I will cross the border to Israel/Palestine today. Friday the thirteenth is the right day to try my luck. So I say goodbye to Jeff and take a taxi to the bridge. After some uncomplicated steps at the Jordanian side involving exit tax, a slow bus takes me across the actual Allenby bridge, and I see Israeli flags. I hold my breath for the harassment that I might experience. The first search, and the x-ray of my bag I pass successfully.
“Please don’t stamp my passport because I want to visit Indonesia.”
-“Why do you want to visit Indonesia?”
“For lying on the beach, sir.”
I go undercover as a tourist. They don’t even google me. I am asked to fill out another form and wait. I listen to some lectures, yes this is good, on Franz Kafka on my mp3 player. If you cross any Israeli border make sure that the batteries of your mp3 player are charged, that’s all.
“Are you working for any ngo or charity?”
-“No, I am here as a tourist.”
This is true, Charity Travel is not linked to any registered organization. I tell the officer about my dissertation on Hans Jonas, about my round the world trip, and she will try to make it fast. Half an hour later I am standing on Israeli soil and I can’t believe it. I take a servis to Jericho and walk towards the city.
The first thing I do in Palestine is asking the border patrol if I can stick a white flower in the of his gun and take a photo.
“To show Palestinians are peaceful people.”
He smiles, and nodds with understanding. The Jericho municipality people are glad to take a few pictures.
“We can’t do that, sir, I” Bureaucracy, again.
And so I walk into Jericho, greeting the children and taking their photos. Life seems so peaceful here. I see that Palestine has its own internet code, and the Palestine Autorities issue licence plates. Later I’ll ask whether their own money is in the making. Some kids greet me in Hebrew.
I visit the old town of Jericho, an amazing excavation site from where you can see where Jesus went to pray for forty days and forty nights, passing the 2000 year old Siccamore tree. Jesus was here! Both on my way there and back there is a busload of tourists taking photos of the impressive arboreal relic.
Some tourists offer me a ride. There is a retired horse specialist from Holland who knows my grandfather, who was a famous veterinarian. I tell him about my project and regret it immediately. What I get back is not intelligent critique, it is deranged, conceited old man’s jabber. This is the arrogance of power, this unbeatable ignorance. He who thinks he knows the world because he has secured his place within the net of power. Enough! Can he help me? No. Then he tells me about his daughters who worked in South America, Africa, Asia, Australia – when I hear this man talking I can feel why his daughters needed to break away. His attitude however valid its reasons of worry might be, disgusts me.
And he contradicts himself. First he says money is not going to solve the problem – only because he knows a friend who invested a huge sum in building orphanages and hospitals in Africa that somehow didn’t work. But then he assures me the fundraising is the only thing that matters – again, because he heard some stories. I hope the world is on my side and will turn him and his army of cynics into a caricature.
My disgust is deep. I feel the generational gap. That old ledger calls me as a boy, and pretends to know the world better, just because he has been working for some upper class horse owners. But then, do I want everybody on the planet to recognize the nobility of my work? Is there still a bit of narcissicm in my heart, and is the ugliness I conceive when this man talks the ugliness that I bear within myself? Of course, some people dislike charitable giving. The thing is that they don’t admit it. They come with arguments why charitable giving would be ineffective, would sustain poverty, would turn the giver into a poor person dependent on charity himself, would be denigrating, would function only to satisfy the giver, would – I know them all, and thinking about these arguments helps me a lot when I feel an inclination to vomit.
So that is what friday the 13th has in petto for me, paternal disapproval at the attempt to restore the old world order. In Jerusalem, I work for a few hours in a nice hotel with friendly staff then walk to my host Roy, a friendly chef and drummer who lives nearby. Calamities are forgotten, I am feeling happy again. Tomorrow I’ll look for my cause in the holy city.