Activists…

I have taken the liberty of translating this opinion column from Ynet, written by Tal Dror. It goes as follows:

In my first year I worked in a typical Jerusalem coffee house, coffee in the morning, hamburger for lunch and beer for dinner. The proximity to city center hotels made it popular also among those international activists of the Left who constantly visit the capital. I had long conversations with those people who order drink after drink at the end of another day protesting in Sheick Jarah or Biliin and Naalin. Once and again I found myself thinking: why do they even come here? How does a 20-year-old kid from Denmark pack a backpack and tell his parents that he’s flying to the Middle East?

A foreign reporter from Spain, one that really likes local red wine, told me how every international reporter dreams of being stationed in Israel. “It’s a heaven for reporters”, she explained. “Where else in the world can you go to a restaurant in a city like Tel Aviv, have a drink on Dizingoff and then go to bed in a good hotel, where the only thing separating you from a live report from the “battlefield” is a 45 min. drive to Sheik Jarah or Biliin”?

Indeed, in Israel we have a dissonance which we have developed over years of living on the edge. The south is being bombarded, a million people can be sleeping in shelters, but 15-20km away, the world keeps on. We have created a situation where in the tiny Israel there are two parallel universes. Those same foreign activists fit in perfectly into one universe of the two – the good, comfortable and quiet universe.

The other reason was explained to me by two activists who fell in love with a combination of Arak and red grapefruit I served them on the bar. I asked a little innocently and a little judgmentally the question we all hurry to ask every time we hear of another protest by foreign activists: “So why won’t you go protest in Egypt? Why not in Syria? What do you want from us?” The Swedish guy stopped smiling and answered in all seriousness: “Are you mad? Those are really dangerous places!”

And then it hit me. They know very well that nothing bad will happen to them here. The huge fuss the incident in the valley road and the rain of condemnations Lieutenant Colonel Shalom Aizner has received following that incident are a testimony to its exception. When the worst thing that could happen to you is getting slapped by the border guard, which automatically makes you a war hero among your friends, wouldn’t you put up a sign? Wouldn’t you throw a rock? After all, if you were in Egypt or Syria you would turn into one of the thousands of bodies on the streets that people are no longer even counting. In Russia or in China you would find yourself in a prison for the rest of your life if you dared raise a hand against local police.

“So wait, you wouldn’t come here if you thought there’s a chance you’ll get hurt?” I asked seriously. He chuckled. “I don’t think so,” he said, “I may be radical, but I’m spoiled,” and they both laughed.

That’s how I understood that for many of the activists this is a sort of a game, and we are the pawns. They come from all over the world to a faraway country they have never visited. They confront soldiers and policemen, block roads and put up signs. But, as long as they get their beer at the end of the day, as long as they can put their head down in a tourist-friendly hostel, they will keep coming. They use the qualities we pride ourselves with: the freedom, the democracy and the tolerance.

They use the system we have developed, the one that lets us disconnect from reality and not stop our lives when all around us there is fighting. I hope that here, beyond the brain-washing and hate screens, they will be able to find the point of light in Israel’s existence, and understand how lucky they are to be “radicals but spoiled” here with us. Maybe they’ll take another step back, tone down their protests and their calls of “Palestine will be free from the river to the sea” and understand that if it really happens and if Israel does disappear, they will have nowhere to go.

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