All that remains of the Orwellian "PEACE BE WITH YOU" sign on the Jerusalem side of The Wall that is choking Bethlehem are a few tatters at the top edge of the thirty foot high concrete edifice. The Israeli Minister of Tourism is replacing the image captured on the cover of my second book with bland views of the Old City.
One can even travel to Ben Gurion Airport and remain oblivious to the concrete separation wall which is obfuscated from view in Israel by faux painting and buildups of massive landscaping.
However, The Wall is never out of my minds eye, even as I traveled at night from occupied east Jerusalem to arrive at Ben Gurion Airport at 9 PM last Sunday night, for my seventh departure since June of 2004. I cleared SECURITY at 11:25; fifteen minutes before the doors were locked, but due to a blown generator in one of the engines we waited on the run way until 4 AM before repair and take off.
But, I was still smiling as I approached the first SECURITY agent in the queue who smiled back at me and then asked, "What was your purpose in Israel?"
He shook his head negative and asked, "Do you have your Press Card?"
I laughed, and replied, "I am not card carrying press! I am an Internet Journalist, a member of the New Fourth Estate. My career began in 2005, after my first of seven journeys to Israel and occupied Palestine. Everything I write is published first on my site, and I am a feature correspondent for Arabisto and The Palestine Telegraph, which by the way was founded and is based in Gaza. I work with them and am also published by The Peoples Voice, Oped News and other sites."
"All are USA, except for The Palestine Telegraph. By the way, today I was in occupied east Jerusalem meeting with Mordechai Vanunu-you know the ex-Orthodox Jew who turned Christian in 1986 and provided the photographic proof and told the truth about Israel's Weapons of Mass Destruction Program twenty-three years ago. Did you know that the democracy that you have in Israel actually sentenced him to three months in jail just for talking to non-Israeli citizens, who happened to be media back in 2004? Incredible but true, and Israel now does not know what to do with him, so they keep rescheduling his Supreme Court appeal. I am the reporter who has been following Vanunu's freedom of speech trial since it began January 25, 2005, which by the way was the same day Hamas was democratically elected. Did you know that?"
The SECURITY man backed away from me, but he kept his eyes on me as he made a phone call. I was still smiling, but my buzz was not chemically induced from the two vodka tonics I had sipped before I arrived at Ben Gurion that night. I could not suppress a giggle at the surreal sight of three twenty-something year olds wearing nearly identical suits and similar ties who were rapidly approaching me as they studied me intently, and when they arrived, the man in the middle asked me, "What is the problem?"
"I haven't any problems at all! In fact I am most happy to inform SECURITY that I am an internet reporter meaning one who does not take assignments from editors or paychecks from conglomerates. And by the way, reporters like me cannot be censored or secured into silence and we report from occupied territory."
They all appeared dazed and confused but remained silent as I was led to the front of the line at the luggage x-ray machine. I apologized to the other travelers for cutting in and explained it was only because I was a SECURITY risk for being a reporter from occupied Palestine. As I waited for my luggage to pass the inspection, I began writing the dialogue that had transpired between me and SECURITY ever since I had arrived at Ben Gurion Airport. Within a minute one of the suits reappeared and asked me what I was writing about.
"My experience's here."
I laughed, sighed and replied, "Sure I can. I have and I will. There is no way any state or SECURITY machine can stop the free flow of information. Nor can SECURITY deny people of their conscience."
He walked away and I kept writing. My checked bag made the trip through x-ray three times before I remembered what I had stowed among my dirty laundry and reading material. As soon as I apologized to SECURITY for what might look like a b-o-m-b to them- but in reality was only a bottle of Russian vodka- I was then told where to take all my luggage and stand and wait my turn to have all the contents of my luggage examined, probed and swabbed. After that thorough inspection and repacking, I was led to the same office I have been before where one is "checked for metal."