Back in Berlin

Ok, that came a bit earlier than expected. Thought I wouldn’t be back in Germany before some time 2016…

Leaving Jerusalem went smoothly this morning. The shared taxi picked me up right in front of the hostel and after a little sightseeing tour across the city, dropped me off at Terminal 1.

Pre-Checkin-Security was curious about my Moroccan entry stamp but didn’t bother with asking me any questions about my stay in Israel. Fine with me, less need to lie. The official slaps the usual sticker with a number on my passport. Mine starts with 5, meaning I’m suspicious but there’s no need to search my body cavities. 6 is the worst and reserved for Muslims and anybody else who’s skin is a bit too dark.

At luggage check I’m taken aside after the x-ray and another official inspects my carry-on bag in detail. Swiping for explosives’ residue, the works.

When everybody has boarded the plane, there is a delay and a couple of minutes later, a passenger is lead off the plane for “security reasons”. Poor bastard.

The flight itself is calm and we arrive in Berlin before the time. It’s the new airport, or at least its runway. Our captain announces that it’ll take us about 15 minutes (sic!) to taxi to the gate. Driving past the new terminal building, he jokes about the “Berlin Acropolis” and how one day it’ll hopefully turn into a functional airport.

Over the past 24 hours I got a lot of messages from friends and family, telling me how happy everybody is that I’m leaving Hebron. I think I’ve never gotten such an unanimous “vote” before.

I still feel somewhat unhappy about leaving. It feels like I gave up too easily. But will see what I think in a couple of days time. On the S-Bahn now, heading for today’s accommodation.

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Hebron, Take 2

The news haven’t been pretty but when I decided to go to the Middle East, I knew it wouldn’t all be roses and chocolate. Despite what is going on, I still believe that I’ll be save and hence decided to stick with my travel plans.

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The late night departure from Barcelona was a bit messy and the plane was the filthiest and shabbiest in a long time. Seat out of order – never saw that before. Don’t think I’ll go back to flying with Vueling any time soon.

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Arriving in Tel Aviv at just past 4:00 meant that I’d have to spend time either at the airport or in Jerusalem before catching onward transport to Hebron. I spent the first hour or so at an airport coffee shop but the coffee was bad and the company were lots of macho guys with assault rifles – not my preferred environment at all.

I took the familiar Sherut taxi to Jerusalem and straight to the hostel I stayed at the last time. I was to meet up there with another volunteer who’d be joining me for the ride to the teaching centre.

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The way to Jerusalem and the city itself felt rather quiet, even taking into account the early hour. Military presence was not more than during my last visit. Might be completely different in the old city or the eastern part, though.

Getting to Hebron and the centre was a little complicated but nothing to difficult in the end. Everything seems quiet and normal around here, although we’ve been told that a small part of the city sees regular clashes. Clashes = kids with rocks and soldiers with tear gas.

Departing from Ben Gurion

The description of Ben Gurion airport in this post is based largely on online research as well as information from other travellers and Palestinians. I have only taken into account information that came from multiple sources.

Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion is said to be one of the safest airports in the world. All checked luggage is x-rayed, put into pressure chambers and often searched by hand as well. Travellers and their carry-on luggage are x-rayed and in many cases swiped for explosives’ residue.

In addition to these mechanical measures, travellers are screened with several rounds of questions based on their background. Background meaning travel experience, race and religion (sic!).

Unfortunately, the aims go way past air travel security. Officials are looking for suspicious individuals who have connections to Muslim countries or might otherwise be considered “unfriendly towards the state of Israel”.

Those who are considered worthy of a closer look are invited into separate interrogation rooms for a chat with officials. These chats can last anywhere from an hour to a whole day (temporary imprisonment optional). A friend of mine was detained for eight hours when trying to enter the country. During the interrogation, the suspect is examined via means of google, facebook, twitter and their phones and emails.

Demanding access to a person’s phone or email accounts is a horrible breach of privacy. Hence such behaviour is unthinkable at European airports. The US got a lot of criticism when they started demanding access to electronic devices. However in Israel everything is justified with “300 million Arabs want to wipe us off the earth”. Who needs international law or human rights anyway.

One could argue that access to phones and online accounts wouldn’t have to be revealed. Unfortunately Continue reading Departing from Ben Gurion