Israel Palestine

(April 29th 2003)

Do you know anyone in Israel? Who invited you? Where will you be staying? Have you met these people before? I experienced the most thorough search of my baggage, and belongings I've ever had, sifting, and scanning with the metal detecting rod, inside-out, every bit of navel fluff, coin, harmonica, and razor blades. Even my emptied bags were X-rayed. "Why so many Spoons?" I was asked. Eventually, 2 hours later, they separated my belongings into boxes. I had waited patiently, it was an experience in itself, and I was in no hurry. I even thought they might find something I'd lost. I had been invited to play at the Jacobs Ladder Folk Festival. (I was only visiting for eight days, my shortest visit anywhere as my partner and I were expecting a second child in June and it might decide to come early.)

All this careful security is so extreme, but I am content to go along with it for obvious reasons of security, considering the Iraq war, the continuing war with the Palestinians and the colonial occupation of Palestinian lands. The fear is palpable in the way they have to search my bags like this, for fear and terror of a bomb. We all share this fear. So I watch them empty every pocket, and bag, I'm existentially interested and relaxed as I watch them pick and pull out things I'd packed carefully. I've nothing to hide. But they don't know this. And of course, someone could have tricked me into taking something in my bag. And of course, someone may have planted something in my bags. "Has any of your equipment been repaired recently?" I was asked. Gloves were worn to prevent infection both ways so I sat there, behind the curtains, again I was asked "Do you know anyone in Israel, who invited you, and when? Have you been before, where are you going to stay? (I had been written to by the Jacobs Ladder Folk Festival organizers in reply to a letter I’d written to them, and they had respectfully written and asked me, or advised me, not to say I was going to ‘Palestine’ but to Israel. That would get me in trouble and make my entry more difficult. Letter reproduced below):

“March 17, 2003,

Dear Rory, I am sitting here just waiting for this senseless war to begin, hoping it will be over soon, with few casualties, and praying that Israel will not be involved. There are a few things that I have to say before you come here, that must be understood and agreed upon. Please forgive me if these things go without saying, do not apply to you, or are preposterous- but they must be said. I know from what I have read about you, and what I see on your website, that you are politically aware, outspoken and involved. Terrible and tragic things have happened between the Palestinians and us, and continue to happen. These acts and this situation are things that the decent citizens of Israel are struggling to end. Jacob's Ladder provides a haven of peace. People come to the festival specifically to get away, for one weekend, from all politics and reminders of war and tragedy. Most of the people at the festival will have been close to someone killed or injured in wars, bomb blasts, or terrorist acts of one form or another. There will be both Arabs and Jews among the audience- relaxing and enjoying peaceful moments together. We keep politics and controversy out of the festival- we want people to be able to promote the goodness in life and to overcome differences. I am sure, that as a mature man, and as a professional performer, this will be obvious to you, and that you will respect it.”We require that no political statements concerning Israel & Palestine be made on stage. This must also apply to your performance at the Tzora Folk Club, where people will get a pre-festival impression of you. I am sure that you will travel, meet people, view what is going on and have free discussions with people-I hope that you will see that there are people of vision here working towards a decent future for Israel and all of the peoples of the region. I look forward to reading your road diaries of your trip to Israel. You are of course entitled to your views, and we respect you, and your right to have them. We feel very privileged that you are coming here, and we, and many, many people look forward to meeting you. Looking forward to your response, Sincerely, Menachem & Yehudit Vinegrad”

"Aren't you scared to come to Israel?" The El Al Israel security personnel asked me. I replied my wife was scared for me. "You'll have to leave your radio, what's this?" It was my guitar microphone pick up, and Guitar tuner. "You can't take this, we must keep it. You'll have to leave it." "I need these tools," I told them. I offered to show them how they worked but they had no guitar amplifier to demonstrate. We can't let these go on this plane we have no way of activating our electronic monitoring equipment on this flight. I made them promise to forward these things to me. I finally boarded the plane. After a 5-6 hour flight full of Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men wearing Homburgs and black coats and most were bearded and wore thick lenses, in their spectacles, from reading the Torah every minute of the day, week and year, I suspected. There were secular Jews on board too and other groups. Kosher food was served on the plane, with choices: vegetarian, Chicken or fish or ‘veg-aquarian’ etc.....

Lynn and Liron were in Tel Aviv to pick me up at the airport after I'd had to queue to report my 'lost' pick up and tuner etc' To make sure it would certainly be sent to me. Finally, I got through.

I was relieved and happy to meet Lynn and his youngest son Liron, who were to be my hosts for the next few days. It was dark now and not as humid and hot as I expected the climate to be. We drove to Kibbutz Tzora 40 minutes away. Lynn and Judy moved here in 1978-9 from North London, Kids two sons Dan and Liron, Daughter Debby and a granddaughter and son-in-law. Judy’s parents also now lived here on the Kibbutz. I was put up in a spare flat, two blocks away, the owners had gone to Russia for a while so this apartment had become a guest place, It looked fine, basic, and bare but that's all I needed. I had a single bed, a TV, a Fridge with some milk cheese and juice, a kettle, cereal, shower and toilet etc.

The next day I was taken to eat lunch in the Kibbutz dining hall. Judy and Lynn had stopped eating here nowadays and now preferred to cook and eat at home, but they had wanted to show me where 800 people live and eat together. Judy and Lynn didn’t know the new arrivals anymore there were many new faces. Judy showed me the laundry she worked in where folks at the kibbutz brought their clothes; numbers sewn into clothes identified the owners. Small individual and numbered filter-holed bags would contain the white underwear and small pieces and be washed together in the bags. Huge industrial washing machines spun and washed the clothes, rotary ironers could press sheets in one go, and workers had to be fast. They also took laundry from outside the Kibbutz to provide a service and earn money. Judy told me that if younger kids want to leave the Kibbutz, they have until they are 28? to decide then they must go through an audition to stay after that. If people want to come to live on the Kibbutz they must have a 3? year trial period. “You might be able to pretend you are ‘nice’ after a year or two, but three years, that wouldn’t be so easy to pretend or put on an act.” I was to play an informal spot at the folk club Wednesday night in between other singers. Lynn was a Bluegrass Guitar and mandolin player and old-time music fan. He and Judy sang together and also organised the folk club. 'Thank you for coming to Israel." I was told many times. It was like visiting a prisoner in a way. Not many people would come these days, because of the 'troubles', and I hadn't ever wanted to come to a country that, I believed, practices apartheid. I had decided to come to see for myself and to try to come without any bias or preconceptions, but that was going to be difficult, over the years I had watched the news, seen reports, and read a little about the history of Zionism. I knew there were Jews against Zionism. In my head, I thought it was a Rich man's club, a kind of expatriate’s colonial club, that poor Jews were brought in from Russia or wherever to maintain this tiered system based on stealing land from Palestinians.

All kibbutzim are different, Judy explained there were communist ones, Tzora, she said, was middle of the road and secular, and others can be ultra-orthodox. The members at Tzora now had to work outside the kibbutz, to bring money in and they also had to survive in a market economy, trading with the outside. Tzora designed and made furniture made from tubular steel, it also claimed to run one of the biggest dairies and produced wine from, relatively, young vineyards about 30 years old. The Kibbutz would share a commonwealth and used to eat together more.

I tried to work out how the Kibbutz socialism would work; as I didn't believe the founders of the Jewish state were actually apostles of Socialism. The state of Israel’s foreign policy is not directed towards the extension of a socialist system. I was trying to work out these contradictions but didn’t think I'd have time.

I ended up singing to a good crowd in the folk club, and an interview article in the Jerusalem Post helped to bring folks in. (See Interview*) I met an American Jew who had been here since 1948 from Chicago, and one who had travelled through Iran and Afghanistan and who spoke a little Farsi. I met Jews from Iraq, Australia, S. Africa, and Swansea in Wales. Judy and Lynn sang, and then it was Ray and Joanne Scudero. Then I sang 8-9 songs; some kids were also there so that made me more playful than usual. Then Sandy Cash sang some songs; some humorous songs, learned from Cathy Fink and Marcie Marxer, two American singers. Sandy was a science writer and journalist. She had invited me around the next day for Lunch with Buddy, her Husband, and her 3 kids. She wanted to hear my stories. We ate Pasta and talked about descendants, customs, and work. I played a tune for the kids. Buddy told me he worked as an ITT technician, who helped design anti-missile defence systems for F11 planes that jammed the missile's radar, He was also now a colonel of his garrison that patrolled the settlement areas in West Bank. He liked his job, as working for the government meant he had job security. Sandy explained that she had changed over the years from being a liberal Jew to more conservative, also politically. She wouldn't come to sing at the festival because it fell on Shabbat, her religious observance was, she said, affected by what others in her community might say, they might think less of her. I had asked her like I'd asked other Jews I met if she had friends who were Arab. She said no, she didn’t, but once, she told me, she had left work or school by car once and saw someone hitching; she automatically stopped to give the man a lift and suddenly realized that the man was an Arab, if she had known she wouldn't have stopped. Now she didn’t want to tell him that she wouldn't give him a lift because of this, so she let him in her car and she drove him. He thanked her. He had invited her and her family to eat with his family at his house, she told me that she thought about it very much and discussed it with her husband. They decided they wouldn't accept the man’s invitation, it might be a trap of some sort or they might get hurt. Because "You never know." "I know it's a shame she said but it could have been dangerous. This, I thought, was a very sad state of affairs this kind of fear perpetuates the gap, the ignorance, alienation and segregation that seems to exist here between Arabs and Jews. So that no personal relationships developed. Both sides are demonized. State Terrorism works in keeping people apart. It's not exactly dividing and ruling, but keeping a war going, like the cold war used to be used to create patriotism and make people believe that there is an enemy. That every Arab is an enemy, or every Jew is an enemy. Keep people scared, they're easier to control that way. It can't really be like this, can it? Danny told me he had also worked with an Arab in catering but said that there was not much they had in common to make them friends. There was an unspoken difference between the sides. "And history too." I said." Trust wasn't there."

Menachem, the organizer of ‘The Jacobs Ladder Folk Festival’, replied to me by E-mail, after I showed him these diary notes (I was asking him if my spelling was correct and also if I had misrepresented anyone here or got my histories wrong)

Menachem wrote: “I believe that there are many Israelis who have Arab friends and acquaintances, you just didn't meet them. (Although the first group which played on Friday afternoon on the big stage at ‘Jacobs Ladder Folk Festival’, was made up of Arabs and Jews who get on very well together indeed.) I also believe that there were many, many more before the bombings and stabbings began.” This is true. I didn't meet any Arabs while I was there except in the souks-markets in the Old fortified town of Jerusalem selling jewellery, Halal meat, carpets, trinkets for tourists, and instruments. The Tourist business was badly depressed; tourists were not coming to Israel. Because of the danger, violence, killings, and bombing, but also I think, some travellers would not visit because Zionist Israel is considered to be a militaristic Colonial, Western state and oppressor of Palestinians in the rest of the world's eyes and conscience.

The emigrational route for millions of birds crossing Israel, many rest here on their way North from Africa in the spring. Danny and I walked to the top of the hill behind the Kibbutz; we sat talking by a fire we made to boil water for tea. Looking down and across, Danny pointed out a monastery, on land owned by the Vatican. Israel’s poisonous snakes include the viper. The flat-tailed eagle I saw hovering above the hills, catch and eat vipers somehow I found that reassuring. Danny told me, he had studied drama and acting at a college in Jerusalem and that unlike his brother Liron, he had avoided conscription into the army after his travels abroad, he told me that his psychological state wasn’t as stable as the Army might need. He and the army would have been incompatible. The army wouldn’t take him, and he was glad. Going to drink tea one night on Tzora with some kibbutzim friends of Danny, Danny’s friend, Uriel, a bearded young man with a few dogs he’s rescued, was born on the Kibbutz, he, Danny and another friend, Sean, and Uriels wife and lively, active baby, sat around a small fire where they had cooked and eaten dinner, I was offered tea to drink, a couple of guitars were available for strumming, Danny was whittling away on one. I was given one and sang a couple of songs to the wee baby. We talked about Dog breeding, Scotland and its standing stones and archaeology. Uriel explained that in the Hebrew Bible, the words written in there, as passed down from Moses in the Torah, were like the sacred Stonehenge stones for the Jews, but as they had always had to travel, escape, flee in some kind of exodus etc so the sacred words were always taken with them, studied and memorized and kept alive by singing or uttering them. To the Jews, these words were like their monumental archaeological stones, but more portable! This was a slight revelation to me and explained the reason why Hebrew was so important. But before 1948 Hebrew had never really been a spoken language, but a written one only, Hebrew had become a dead language some centuries before the Christian era. It had been preserved as an erudite ‘holy’ tongue to some extent as a literary language among the Jewish communities and was resuscitated in the 20th century by Eliezer Ben Yehuda to serve as a living tongue, common to Jews of all origins called to colonize Palestine. Apparently, a great majority of Zionists did not know this Semitic tongue, neo-Hebrew, when they first set foot on Palestinian soil, although they were shortly to learn it. All this made me realize that newcomers were of a different world to the local population they were Europeans and they came from that world which was everywhere known as the world of the colonizers, of people who dominated their neighbours by their technical and military power and by their wealth. That they might have been the poorest and most underprivileged from that world didn’t matter, they were of it.

The only ones in whom the difference was not so marked were the Oriental or Orientalized Jews, who already lived in Palestine. These Jewish Arabs were assimilated by the Western Jews eventually. Even their Hebrew changed. The Yemeni Jews, who pronounced Hebrew with its ancient consonants, which appear in the written language and are preserved in their Arab vernacular, had to make a big effort, in Israel, to lose these ‘Bad Habits’. And learning to re-pronounce Hebrew in the manner of the European Jews, i.e. leaving out consonants, which the Europeans had forgotten how to pronounce for 20 centuries, confusing others, etc. and so moving away from the Standard of Hebrew once spoken in Palestine in Ancient times and away from the Semitic model, which they had partially preserved. I asked Uriel if Hebrew was expressive enough to use in the modern day. As in English, we have enriched the language as we have borrowed words i.e. from Latin (the bible) for abstract concepts, borrowed Saxon words, which were mostly ‘active-doing’ words, Norman-French etc. Shakespeare even invented words. Words are invented or borrowed all the time. Uriel said there was some committee that decided which words would be ok to use in Hebrew.

There are Israelis unhappy with the economic system of the present Israeli Government. When I talked about our Welfare System and sang I had a response from folks who wanted to talk about their own Governments lack of Welfare and care. Their treasurer carried out Thatcherite policies. Even with Israel’s parliamentary institutions, this doesn’t mean that the will of the majority of the population and its interests are bound to prevail over the wishes of small but economically powerful pressure groups. Democratic institutions are the enemy of economic development.

Driving North to Galilee towards Golan Heights, past the thin strip of coastal land that Israel owns now, hemmed in by Arab communities, We take a new stretch of Motorway that hasn't been finished yet and have to leave it and find the old route again, it's crucial for Michael not to get us lost if we took a wrong turning through an Arab town, I’m told, we could be stoned or stopped and lynched.It was pointed out to me by Danny, as we drove up to Galilee, that the buildings erected by Israelis were more imposing than the homes in Arab villages that were more organically blended into the hillsides without destroying the skylines. As if Israeli tower blocks were quickly built on land that was hurriedly taken?It seemed to me that some of the European-Western immigrants had not adapted to the climate yet, air-conditioning was used, but some seemed to suffer becoming hot and bothered, and no siestas were taken in the afternoons yet. As that old song goes. “Only Mad dogs and Englishmen…. go out in the mid-day sun…"We passed a few prisons on the way, also fields of dark irises, purple almost black.The rain hadn't filled the Sea (Lake) of Galilee for some time and it had been very low and muddy because of Drought. But recently more than enough rain had fallen and filled the lake again. On the other side of that lake was The Golan heights- ex Syria, Jordan was not far away. I was told later by Menachem that; Israel, Jordan and Syria meet just East of The Sea of Galilee. I swam in the Lake of Galilee, amongst the algae and plant vegetation brought by recent rains. But it was still not thick enough for me to walk on the water. as Jesus had done a thousand years before! Young people acted as security and guards at gates and inside the Kibbutz Ginosar here and there, I'd see one or two now and then carrying a rifle. The ‘reality’ seeps like ‘trouble’ into 'paradise.' This was a holiday resort where the Jacobs Ladder Folk Festival was being held this year.Locked gates and a sentry protect all Kibbutzim.Banks cafes and restaurants also have security guards. People are searched and bags on their way into public buildings. In Jerusalem, Marc took Judy’s American and non-Jewish friend Jane and me to see the tourists' sights.In Jerusalem, for new buildings to blend in with the old, this includes the gravestones, Jerusalem stone must be used to build new houses.

At the Wailing Wall, I must wear sleeves and cover my head. I used my handkerchief. But I eventually borrowed a cap when I passed through.A fence separates men and women worshippers.I was asked by an attendant there if I was Jewish.I was tempted to joke and repeat his question. “Am I a Jew?” Then answer, “-ish.” I stopped myself. (Was my humour ‘psycho-Semitic’!)?

I've never been asked this question, I am Jewish by blood through my mum and Grandparents, but not by faith, but I answered.

“Yes”. Thinking If I did not I would not get to be close to the wall. I had heard that people slipped pieces of folded prayers or notes into the crevices of the bricks in the wall.

(Like a Christmas list for Santa Clause, I wondered)

The attendant tied and wound a thin black leather string thong from my left bicep, closest to my heart, down to my hands and around my fingers weaving in between and then around a small black box, called a tefillin, (Tefillin is reminiscent of the word tefillah which means prayer) that wound bound to the back of my left hand. the other Tefillin, known as Shel Rosh is placed on my head. The quadrangular capsules of the tefillin are made of the skins of animals described in the Torah as clean and fit for Jewish food. Four biblical passages are inserted into Tefillin, Shel Rosh and Shel Yad that stress the duty of loving and serving G-d with all our being.I was given a prayer in English to read. But also had to recite a prayer in Hebrew, following the Jewish man who dictated the prayer to me to repeat each phrase at the gate. I felt like I was learning a password to get me to the wall.I asked the Orthodox Jewish man where he was from. The man replied he was from Baltimore USA. I told him I was from Scotland and he said he would look for a Scottish Rabbi for me in my town in a heavy big black bound directory he had there. But he didn't find one.I walked towards the wall. This was the last remaining wall of a holy temple that had been destroyed.I went up to find a space at the wall, between other pilgrim-worshippers who were uttering, muttering, canting and reciting there, and I sat down in a chair, I touched the old stones and read the prayer slowly aloud to feel what it was like and to feel what the prayer was saying. The only part I remember was the words. "Love your fellow man as yourself" There were bits of tightly folded-up paper inserted into the wall.

I wanted to walk up the Mount of Olives. Marc, my Jewish guide (He worked as a Nurse in the Hospital’s emergency dept and was a bass player and instrument collector) tells me that you could be stabbed if you took the wrong turning up around the Mount of Olives. Best to look like a tourist. I was considering buying and wearing an Arab headdress, my friends didn't think it was a good idea, considering how Israelis would feel towards me. Some argue that the Arabs took the country by conquest in the 7th Century and are occupiers like any others the Romans, Crusaders, and Turks. The Palestinian population soon became Arabized under Arab domination, just as earlier it had been Hebraicized, Aramaicized, and to some degree even Hellenized. It became Arabized in a way that it was never to become Latinized or Ottomanized. Those who were invaded melted with the invaders. It’s ridiculous to call the English living in England of today invaders or occupiers, on the grounds that the Angles, Saxons and Jutes in the 5th and 6th Centuries conquered England from Celtic peoples. The population was ‘Anglicised and nobody suggests that the peoples which have more or less preserved the Celtic Tongues- The Irish, the Welsh or The Bretons- should be regarded as the true natives of Kent or Suffolk, with greater titles to these territories than the English who live in those counties. (Though I’m sure many could find a way of justifying such a claim.) I’m reminded of the Australian Aboriginal man who at the time of the Australian Centennial Celebrations, rowed in a small boat, towards the English coastline onto an English beach and symbolically stuck an Aborigine flag in the ground and said he had discovered Britain. Asserting that Britain had never existed until he had discovered the British Isles) which is exactly what happened to Australian aborigines by the English ruling classes, James Cook and his gang.)The Arabs imposed themselves by force and the native population gave little resistance and then allowed itself to be assimilated by its conquerors. But this native population was already subject to foreign rule and merely changed masters. Similarly, when the Jewish colonization first started, the Palestinians were subjects of the Ottoman Empire, which was dominated by the Turks. Why not accept the new domination, which might, as in earlier times, have been followed by assimilation? This might have happened were it to have taken place some centuries earlier but the Zionists were unlucky. The conscience of the world has developed and no longer accepted the rights of conquest, or accepted it more reluctantly.

People are no longer willing to accept conquest and will fight to preserve their identity and to keep or win back their independence. It seems to the Palestinians a flagrant injustice that an exception should be made for them on the sole grounds that the colonist were Jews.

The Arab world has frequently accepted foreign settlement on its territory, witness the example of the Armenians, fleeing from Turkish persecution in 1920, who came and settled in the Arab countries. There has been no hostility toward them comparable with that felt towards Zionist immigration because the Armenians had no intention of constructing an Armenian state in territory populated by Arabs. Similarly, no opposition to Jewish settlement existed until Jewish immigration took on its Zionist aspect, Arab opposition occurred the moment there was an intention to detach Palestinian territory from the Arab world. The Arabs weren’t rejecting the foreigners as such, they were rejecting the foreign occupation of their territory- whether we (Jews) choose to classify this phenomenon as colonialism or not. For many years the Zionists had no more implacable enemies than the Jewish Rabbis. The sufferings of the Jews might justify the aspirations felt by some Jews to form an independent state. But the Arabs can’t be made to see this as a sufficient reason why such a state should be formed at their expense. To stretch a point the collective guilt of the Germans might be invoked to justify Czech re-occupation of the Sudetenland and the amputation of German territory to the East in favour of Poland. If Europe felt responsibility for the Jews, shouldn’t it have been up to them to provide them with some territory? Not to make the Arabs give up some of theirs? These are some of the questions I would ask Ariel Sharon if I met him.

Many folks have come to live here from the USA, France, the UK, and Morocco, Jews from Japan, Australia, and Iraq living here are sheltered with a fence around them and a fear, that any time, they might be bombed so for this reason they cannot be friends with an Arab. I wondered if the number of Jews remaining outside Israel is much greater than the number, which has ‘returned’.Judy told me angrily that Arab kids are brought up hating and are used in the front line as a shield, to throw stones so that when they are shot newsreel shows them as innocent victims of Israel violence, that Israel is cruel. I forgot to ask her how she knows this and where she got the information. It seems that Zionism has led to Anti Zionism, which has then resulted in anti-Semitism. I don’t think the conflict can be reduced to just another manifestation of Anti Semitism. The attribution of an evil and diabolical ‘essence’ to Jews of every kind throughout the ages is of course morally and scientifically indefensible and must be fought. This doesn’t mean that every Jew or group of Jews is automatically protected by taboo. Everyone must be judged according to their merits or their faults. All actions are weighed according to their own true value. If these actions harm, individuals or groups, those groups should be allowed to defend their position, rights etc. without being denounced as exponents of a doctrine, anti-Semitism, which is repugnant in itself. Any other view would entail that every Jew or group of Jews can, by definition, only desire and do good, or else that none of their ideas or actions must be criticised. Obviously, both attitudes are wholly unacceptable both rationally and ethically. It’s true that every action or word directed against the Jews, even though justified, may lead to generalizations which fall within the category of anti Semitism, every war throughout history has led to abusive generalizations directed against the nature and very essence of the opponent Demonizing, war racialism.

Problems are created by the fact that the Zionists proclaim that Zionism is the natural outcome of all Jewish History, something that belongs to the very essence of Judaism and to which all the world’s Jews owe allegiance. This must contribute towards turning the Arabs’ anti-Zionism into anti-Semitism. This ‘anti-Semitism’ isn’t the same as European anti-Semitism which was founded on mythical grievances and criticism of Jews such as their over-attachment to certain professions and the character trait said to result from it, this is only because Christian society had imposed certain professions on the Jews. By contrast in the case of the Arab-Israeli conflict, the first move was a gratuitous act on the part of a group of Jews, namely the project of Zionism. However much one might wish to justify this project, it certainly can’t be claimed that it was imposed by Arab society!

The Moslem faith is certainly hostile to Judaism, but rather less than is Christianity. It allows Judaism some degree of validity, and with few exceptions have not attempted to convert the Jews by force. Many Jews fleeing from Christian persecution have found refuge in the territory of Islam. Centuries Before Jews were a minority, defeated and subject community living among a Muslim majority, which held power. Like the Christians who shared their status, they were forced into a position of humility and therefore despised. The ‘Pan Arabism’ is questioned. And Zionists might argue that every Arab country should defend its own interests only, but the legitimacy of feelings of solidarity among Arabs is contested by those who declare that it is a duty of all Jews to stand behind Israel. There have been ties of common history for many centuries since the Arabs have lived in collective groups with significant national characteristics. By contrast, the ties between Jews were very much weaker; they didn’t even have a common language, the minimum requirement for a community of culture. The Arabs of Iraq must be reproached and condemned for the recurrent oppressive policy towards the Kurds; the Arabs of North Sudan must be criticized for their policy towards the blacks of the South. These aren’t symptoms of Pan-Arabism though, no grand schemes for the subjugation of Non Arab countries by the Arab states acting in concert.

I was browsing a history book in somebody’s house and read that Jewish zealots in King Herod’s kingdom against the Roman colonists committed suicide acts of war as Arabs are now doing. Not that this justifies at all what happened a few days ago in Tel Aviv. It just struck a note! Also read in that book, that Hadrian was also in Israel with his Garrison back then. Busy man! Turkey is one of Israel’s only friends in the middle east, yet their friendship is an embarrassing contradiction, Marc told me that there was an Armenian Jewish community in Jerusalem, they are petitioning their Israeli government and protesting against the Turkish government's genocide and killing of Armenians. I'm told after asking that if you have a Jewish Grandparent then you be entitled to become a citizen and to immigrate to Israel. This must be the way they have tried to outnumber and so outvote the Arabs living here, (like the Han Chinese in Tibet)

I am a Jew, according to Jewish Law, though I've never practised Judaism, read the bible very much or had a bar mitzvah. I am a Jew by birth; it's a strange feeling having a birthright to a country, like a throne, because of whom and what my mother is, to have that choice to claim that birthright to me feels undemocratic and unwholesome.

When I was very young, I remember my dad refusing to stand up for the queen and the State of Israel when we were guests at family weddings or Bar mitzvahs. The only time I saw my many relatives, apart from my Grandma and Pa. I am schizoid in the fact that my dad is an atheist socialist and my mums family are Russian Jewish, even though my mum never followed the faith and stopped believing in a god, She told me, it was after the Harrow Wealdstone train crash, where friends and fellow workers from the factory she worked were killed.) "There can't be a God, a God wouldn't have done that".

There are racists on all sides. I’ll always remember the time I was with my Gran and we met and heard a racist Jewish woman talking about "Blacks this.” and “ Schwartzers…that…" in a hostile and racist way. My Russian-Jewish Grandma told her off for being so prejudiced. She was a bad-tempered kind of a woman. I found this so strange, it was very unusual, knowing that my mum herself, had experienced anti-Semitism at school, from some kids and a particular teacher. I wonder what it was that made that woman racist against black people.

The cultural colonization from the USA is noticeable, like many other countries, and I suppose I arrived with my pre-conceptions and anti-imperialist, anti-USA Government beliefs.I sang, among other songs I’d made, ‘God Loves Me’ and ‘What would Jesus do?’ They were popular among the crowd I sang for in my Storytelling workshop at the festival. The song I sang about a white supremacist, Christian fundamentalist, could have been about Jewish fundamentalists too. I didn't meet any Jewish fascists or fundamentalists (that I know of)

There was no racism or obvious Zionist platform here, the bombing of a Folk blues club in Tel Aviv was naturally condemned, friends of the festival had been killed and injured. I had been asked not to mention the Arab-Israel conflict on Stage. But I did mention US aggression and Christian fundamentalism.

I met decent folks who were brought together by folk music, Irish, Anglo, and Scottish Country music, it was an Anglo festival, and those who understood my accent and my words were very appreciative. It was a secular crowd, some Israelis, and some who were second-generation kids brought up here speaking Hebrew and English. I heard Israelis playing Irish Music, I heard someone say that they 'as Jews', felt a kinship with the Irish. I'm assuming they met the way the Irish have been immigrants and often unwelcomed guests. Rather than the way the Irish had been colonised and murdered by the English in their country. Ironically some Irish Republicans I'd met in the past in Ireland felt kinship and solidarity with the Palestinians and the PLO.

Menachem, the Jacob's Ladder Folkfestival director, was born in Hull and brought up in Leeds, He told me how he felt very connected to The British songs and singing of North Yorkshire, sung by folks like the Watersons, he explained that he knows these songs even if he doesn't know the names, they're part of his childhood, memory. On my last night, I spent it at a house in Jerusalem; it was a farewell and post-festival party. It was Cyrelles soiree. Cyrelle is a Beautiful American-born New York Jewish woman who is a singer and dance caller. Cyrelle had lived through the folk revival of the sixties. I sang songs at the party, songs that I hadn't had the time to sing at the festival. It was also her daughter Dina’s 26th birthday; she and her biology student colleagues came to celebrate. We talked a little. Dina had wanted to visit NZ. She'd been in New York around September 11th, she told me that. “In one way it's good that it (bombing of Twin Towers) happened now the Americans know what it's like to live here in Israel! As an outsider, I had a strange feeling of disloyalty to Jewish folks, my hosts, because I wanted to see and also speak to Arabs about life here. I didn't get the chance. This is my fault for coming for such a short visit, I felt sheltered and protected by my hosts, and Judy told me that Menachem had told them not to let me visit Jerusalem until after I’d sung at the Festival in case something happened to me! They and he, I think, were half serious and maybe half teasing.

There is a feeling I get of a complete ignorance of Arab people obviously due to fear and segregation and a symptom of the terrorist bombing. The enemy could be anywhere; the threat is always there. I imagine that hate and fear are on both sides of this war. It's as if both the Jews and the Arabs are victims of Zionist policies and colonialism. Both are victims of the occupation. The holocaust and the persecution of Jews in the past are used to justify the occupation and it is a very emotional subject. I repeat myself and say again that this seems to be the danger when anti-Zionism is seen or interpreted as anti-Semitism.

Menachem explained to me.“ There is no other haven for persecuted Jews- Many, such as the 80000 or so Ethiopian Jews, had no chance of either living a normal life in Ethiopia or getting accepted anywhere else. Bringing them here, as well as accepting or rescuing any other Jew who wishes to come here, is basically what Zionism is all about- for me anyway.” He told me in a letter after I showed him this diary. I believe that the Israelis have rights of course and the sufferings they have endured may be added to that right, but they cannot be said to have a historic right to a piece of territory because some of their ancestors supposedly inhabited it 2000 years ago. For another, they ought to recognise that they have done a considerable wrong to an other people, in depriving them of rights at least as great as their own. The Israelis, on the whole, refuse to accept the fact that their right violates other rights, which are no less respectable. The Arabs of Palestine used to have the same rights as the French exercise in France and the English in England. The bitterness felt by the people to whom this wrong was done persists, and, as long as it does, the rights of the Israelis will remain purely hypothetical. They can only hope that the Arabs will one day recognize and accept them. Only then will their rights become real.

How are they to make themselves accepted? There is a moral way, which consists of discussion and persuasion. Politically, such a method has more chance of success if accompanied by concessions. There is also an immoral way, by the use of force. Whether or not it is effective has nothing to do with ethics. Yet it should be pointed out that the use of force entails very great risks in the case of Israel and her Arab neighbours. A forced acceptance can more easily be called into question by a change of government than a negotiated one. In addition, if recurrent recourse to arms proves necessary for an indefinite period, the force is liable not to remain on the same side forever.

I let Menachem, Jacobs Ladder Folk Festival director, read the above diary. He had read my previous travel diaries and encouraged me, he asked me to write one. Here is Menachems’ response to my diary. “Thanks, Rory, Yes to your question about including my letter to you about no political statements from the stage. I didn't know you then, or of your sensitivity and sensibility - I don't believe in "purifying" folksong - most decent folksongs are political- I was just worried about political speeches or provocative statements.

Your diary is a thoughtful and intelligent piece. Many people will find fault with your basic premise that Zionism is wrong. "I believe that the Israelis have rights of course and the sufferings they have endured may be added to that right, but they cannot be said to have a historic right to a piece of territory because some of their ancestors supposedly inhabited it 2000 years ago. " I think that the word "supposedly" is out of place- because of all the physical and historical evidence to prove that our ancestors did live here- as well as the Bible. There has been a continuous Jewish presence in Palestine/Israel ever since that time. (I use the name Palestine historically as it was used before 1948- Jews were then Palestinians as well as the local Arabs.)

The Hebrew language served as a Lingua Franca for all Jews- it was mainly used as a language of prayer- but that prayer and that language did unite all Jews, throughout history. The revival of Hebrew as a spoken language in Palestine began in the 1880s by 1948 it was spoken by most of the Jewish population here.

Anyway, Rory- there is so much to talk about, brought up in your diary. I can't relate to every point here. (I know that other people will when they read it) I just want to say that although I know that tremendous injustices have been and are being committed against Arabs/Palestinians, I believe tremendous good has been wrought and is being brought about each day by good people here, yes and even by the state. I am immensely proud of some of the achievements of the State of Israel- for the Jewish People, and humankind. Conflict will end and Peace will come.

Yes, you must come back and you must spend more time here- you must meet more people - and hopefully, when you do come back peace will already be here! Much Love, Menachem & Yehudit.