Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Running the Milk Blockade

January 31, 2006

Throughout history people have run blockades, whether it is smuggling contrabands or bringing in relief. Today was a small victory for us in Gaza, we ran the Milk Blockade.

On the road, your wishes and whims can vary and always in the places I travel to for work there is something that you cannot get and the more you cannot get something the more you crave it, almost to the point of obsession.

What I have missed and craved has been fresh low fat milk, that’s right simple plain fresh cow juice for my coffee. Sure there is UHF full fat milk and coffee whitener available in the stores, but with Israel closing the only commercial border with Gaza there has been no fresh product in or out of here. The border is closed.

The office in Jerusalem called yesterday to let us know that permission had been granted by the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) for my armored car to enter Gaza. What did we need, normally you would expect a TV News team to ask for crates of booze and cigarettes. Not in these days in combat zones, the last thing you need, are for your senses impaired in any way at any time.

So I asked the office could they put 10 liters of fresh milk in the back of the car and I would bring it back in with me to Gaza. Past the Soldiers I would run the risk of smuggling fresh milk into Gaza.

Yoav Shamir, the Engineer in the bureau who was to bring the car down to Erez Crossing, between Israel and Gaza, rang me back to check that I actually wanted milk!

“10 liters fresh and make sure six liters are low fat milk”

“ No problem”

Ibrahim Hazboun and I crossed the border back into Israel carrying nothing but our papers and there was Yoav with the car waiting. Lifting my winter jacket in the back, packed in a plain brown box taped up were the goods.

We went back into the border control to do the paper work, the contraband wrapped and on the back seat, luckily the weather was cool. Without breaking into a cold sweat Ibrahim and I dealt with the crisis of no papers for the car to enter Gaza.

Could our plans fall foul to bureaucracy and lack of co-ordination, for nearly thirty minutes the milk sat out in the parking lot. Luckily with tinted windows and our elaborate packing, any passing soldier would not see the goods.

Papers completed, we walked casually back to the car as to not draw attention to ourselves and proceeded to the final entry gate before Gaza, It is the last point of contact with Israel.

But there to our horror was a Palestinian car coming out, being checked by a dog, surely the animal had not only been trained in bomb detection, fresh milk would surely send the creature into a rabid attack mode.

However only cars leaving Gaza are checked for bombs and milk, entering Gaza the milk-sniffing dogs are held back.

We crossed, and the blockade had been broken, not exactly on the scale and magnitude of the famous Berlin lift operation, 10 liters of fresh milk all intact and with no leaks.

That fresh milk tasted great in my coffee this afternoon.

OK to be honest you can bring in as much milk as you like, the Israelis could not care less, but I think my version just sounds more romantic and if someone wants to write a screenplay of this adventure, you never know a Hollywood studio could snap up the rights.

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