Friday, August 05, 2005

Guns & Religion

Day 4

Guns and Religion

Over the last few years being based here in Israel, I have filmed at most of the settlements that are to be evacuated the week after next. Netzer Hazani has always been known as the home of “The Celery Lady”, I cannot remember her name but she has lived in the settlement for over thirty years, growing celery (Kosher Celery, yes there is such a thing as Kosher Celery). Whenever you film or interview her it is always in her greenhouse, with her holding a stalk of celery.

Today however, when we met her in the community square in the settlement, she was not holding her beloved celery. But she was there watching the men of the community handing over their guns to the IDF, (Israel Defence Forces). For the last three decades the locals have had a degree of responsibility for their own security, given that the Palestinian town of Khan Younnis is just over the sand hill a kilometre away, and both sides have not played nice on many occasions.

But as a collective the residents of Netzer Hazani do not want guns in their community when the soldiers come to evict them, that way their can be no risk of someone losing their temper and firing a gun against a fellow Jew, perhaps a ray of sanity amongst the insanity of the Middle East.

With their guns wrapped in orange ribbons the men stepped up to the table and saluted the IDF representative and placed their gun on the table and walked away. There was no tears or outward signs of losing their toys, but a bitter taste in their mouths.

The celery lady has not given up hope and continues to farm in the belief that some divine intervention will come from above and the disengagement will not happen.

Down the road and on the beach is the settlement of Kefar Yam, a collection of tumbledown buildings and a growing community pf plastic tents and structures. But what is alarming is that these hard-core radicals are starting to turn their community, into a collective Orwellian “Animal farm”.

What made me realise how right wing and racist this community has become was when someone asked me if I was “Jewish”, remember the four legs good two legs bad from “Animal Farm”. Never ever in twenty-five years of covering news around the world has anyone asked my religion with the undertone that it mattered.

I did not respond to the question, I would not stoop to their level of racism.

In the media you get used to people not liking you, and placing silly caveats on you like, “ You can film here, but do not film any people “. It makes as much sense as saying you can write but you cannot use a pen or pencil.

The last time someone said to me “You can film, but you cannot film any people” was a Taliban Leader in Afghanistan when they were at the height of their power in early 2001.

Fundamentalism is alive and well down here.

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