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The Only Democracy in the Middle East

By Shaqooq fil Jidar - Posted on 29 July 2015

Doesn't that indicate freedom.  Freedom of movement.  Freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of travel.  Maybe equal rights.  Liberty...if it's the only democracy in the Middle East then why is it the only country in the Middle East that I have traveled to where I have been interrogated at the airport on the way in and the way out...each time I have been there?  Why is it the only country I have traveled to in the Middle East where I am scared to post on Facebook?  Where I'm scared to blog about my experiences?  Where I'm scared to tell people where I am living?  Where I am scared to tell people where I am volunteering and what I am doing?  Why is it the only country in the Middle East where I had to delete my viber app, my whatsapp, my Skype and my Facebook app to make sure nothing is found out if they go through my stuff at the airport?  Why is it the only country in the Middle East where I had to create a different email account so in case they go through my stuff at the airport, it won't be known where I was staying, where I am volunteering, and what I was doing?  Why can't I bring back certain souvenirs which would indicate my being around or with Arabs or in certain parts of the land?  Why is that I am not free to fall in love with an Arab man or walk the old city of Nablus without being labeled a security threat?  Why is it the only country in the Middle East that I have been to, where I live in so much fear about being spied on, found out and kicked out?  Why is it the only place on earth where I had to have local Israelis agree to a story that we made up so I would have something to tell the security at the airport when I left and for when I come back in?  Why do I live in fear everyday while I am there?  It's supposed to be the only democracy in the Middle East!  But even as a middle class, white, female, British tourist/volunteer, I give up my freedom when I enter the only democracy in the Middle East!

I was offered a job at a Palestinian, peace organization.  The job is in area A of the West Bank and it's where only Palestinians live.  No Israelis legally can go there...but some do...the peace activists do.  And each time they come and go unscathed, it's proof that it is not dangerous.  But if they are caught by Israeli security/military, it's a 10,000 euros fine.  As a tourist, I am allowed to travel Israel and in the West Bank, with exception of Gaza.  I can rent cars and stay in hotels on both sides of the wall.  I can cross all the checkpoints without much harassment or problems.  I can cross the wall as many times as I want every day without much of a glance from the soldiers.  But if I take this job in area A, I will give up that freedom.  I will have to take a volunteer visa which means I can only stay in the West Bank.  No more Israeli contact (unless it's a soldier at a checkpoint in the West Bank), no more shopping at the mall in western Jerusalem, no more going to the beach in Tel Aviv, no chance of making friends with any Jews, no more freedom of movement!  I will be confined with the rest of the West Bank Palestinians behind that awful terroristic wall.  So again, as the only democracy in the Middle East, why is my new boss searching through his contacts to try to see if someone can "employ" me so I can have freedom of movement?  Why in the only democracy in the Middle East, did I apply for grad school in Israel, so one, I could have a story at the airport, and two so maybe I could get a student visa instead of a volunteer visa so I could keep my freedom of movement?  It's seems in the only democracy in the Middle East, things shouldn't be so complicated for me, but they are.

In a true, free democracy, shouldn't I have the freedom to work at any organization or company I want and not have to give up my right to go to Jerusalem, pray at the Wailing Wall, or go to the beach in Tel Aviv?  Probably...but not in this democracy in the Middle East.  In this democracy in the Middle East, I have had to live in fear and I will have to give up many freedoms, just to fulfill my heart's calling to work and live with the Palestinians and try to make a small, peaceful, impact  in the never ending oppression and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people.  Some people think I'm brave, some people admire me for what I am doing but for me, it's just what I have to do...there is no other option...this is what I am meant to be doing right now with my life.  So when I return to Israel (since I am on a visa run now), I will play their game and I will put on my smile, and put out my best "dumb British" vibe, and try to lie with a straight face as best as I can to security who are trained to detect liars, so I can continue the path I have been called to the only democracy in the Middle East!


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