New Delhi, India
I arrived at Ben Gurion Airport to find a surly security guard waiting by the entrance. He asked me a couple of questions leading up to “Did you ever travel to the West Bank?”, to which I replied: “Yes”. It’s not illegal, after all. However, that inevitably lead to a slew of questions, a phone call to my place of work, and my bags being thoroughly checked. Ultimately, I was allowed to pass through and I raced through the bustling airport to catch my flight to New Delhi. I was going to visit family for two weeks.
On my first day in Delhi, my brother and I headed to the cinema to catch a matinee show. Afterwards, we weaved through the vibrant crowds of Connaught Place: people rushing to the metro after a hard day’s work, tourists walking around with beaded hair and backpacks, vendors sitting on the floor and peddling colourful knick-knacks to passers-by, an old man playing his flute on the corner of the street. We climbed the stairs to the rooftop of the Indian Coffee House, where monkeys hung from the trees encompassing the building.
Satisfied with our evening coffees, we hopped onto the Delhi metro and headed back home—my brother in the general compartment and I in the women’s. Things like these—the fact that we require a separate compartment for women—seem glaringly ridiculous especially in light of having returned from a city where men and women can co-inhabit a crowded train without one group harassing the other.
A couple of days later, I headed to a friend’s place to catch up with old colleagues from work. There was good chatter, good pizza and crappy Kingfisher beer.
I found myself engulfed in a discussion about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with my friend’s roommate. She was vehemently anti-Israel, and I suppose I could see where she was coming from, because that’s how I used to feel before I moved to Jerusalem.
It’s so easy to talk about a place that one has never set foot in but only read books and news articles about. In reality, though, what does it matter what I think?
But what side am I on, she wants to know. I’m against the illegal Israeli occupation of the West Bank. I am also against those who celebrate the killing of innocent people—on either side. I am against the relentless abuse of power and human rights violations committed by the Israeli state, and I’m frustrated with the inefficiency of the corrupt Palestinian Authority in doing a decent job for their people.
It disturbs me when I hear some Palestinians praise Hitler, and it disturbs me when I hear some Israelis declare that Palestine is a lie and that neither its history nor its people exist (“they’re Jordanians”). I am tired of phrases like “peace process” being thrown about in such a hypocritical, self-serving manner. But what is truly disheartening—in any conflict—is the ability we seem to possess to effectively dehumanise ‘the Other’.
We moved on to other topics eventually, like newfound loves, broken engagements, quarter life crises. Until the beer ran out.