Thursday, August 04, 2005

"Girls on the Left, Boys on the Right"

Day #3
August 3rd 2005

“Girls on the left, Boys on the right’

At the end of a long night, the Rabbi stands on top of the car and proclaims” Girls on the left, boys on the right” and Uri the Sat Truck Operator almost drops to the ground rolling in laughter along with Yonat our producer.
The location just outside Ofrakim on the edge of the Negev Desert, at 12.30am, it had been a long night. The anti disengagement protestors had been claiming that they did not want to clash with the police and army, and vice a versa. The remnants of the previous days protest in Sderot had staged a last rally in Ofrakim and were going to march into Gaza.

However 2,000 protestors mainly fanatics, were not going to get past 12,000 Army and Police, complete with three water cannons and mounted troops. Who had locked the area down tighter by sheer force.

Security is something that the Israelis take seriously, very seriously. Now the area around Gaza were the disengagement is to take place in a couple of week’s time is a closed military area. Without the correct accreditation you simply cannot go anywhere, it seems that every road has checkpoints every few kilometres, where we have to show our Government Press Cards after which we are allowed to pass through.

Mike Tobin, the correspondent that I am working with, somehow managed to lose his card the night before last at the demonstration in Sderot, and we have at least six checkpoints to clear before we get back to the Kibbutz where we are based for the month.

Traffic is naturally totally and completely chaotic as it can only be in Israel, It is late at night and we want to get home for a cold beer and something to eat.

We approach the first checkpoint and I say to Mike, “Pretend you are asleep”.

Mike closes the eyes and I wind down the 5cm that my window opens on my armoured car.

Soldier looks in, and Yanot and I show our Press Cards, he looks across at Mike and I shrug my shoulders tell the soldier “shhhh he’s asleep, very tired, he is a correspondent and has been working very hard”

Soldier nods OK and we are through, now it has worked once will it work again and again and again ....

Well it does six checkpoints later we arrive at the Kibbutz complete with Mike, one of those silly security things that late at night can work, even in the most security aware country in the world, just ell them “ sorry he’s a asleep”. Planning on trying this next time at the airport.

Back to the rally last night, after five hours of sitting in the dust of the desert, around two thousand tired bedraggled and listless protestors who after a couple of days in the heat and great outdoors are no match for the Police and Army. Finally clash well clash is to hard a word to use, they face each other off. There is no way the protest is progressing, New York expresses no interest in opening a satellite to show nothing happening but want us to stay around for a couple of more hours, ‘just in case’
I knew we were in trouble when the rabbi was hoisted up on a truck roof and after forty minutes asked for a box to sit on, sometimes it is good not to understand what is being said, ignorant bliss.

Rabbi after rabbi addresses the crowd and the clock keeps ticking, that is until Uri bursts out laughing.

What did he say I ask my interest peaked, he just said that they are going to spend the night sleeping on the road and the rabbi has requested that, Girls sleep on the left hand side of the road and Boys are to sleep on the right hand side of the road.

Lets face it in these tumultuous times of struggle it is important to remember “no hanky panky before marriage”

We packed up and left them in singing songs of struggle, and any aspirations of love under the stars (and eyes of 12,000 Police and Army) was not going to happen.

Ofrakim is not Woodstock

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