Thursday, August 18, 2005

After Midnight

After Midnight

Neve Dequalim Settlement, Gaza Strip

It is now possible to leave the settlement’s but against the law to come back. The roads back into the settlements are closed, and effectively we are now trapped. Prisoners of choice as you wait to watch history unfold before your eyes.

Starting at 7am the Israeli Army will come by house by house and give notice that you have 48 hours to leave or face evacuation by what ever means is deemed necessary.

We are renting a house in the Neve Dequalim settlement that will be bulldozed in the coming weeks and we as a team face incredible challenges and risks over the coming days.

When you are in these situations you values and worries become somewhat skewed. Issues of security become paramount and the endless scenarios you can imagine could become reality in the next few hours. What ifs include complete riots and being physically under attack from zealots with sticks and a religion as their driving force. How do we protect ourselves and what becomes important. The desire to be live and showing the world real time news is an incredibly powerful drug.

We have a base on the roof of the only high buildings in the settlement-shopping complex and it is like a circus up there watching who comes up. From overweight politicians to pot smoking kids, some how they all end up on the roof. This only adds to your security nightmares, where is the security? Then when you find out late at night that the security is an eighteen-year-old boy, who is shit scared of the kids, you are not keen to leave anything on the roof.

So you end up renting a trashed office for a king’s ransom, think you have been totally ripped off, then look on the wall and see an air conditioner and all of a sudden the rent seems totally reasonable. It was so hot sitting on the roof today that sweating was considered as a national sport down here.

There are five of us living in the house, with no television. Stop for a second and ask yourself when was the last time you were in a house with no television. Ahhh, just as I thought, you cannot remember the last time you were living in a house with no television.

A fact of life now is the Internet, and the fact I cannot get wireless Internet is a cause for concern, this blog will be sent out tomorrow morning on a satellite phone.

A final thought as midnight approached, I was standing outside with Amir Efrati the Sound Engineer on this assignment, and I looked across the street to see a few kids out walking their dogs. I thought of Mohammed, the Palestinian boy I had filmed a few days ago and who had given me the theme of my last diary entry. And he was right; they do have nice dogs here in the settlements. Two happy dogs were walking down the street.

In forty-eight hours, it is forbidden to be here.

Monday August 15, 2005

Counting down the Hours

The first scene this morning were the hundreds of hard-core rightists barricading the entrance to Neve Dequalim, the largest settlement in the Gush Katif Settlement block here in Gaza.

Most of the demonstrators have never lived in settlement, but have come down to protest the disengagement, they sang and danced, cried and fried in the sun, which was beating down relentlessly. You work in a constant state of sweat, the heat and humidity draining the life out of your soul.

But I do realise that I am witnessing history, for many the a very painful chapter in the short history of this country, you do not have any sympathy or compassion in these times. You just do your job and listen to the demonstrators, they rant and at times demand that there’s is a true and just cause. Based on what distorted truths they have had driven into them by religion.

The hard core Jewish Settlers here in Neve Dequalim, do honestly remind me of any Islamist rally I have covered in the Muslim world, they DEMAND that their view is the one and only true light and that is what scares me. Religion no longer is love and understanding to extremists, but a source of zealot power.

Watching the dancing today, I could have been filming the same religious scenes at an exorcism in Pakistan, and I have filmed exorcism in Pakistan.

You work in a constant state of alertness, of when and if the “Game is ON” and the violence is about to start. The hardest part of covering events like this dis engagement is that they happen over a large area, and being on the scene you only see a small part of the equation.

Whilst watching major world events like this at home, you get to see the whole picture with video elements from here and there. WE cannot be here and there; we are locked into the settlement in one location. We cannot go and come back; the road is one way now jammed with buses and trucks of the Police and IDF coming in.

We spent five hours filming down at the gate, filming and waiting, being abused and waiting, hungry as we scrambled with no time for breakfast and by 1pm the heat and hunger drove us back to the house for a break, an advantage of living in the story.

One thing did make me smile today; remember how I told the story of the girls on the left, boys on the right (or vice a versa) at the rally last week. Well rest assured when they formed up today to barricade the gates, the girls and ONLY girls were on the left side of the road, and only boys were on the right hand side of the road.

I had to smile deep inside at just how funny it is to watch such sexual divisions in August 2005. Hard core Judaism has not changed in thousands of years and today was a chance to observe it.

I saw tears today as a young girl about seventeen, was reading her Torah, it was hard to gauge what she was experiencing she bobbed her head and cried in time (very similar to scenes I have filmed in a Madrassah) but she was deeply moved and as she recited the verses she had tears rolling down her face.

However her friend next to her was busy texting SMS messages on her phone, perhaps it was tradition, meeting the 21st century. I filmed close ups of the girl crying holding torah and her friend’s phone, both shots will never make air, as there was violence down the road but to me they did symbolise my day.

The clock continues to count down to when the scenes will get ugly, tomorrow is another day.

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