Thursday, July 19, 2007

Going on a cruise

It's trivial, it's almost ridiculous but it illustrated to me for the nth time the incredible divide between us Israelis (mostly western, Jewish and middle class) and Palestinians who live so close to us in very difficult circumstances.

I am off in a couple of days on a family adventure - a cruise in the Mediterranean on one of those nice cruise ships. Not a vacation that I would have thought of - it's also rather expensive even for middle-class bourgeois types like myself - but my father (95 years old and in amazing shape) suggested it and invited us, so who could or would refuse. I don't expect to have email contact for a couple of weeks so I prepared the following signature on my emails:

Please note that I will be away from my desk (on a cruise vacation in the Mediterranean) until 4th August and therefore unlikely to see or to reply to any emails till then. Thanks for your patience!

Today I got a call from a Palestinian activist in Gaza who belongs to the Fatah and with whom I had some dealings in the past in the framework of Middleway, a Jewish-Arab peace NGO. We hadn't heard from some time from this Palestinian but I heard that he called a colleague a few days ago and told her that his house had been blown up by the Hamas. Today he told me that he just came out of hospital and asked me to send him an email. He probably wants help of some kind. I clicked the Compose button and the above signature came up and suddenly I thought to myself - what would he think? I'm going on a cruise and he's a Fatah member in Gaza.

A British playwright once described the experience of driving (in the "good" old days) with a British diplomat from Tel Aviv to Gaza - a journey of barely 2 hours without checkpoints. He said it was like traveling from California to Bangladesh. Two worlds. Will we ever be able to bridge them?