and tuner etc' To make sure
it would definitely be sent to me.
Finally I got through.
I was relieved and happy to meet Lynn and his youngest son Liron, who
were to be my hosts for the next few days. It was dark now and not as
humid and hot as I expected the climate to be.
We drove to Kibbutz Tzora 40 minutes away.
Lynn and Judy moved here in 1978-9 from North London, Kids two sons Dan
and Liron, Daughter Debby and a granddaughter and son in-law. Judy’s
parents also now lived here on the Kibbutz.
I was put up in a spare flat, two blocks away, the owners had gone to
Russia for a while so this apartment had become a guest place, It looked
fine, basic, bare but that's all I needed. I had a single bed, a TV,
Fridge with some milk cheese and juice, kettle, cereal, shower and toilet
Next day I was taken to eat lunch in the Kibbutz dining
hall. Judy and Lynn had stopped eating here nowadays and now preferred
to cook and eat
at home, but they had wanted to show me where 800 people live and eat
together. Judy and Lynn didn’t know the new arrivals anymore there
were many new faces.
Judy showed me the laundry she worked in where folks at the kibbutz brought
their clothes; numbers sewn into clothes identified the owners. Small
individual and numbered filter-holed bags would contain the white underwear
and small pieces and were washed together in the bags.
Huge industrial washing machines spun and washed the clothes, rotary
ironers could press sheets in one go, workers had to be fast. They also
took laundry from outside the Kibbutz to provide a service and earn money.
Judy told me that if younger kids want to leave the Kibbutz, they have
until they are 28? to decide then they must go through an audition to
stay after that. If people want to come to live on the Kibbutz they must
have a 3? year trial period. “You might be able to pretend you
are ‘nice’ after a year or two, but three years, that wouldn’t
be so easy to pretend or put on an act.”
I was to play an informal spot at the folk club Wednesday night between
Lynn was a Bluegrass Guitar and mandolin player and old time music fan.
He and Judy sang together and also organised the folk club.
'Thank you for coming to Israel." I was told many times. It was
like visiting a prisoner in a way. Not many people would come these days,
because of the 'troubles', and I hadn't ever wanted to come to a country
that, I believed, practices apartheid. I had decided to come to see for
myself and to try to come without any bias or preconceptions, but that
was going to be difficult, over the years I had watched the news, see
reports, and read a little about the history of Zionism. I knew there
were Jews against Zionism. In my head I thought it was a Rich mans club,
a kind of expatriate’s colonial club, that poor Jews were brought
in from Russia or wherever, to maintain this tiered system based on stealing
land from Palestinians.
All kibbutzim are different, Judy explained there were communist ones,
Tzora, she said, was middle of the road and secular, others can be ultra
orthodox. The members at Tzora now had to work outside the kibbutz, to
bring money in and they also had to survive in a market economy, trading
with the outside. Tzora designed and made furniture made from tubular
steel, it also claimed to run one of the biggest dairies, and produced
wine from, relatively, young vineyards about 30 years old. The Kibbutz
would share a commonwealth and used to eat together more.
I tried to work out how the Kibbutz socialism would work; as I didn't
believe the founders of the Jewish state were actually apostles of Socialism.
The state of Israel’s foreign policy is not directed towards the
extension of a socialist system. I was trying to work out these contradictions
but didn’t think I'd have time.
I ended up singing to a good crowd in the folk club, an interview-article
in the Jerusalem Post helped to bring folks in. (See Interview*)
I met an American Jew who had been here since 1948 from Chicago, and
one who had traveled through Iran and Afghanistan and who spoke a little
Farsi. I met Jews from Iraq, Australia, S. Africa, and Swansea in Wales.
Judy and Lynn sang, and then it was Ray and Joanne Scudero. Then I sang 8-9
songs; some kids were also there so that made me more playful than usual.
Then Sandy Cash sang some songs; some humorous songs, learned from Cathy Fink
and Marcie Marxer, two American singers.
Sandy was a science writer journalist. She had invited me around next day for
Lunch with Buddy, her Husband, and her 3 kids. She wanted to hear my stories.
We ate Pasta and talked about descendants, customs, and work. I played a tune
for the kids.
Buddy told me he worked as an ITT technician, who helped design anti missile
defense systems for planes F11 that basically jammed the missiles radar, He
was also now a colonel of his garrison that patrolled the settlement areas
in West Bank. He liked his job as, working for the government meant he had
Sandy explained that she had changed over the years from being a liberal Jew
to more conservative, also politically. She wouldn't come to sing at the festival
because it fell on Shabbat, her religious observance was, she said, affected
by what others in her community might say, they might think less of her. I
had asked her, like I'd asked other Jews I met, if she had friends who were
She said no, she didn’t, but once, she told me, she had left work or
school by car once and saw someone hitching; she automatically stopped to give
the man a lift, and suddenly realized that the man was an Arab, if she had
known she wouldn't have stopped. Now she didn’t want to tell him that
she wouldn't give him a lift because of this, so she let him in her car and
she drove him. He thanked her. He had invited her and her family to eat with
his family in his house, she told me that she thought about it very much and
discussed it with her husband. They decided they wouldn't accept the man’s
invitation, it might be a trap of some sort or they might get hurt. Because "You
never know." "I know it's a shame she said but it could have been
This, I thought, was a very sad state of affairs this kind of fear perpetuates
the gap, the ignorance, alienation and segregation that seems to exist here
between Arabs and Jews. So that no personal relationships developed. Both sides
are demonized. State Terrorism works in keeping people apart.
It's not exactly divide and rule, but keep a war going, like the cold war used
to be used to create patriotism, make people believe that there is an enemy.
That every Arab is an enemy, or every Jew is an enemy. Keep people scared,
they're easier to control that way. It can't really be like this, can it?
Danny told me he had also worked with an Arab in catering but said that there
was not much they had in common to make them friends. There was an unspoken
difference of sides.
And history too." I said." Trust wasn't there."
Menachem, organizer of ‘Jacobs Ladder Folk Festival’, replied to
me in E-mail, after I showed him these diary notes (I was asking him if my
spelling was correct and also if I had misrepresented anyone here or got my
histories wrong) Menachem wrote:
I believe that there are many Israelis who have Arab friends and acquaintances,
you just didn't meet them. (Although the first group which played on Friday
afternoon on the big stage at ‘Jacobs Ladder Folk Festival’, was
made up of Arabs and Jews who get on very well together indeed.) I also believe
that there were many, many more, before the bombings and stabbings began.”
This is true. I didn't really meet any Arabs while I was there except in the
souks-markets in the Old fortified town of Jerusalem selling jewellery, Halal
meat, carpets, trinkets for tourists, instruments. The Tourist business was
badly depressed; tourists were not coming to Israel. Because of the danger,
violence, killings, and bombing, but also I think, some travelers would not
visit because Zionist Israel is considered to be a militaristic Colonial, Western
state and oppressor of Palestinians in the rest of the worlds eyes and conscience.
The emigrational route for millions of birds crosses Israel, many rest
here on their way North from Africa in the spring. Danny and I walked
to the top of the hill behind the Kibbutz; we sat talking by a fire we
made to boil water for tea. Looking down and across, Danny pointed out
a monastery, on land owned by the Vatican.
Israel’s poisonous snakes include the viper. The flat tailed eagle
I saw hovering above the hills, catch and eat vipers somehow I found
Danny told me, he had studied drama and acting at a college in Jerusalem
and that unlike his brother Liron, he had avoided conscription into the
army after his travels abroad, he told me that his psychological state
wasn’t as stable as the Army might need. He and the army would
have been incompatible. The army wouldn’t take him, he was glad.
Going to drink tea one night on Tzora with some kibbutzim friends of
Danny’s friend, Uriel, a bearded young man with a few dogs he’s
rescued, was born on the Kibbutz, he, Danny and another friend, Sean,
and Uriels wife and lively, active baby, sat around a small fire where
they had cooked and eaten dinner, I was offered tea to drink, a couple
of guitars were available for strumming, Danny was whittling away on
one. I was given one and sang a couple of songs to the wee baby. We talked
about Dog breeding, Scotland and its standing stones and archeology.
Uriel explained that in the Hebrew Bible, the words written in there,
as passed down from Moses in the Torah, were like the sacred Stonehenge
stones for the Jews, but as they had always had to travel, escape, flee
in some kind of exodus etc so the sacred words were always taken with
them, studied and memorized and kept alive by singing or uttering them.
To the Jews, these words were like their monumental archaeological stones,
but more portable! This was a slight revelation to me and explained the
reason as to why the Hebrew was so important. But before 1948 Hebrew
had never really been a spoken language, but a written one only, Hebrew
had become a dead language some centuries before the Christian era. It
had been preserved as an erudite ‘holy’ tongue to some extent
as a literary language among the Jewish communities and was resuscitated
in the 2oth century by Eliezar Ben Yehuda to serve as a living tongue,
common to Jews of all origins called to colonize Palestine. Apparently
a great majority of Zionists did not know this Semitic tongue, neo Hebrew,
when they first set foot on Palestinian soil, although they were shortly
to learn it.
All this made me realize that newcomers were of a different world to
the local population they were Europeans and they came from that world
which was everywhere known as the world of the colonizers, of people
who dominated their neighbors by their technical and military power and
by their wealth. That they might have been the poorest and most underprivileged
from that world didn’t matter, they were of it.
The only ones in whom the difference was not so marked were the Oriental
or Orientalized Jews, who already lived in Palestine. These Jewish Arabs
were assimilated by the Western Jews eventually. Even their Hebrew changed.
The Yemeni Jews, who pronounced Hebrew with its ancient consonants, which
appear in the written language and are preserved in their Arab vernacular,
had to make a big effort, in Israel, to lose these ‘Bad Habits’.
And learning to re-pronounce Hebrew in the manner of the European Jews,
i.e. leaving out consonants, which the Europeans had forgotten how to
pronounce for 20 centuries, confusing others, etc. and so moving away
from the Standard of Hebrew once spoken in Palestine in Ancient times
and away from the Semitic model, which they had partially preserved.
I asked Uriel if Hebrew was expressive enough to use in modern day. As
in English, we have enriched the language as we have borrowed words i.e.
from Latin (the bible) for abstract concepts, borrowed Saxon words, which
were mostly ‘active-doing’ words, Norman-French etc. Shakespeare
even invented words. Words are invented or borrowed all the time.
Uriel said there was some committee that decided which words would be
ok to use in Hebrew.
There are Israelis unhappy with the economic system of the present Israeli
Government. When I talked about our Welfare System and sang I had a response
from folks who wanted to talk about their own Governments lack of Welfare
and care. Their treasurer carried out Thatcherite policies.
Even with Israel’s parliamentary institutions, this doesn’t
mean that the will of the majority of the population and its interests
to prevail over the wishes of small but economically powerful pressure groups.
Democratic institutions are the enemy of economic development.
Driving North to Galilee towards Golan Heights, past
the thin strip of coastal land that Israel owns now, hemmed in by Arab
We take a new stretch of Motorway that hasn't been finished yet, and
have to leave it and find the old route again, it's crucial for Michael
not to get us lost if we took a wrong turning through an Arab town, I’m
told, we could be stoned or stopped and lynched.
It was pointed out to me by Danny, as we drove up to Galilee, that the
buildings erected by Israelis were more imposing than the homes in Arab
villages that were more organically blended into the hillsides without
destroying the skylines. As if Israeli tower blocks were quickly built
on land that was hurriedly taken?
It seemed to me that some of the European-Western immigrants had not
adapted to the climate yet, air-conditioning was used, but some seemed
to suffer becoming hot and bothered, no siestas were taken in the afternoons
yet. As that old song goes. “Only Mad dogs and Englishmen….
go out in the mid day sun…"
We passed a few prisons on the way, also fields of dark irises, purple
Rain hadn't filled the Sea (Lake) of Galilee for some time and it had
been very low and muddy because of Drought. But recently more than enough
rain had fallen and filled the lake again. On the other side of that
lake was The Golan heights- ex Syria, Jordan was not far away, in fact,
I was told later by Menachem that; Israel, Jordan and Syria meet just
East of The Sea of Galilee.
I swam in the lake of Galilee, amongst the algae and plant vegetation
brought by recent rains. But it was still not thick enough for me to
walk on the water. as Jesus had done a thousand years before!
Young people acted as security and guards at gates and
inside the Kibbutz Ginosar here and there, I'd see one or two now and
then carrying a rifle.
The ‘reality’ seeping like ‘trouble’ into 'paradise.'
This was a holiday resort where the Jacobs Ladder Folk festival was being
held this year.
Locked gates and a sentry protect all Kibbutzim.
Banks cafes and restaurants also have security guards. People are searched
and bags on their way into public buildings.
In Jerusalem Marc took Judy’s American and non-Jewish
friend Jane and I too see the tourists sights.
In Jerusalem, for new buildings to blend in with the old, this includes
the gravestones, Jerusalem stone must be used to build new houses.
At the Wailing Wall I must wear sleeves and cover my head. I used my
handkerchief. But I eventually borrowed a cap when I passed through.
A fence separates men and women worshippers.
I was asked by an attendant there if I was Jewish.
I was tempted to joke and repeat his question. “Am I a Jew?” Then
I stopped myself. (Was my humour ‘psycho-Semitic’!)?
I've never been asked this question, I am Jewish by blood through my
mum and Grandparents, but not by faith, but I answered. “Yes”.
Thinking If I did not I would not get to be close to the wall. I had
heard that people slipped pieces of folded prayers or notes into the
crevices of the bricks in the wall. (Like a Christmas list for Santa
Clause, I wondered)
The attendant tied and wound a thin black leather string thong from my
left bicep, closest to my heart, down to my hands and around my fingers
weaving in between and then around a small black box, called a teffillin,
(Tefillin is reminiscent of the word tefillah which means prayer) that
wound bound to the back of my left hand. the other Tefillin, known as
Shel Rosh is placed on my head. The quadrangular capsules of the teffillin
are made of the skins of animals described in the Torah as clean and
fit for Jewish food. There are four biblical passages that are inserted
into Tefillin, Shel Rosh and Shel Yad that stress the duty of loving
and serving G-d with all our being.
I was given a prayer in English to read. But also had to recite a prayer
in Hebrew, following the Jewish man who dictated the prayer to me to
repeat each phrase at the gate. I felt like I was learning a password
to get me to the wall.
I asked the Orthodox Jewish man where he was from. The man replied he
was from Baltimore USA. I told him I was from Scotland and he said he
would look for a Scottish Rabbi for me in my town in a heavy big black
bound directory he had there. But he didn't find one.
I walked towards the wall. This was the last remaining wall of a holy
temple that had been destroyed.
I went up to find a space at the wall, between other pilgrim-worshippers
who were uttering, muttering, canting and reciting there, and I sat down
in a chair, I touched the old stones and read the prayer slowly aloud
to feel what it was like and to feel what the prayer was saying. The
only part I remember was the words. "Love your fellow man as yourself" There
were bits of tightly folded up paper inserted into the wall.
I wanted to walk up the Mount of Olives.
Marc, my Jewish guide (He worked as a Nurse in Hospitals’ emergency
dept and was a bass player and instrument collector) tells me that you
could be stabbed if you took the wrong turning up around the Mount of
Olives. Best to look like a tourist.
I was considering buying and wearing an Arab headdress, my friends didn't
think it was a good idea, considering how Israelis would feel towards
Some argue that the Arabs took the country by conquest in the 7th Century
and are occupiers like any others the Romans, Crusaders, and the Turks.
The Palestinian population soon became arabized under Arab domination,
just as earlier it had been Hebraicized, Aramaicized, to some degree
even Hellenized. It became arabized in a way that it was never to become
Latinized or Ottomanized. The invaded melted with the invaders. It’s
ridiculous to call the English living in England of today invaders or
occupiers, on the grounds that the Angles, Saxons and Jutes in the 5th
and 6th Centuries conquered England from Celtic peoples. The population
was ‘Anglicised and nobody suggests that the peoples which have
more or less preserved the Celtic Tongues- The Irish, the Welsh or The
Bretons- should be regarded as the true natives of Kent or Suffolk, with
greater titles to these territories than the English who live in those
(Though I’m sure many could find a way of justifying such a claim.)
I’m reminded the Australian Aboriginal man who at the time of the
Australian Centennial Celebrations, rowed in a small boat, towards the
English coastline onto an English beach and symbolically stuck an Aborigine
flag in the ground and said he had discovered Britain. Asserting that
Britain had never existed until he had discovered the British Isles)
which is exactly what happened to Australian aborigines by the English
ruling classes, James Cook and his gang.)
The Arabs imposed themselves by force and the native population gave
little resistance, and then allowed itself to be assimilated by its conquerors.
But this native population was already subject to foreign rule, and merely
changed masters. Similarly when the Jewish colonization first started,
the Palestinians were subjects of the Ottoman Empire, which was dominated
by the Turks. Why not accept the new domination, which might, as in earlier
times, have been followed by assimilation?
This might have happened were it to have taken place some centuries earlier
but the Zionists were unlucky. The conscience of the world has developed
and no longer accepted the rights of conquest, or accepted it more reluctantly.
People are no longer willing to accept conquest and will fight to preserve
their identity and to keep or to win back their independence.
It seems to the Palestinians a flagrant injustice that an exception should
be made of them on the sole grounds that the colonist were Jews.
The Arab world has frequently accepted foreign settlement on its territory,
witness the example of the Armenians, fleeing from Turkish persecution in 1920,
who came and settled in the Arab countries. There has been no hostility toward
them comparable with that felt towards Zionist immigration because the Armenians
had no intention of constructing an Armenian state in territory populated by
Arabs. Similarly no opposition to Jewish settlement existed until Jewish immigration
took on its Zionist aspect, Arab opposition occurred the moment here was an
intention to detach Palestinian territory from the Arab world. The Arabs weren’t
rejecting the foreigners as such, they were rejecting the foreign occupation
of their territory- whether we (Jews) choose to classify this phenomenon as
colonialism or not.
For many years the Zionists had no more implacable enemies than the Jewish
The sufferings of the Jews might justify the aspirations felt by some Jews
to form an independent state. But the Arabs can’t be made to see this
as sufficient reason why such a state should be formed at their expense. To
stretch a point the collective guilt of the Germans might be invoked to justify
Czech re-occupation of the Sudetenland and the amputation of German territory
to the East in favor of Poland. If Europe felt responsibility for the Jews,
shouldn’t it have been up to them to provide them with a territory? Not
to make the Arabs give up some of theirs? These are some of the questions I
would ask Ariel Sharon if I met him.
Many folks have come to live here from USA, France, UK, Morocco, Jews
from Japan, Australia, Iraq living here sheltered with a fence around
and a fear, that any time, they might be bombed so for this reason they
cannot be friends with an Arab.
I wondered if the number of Jews remaining outside Israel is much greater
than the number, which has ‘returned’?
Judy told me angrily that Arab kids are brought up hating and are used in the
front line as a shield, to throw stones so that when they are shot news reel
shows them as innocent victims of Israel violence, that Israel is cruel. I
forgot to ask her how she knows this and where she got the information
It seems that Zionism has led to Anti Zionism, which has then resulted in anti
Semitism. I don’t think the conflict can be reduced to just another manifestation
of Anti Semitism. The attribution of an evil and diabolical ‘essence’ to
Jews of every kind throughout the ages is of course morally and scientifically
indefensible and must be fought. This doesn’t mean that every Jew or
group of Jews is automatically protected by taboo.
Everyone must be judge according to their merits or their faults. All actions
weighed according to their own true value. If these actions harm, individuals
or groups, those groups should be allowed to defend their position, rights
etc. without being denounced as exponents of a doctrine, anti Semitism, which
is repugnant in itself. Any other view would entail that every Jew or group
of Jews can, by definition, only desire and do good, or else that none of their
ideas or actions must be criticized. Obviously both attitudes are wholly unacceptable
both rationally and ethically.
It’s true that every action or word directed against the Jews, even though
justified, may lead to generalizations which fall within the category of anti
Semitism, every war throughout history has led to abusive generalizations directed
against the nature and very essence of the opponent Demonizing, war racialism.
Problems are created by the fact that the Zionists proclaim that Zionism is
the natural outcome of all Jewish History, something that belongs to the very
essence of Judaism and to which all the world’s Jews owe allegiance.
This must contribute towards turning the Arabs’ anti Zionism into anti
This ‘anti Semitism’ isn’t the same as European anti-Semitism
which was founded on mythical grievances and criticism of Jews such as their
over attachment to certain professions and the character trait said to result
from it, this is only because Christian society had imposed certain professions
on the Jews. By contrast in the case of the Arab-Israeli conflict the first
move was a gratuitous act on the part of a group of Jews, namely the project
of Zionism. However much one might wish to justify this project, it certainly
can’t be claimed that it was imposed by Arab society!
The Moslem faith is certainly hostile to Judaism, but rather less than
is Christianity. It allows Judaism some degree of validity, and with
few exceptions has not attempted to convert the Jews by force. Many Jews
fleeing from Christian persecution have found a refuge in the territory
of Islam. Centuries Before Jews were a minority, defeated and subject
community living among a Muslim majority, which held power. Like the
Christians who shared their status, they were forced into a position
of humility and therefore despised.
The ‘Pan Arabism’ is questioned. And Zionists might argue
that every Arab country should defend its own interests only, the legitimacy
of feelings of solidarity among Arabs is contested by those who declare
that it is a duty of all Jews to stand behind Israel. There have been
ties of common history for many centuries since the Arabs have lived
in collective groups with significant national characteristics. By contrast,
the ties between Jews were very much weaker; they didn’t even have
a common language, the minimum requirement for community of culture.
The Arabs of Iraq must be reproached and condemned for the recurrent
oppressive policy towards the Kurds; the Arabs of North Sudan must be
criticized for their policy towards the blacks of the South. These aren’t
symptoms of Pan Arabism though, no grand schemes for the subjugation
of Non Arab countries by the Arab states acting in concert.
I was browsing a history book in somebody’s house and read that
Jewish zealots in King Herod’s kingdom against the Roman colonists
committed suicide acts of war as Arabs are now doing. Not that this justifies
at all what happened a few days ago in Tel Aviv. It just struck a note!
Also read in that book, that Hadrian was also in Israel with his Garrison
back then. Busy man!
Turkey is one of Israel’s only friends in the middle east, yet
their friendship is an embarrassing contradiction, Marc told me that
there were Armenian Jewish community in Jerusalem, they are petitioning
their own Israeli government and protesting against the Turkish governments
genocide and killing of Armenians.
I'm told after asking that if you have a Jewish Grandparent then you
be entitled to become a citizen and to immigrate to Israel. This must
be the way they have tried to outnumber and so outvote the Arabs living
here, (like the Han Chinese in Tibet)
I am a Jew, according to Jewish Law, though I've never practiced Judaism,
read the bible very much or had a bar mitzvah. I am a Jew by birth; it's
a strange feeling having a birthright to a country, like a throne, because
of whom and what my mother is, to have that choice to claim that birthright
to me feels undemocratic and unwholesome.
When I was very young, I remember my dad refusing to stand up for the
queen and for the State of Israel when we were guests at family weddings
or Bar mitzvahs. The only time I really saw my many relatives, apart
from my Grandma and pa.
I am schizoid in the fact that my dad is an atheist socialist and my
mums family are Russian Jewish, even though my mum never followed the
faith and stopped believing in a god, She told me, it was after the Harrow
Wealdstone train crash, where friends and fellow workers from the factory
she worked were killed.) "There can't be a God, a God wouldn't have
There are racists on all sides. I’ll always remember the time I
was with my Gran and we met and heard a racist Jewish woman talking about "Blacks
this.” and “ Schwartzers…that…" in a hostile
and racist way. My Russian Jewish Grandma told her off for being so prejudiced.
She was a bad tempered kind of a woman. I found this so strange, it was
very unusual, knowing that my mum herself, had experienced anti-Semitism
at school, from some kids and a particular teacher. I wonder what it
was that made that woman racist against black people.
The cultural colonization from USA is noticeable, like many other countries,
and I suppose I arrived with my pre conceptions and anti imperialist,
anti USA Government beliefs.
I sang, among other songs I’d made, ‘God Loves me’ and ‘What
would Jesus do?’ They were popular among the crowd I sang for in
my Storytelling workshop at the festival. The song I sang about a white
supremacist, Christian fundamentalist, could have been about Jewish fundamentalists
too. I didn't meet any Jewish fascists or fundamentalists (that I know
There was no racism or obvious Zionist platform here, the bombing of a Folk
blues club in Tel Aviv was naturally condemned friends of the festival had
been killed and injured. I had been asked not to mention the Arab Israel conflict
on Stage. But I did mention US aggression and Christian fundamentalism.
I met decent folks who were brought together by folk music, Irish, Anglo, Scottish
Country music, it was an Anglo festival, those who understood my accent and
my words, were very appreciative.
It was a secular crowd some Israelis, and some who were second-generation kids
brought up here speaking Hebrew and English. I heard Israelis playing Irish
I heard someone say that they 'as Jews', felt a kinship with the Irish. I'm
assuming they met the way the Irish have been immigrants and often unwelcomed
guests. Rather than the way the Irish had been colonised and murdered by the
English in their country. . Ironically some Irish republicans I'd met in the
past in Ireland felt kinship and solidarity with the Palestinians and the PLO.
Menachem, the Jacob's Ladder Folk
festival director, was born in Hull and brought up in Leeds, He told me how
he felt very connected to The British songs and singing of North Yorkshire,
sung by folks like the Watersons, he explained that he knows these songs even
if he doesn't know the names, they're part of his childhood, memory.
On my last night, I spent it at a house in Jerusalem; it was a farewell and
post-festival party. It was Cyrelles soiree. Cyrelle is a Beautiful American
born New York Jewish woman who is a singer and dance caller. Cyrelle had lived
through the folk revival of the sixties. I sang songs at the party, songs that
I hadn't had the time to sing at the festival.
It was also her daughter Dina’s 26th birthday; she and her biology student
colleagues came to celebrate. We talked a little.
Dina had wanted to visit NZ. She'd been in New York around September 11th,
she told me that. “In one way it's good that it (bombing of Twin Towers)
happened now the Americans know what its like to live here in Israel!”
As an outsider I had a strange feeling of disloyalty to Jewish folks, my hosts,
because I wanted to see and also speak to Arabs about life here. I didn't get
the chance. This is my fault for coming for such a short visit, I felt sheltered
and protected by my hosts, Judy told me that Menachem, had told them not to
let me visit Jerusalem until after I’d sung at the Festival incase something
happened to me! They and he, I think, were half serious and maybe half teasing.
There is a feeling I get of a complete ignorance of Arab peoples obviously
due to fear and segregation and a symptom of the terrorist bombing. The enemy
could be anywhere; the threat is always there. I imagine that hate and fear
is on both sides of this war. It's as if both the Jews and the Arabs are victims
of Zionist policies and colonialism. Both are victims of the occupation.
The holocaust and persecution of Jews in the past are used to justify the occupation
and it is a very emotional subject. I repeat myself and say again that this
seems to be the danger when anti Zionism is seen or interpreted as anti Semitism.
Menachem explained to me.
“ There is no other haven for persecuted Jews- Many, such as the 80000
or so Ethiopian Jews, had no chance of either living a normal life in Ethiopia,
or getting accepted anywhere else. Bringing them here, as well as accepting
or rescuing any other Jew who wishes to come here, is basically what Zionism
is all about- for me anyway.” He told me in a letter after I showed him
I believe that the Israelis have rights of course and the sufferings they have
endured may be added to that right, but they cannot be said to have a historic
right to a piece of territory because some of their ancestors supposedly inhabited
it 2000 years ago. For another they ought to recognize that they have done
a considerable wrong to another people, in depriving them of rights at least
as great as their own. The Israelis, on the whole, refuse to accept the fact
that their right violates other rights, which are no less respectable. The
Arabs of Palestine used to have the same rights as the French exercise in France
and the English in England.
The bitterness felt by the people to whom this wrong was done still persists,
and, as long as it does, the rights of the Israelis will remain purely hypothetical.
They can only hope that the Arabs will one day recognize and accept them. Only
then will their rights become real.
How are they to make themselves accepted? There is a moral way, which consists
in discussion and persuasion. Politically, such a method has more chance of
success if accompanied by concessions. There is also an immoral way, by the
use of force. Whether or not it is effective has nothing to do with ethics.
Yet it should be pointed out that the use of force entails very great risks
in the case of Israel and her Arab neighbors. A forced acceptance can more
easily be called in question by a change of government than a negotiated one.
In addition, if recurrent recourse to arms proves necessary for an indefinite
period, the force is liable not to remain on the same side forever.
I let Menachem, Jacobs Ladder Folk Festival director, read the above
He had read my previous travel diaries and encouraged me, asked me to
Here is Menachems’ response to my diary.
Yes to your question about including my letter to you about no political
from the stage.
I didn't know you then, or of your sensitivity and sensibilty- I don't
believe in "purifying " folksong- most decent folksongs are
political- I was
just worried about political speeches or provocative statements.
Your diary is a thoughtful and intelligent piece. Many people will find
fault with your basic premise that Zionism is wrong.
< I believe that the Israelis have rights of course and the sufferings
have endured may be added to that right, but they cannot be said to have
historic right to a piece of territory because some of their ancestors
supposedly inhabited it 2000 years ago. >
I think that the word "supposedly" is out of place- because
of all the
physical and historical evidence to prove that our ancestors did in fact
live here- as well as the Bible.
There has been a continuous Jewish presence in Palestine/Israel ever
(I use the name Palestine historically as it was used before 1948- Jews
were then Palestinians as well as the local Arabs.)
The Hebrew language actually served as a Lingua Franca for all Jews-
mainly used a language of prayer- but that prayer and that language did
unite all Jews, throughout history( The revival of Hebrew as a spoken
language in Palestine began in the 1880s by 1948 it was spoken by most
the Jewish population here.
Anyway Rory- there is so much to talk about, brought up in your diary.
can't relate to every point here.( I know that other people will, when
I just want to say that although I know that tremendous injustices
been and are being committed against Arabs/Palestinians, I believe
tremendous good has been wrought, and is being brought about each
day by good people here, yes and even by the state.
I am immensly proud of some of the achievements of the State of Israel- for
the Jewish People, and for humankind. Conflict will end and Peace will come.
Yes , you must come back and you must spend more time here- you must meet
more people - and hopefully when you do come back peace will already be here!
Menachem & Yehudit.”