On how to tell a story (Israel: Part 2)

Tank Green/ September 11, 2006/ Palestine and Israel

Something has happened. Something is always happening, isn’t it? But something has happened to make my heart hurt in a different way, and instead of trying to figure out how to tell this Israel story, I have to figure out where the story is located behind all this other stuff.

At first I was afraid to write anything more because I didn’t want this to be tinged with other emotions. I wanted to keep the story of Israel separate from my life. Isolate it and tell it as purely as I could. But then I remembered that this is my story, and as such it is entirely impure, riddled with the myriad agonies and ecstasies that is my life.

J said, ‘sometimes I think it is best not to shape a narrative out of such journeys, just to let all the contradictions stay contrary and not be forced into the limited order my mind can make. We’re too quick to make narratives, and those narratives select their own reality.’ Yet anyone who knows me knows of my relentless internal repeating, reiterating, and rehashing of the moments as they fly by. I cannot not make a narrative; I can only choose to share it or not.

Saturday, before I heard the news, I wrote outlines of how I would tell you about my trip. I had neat little bullet points to embellish upon. I mixed the days and matched the emotions, and maybe I’ll still write those stories, but not today. Today is something different and tomorrow a friend arrives for a few days. Have patience with me; I promise I will tell you what I saw, even if it is not the way I meant to. Not the way you imagine.

We were sat having breakfast in the Jewish Quarter in the old city of Jerusalem when I decided to tell them that my name is actually Tank, not the one they call me. I have tried to keep my lives so separate: the school/work one, and the ‘real’ one I have with my friends. But you can’t go through all that with people and keep such a secret. You can’t go through all that and not be friends.

Travelling brings out a different side to people and relationships, and so even though there was one who behaved selfishly and spoilt, she still deserved my honesty, to know me by my real name. Our lives are now inextricably linked via Mossad and whomever else accesses the security files kept on those who visit the ‘Holy Land’. We are connected now, whether we like it or not. Whether or not we ever speak to each other again after graduation, there are dossiers in some room, on some computer, that will keep us together forever.

And so too, anyone who knows me knows how much I value honesty, indeed many blame me for having too much of it. It is this quality which leads me to always feel so shattered by betrayal. There is not even any need to betray me in order to make me feel this way, someone that I care for is enough. And so that is why I am sat here telling you less about Israel and more about me, because you should know what kind of Israel it is that I would create.

Having said that, it is also true that my Israel was not created solely by me, only the telling of it is. Going there in a group of four Muslims (L, H, X, and S), 1 Jew (J), and I (the faux-Christian), showed me very deliberately how our experience of the world radically differs. It was an interesting observation for me since I spend so much of my time alone, and therefore generally experience the world in a very individual and hyper-personal way. So to watch the different reactions that L got depending upon if she wore her scarf the Islamic way or the Orthodox Jewish way. To see how H always got stopped because she is both of Pakistani heritage and wearing the hijab. To watch how X innocently loves everyone. To feel intensely hated when my tattoos where showing, ignored when not. To hear the conflict that J feels between her heart and her intellect…

And so I said up there that I wanted to isolate the story, keep it pure and away from the betrayal that I now feel. The good thing about writing is that it brings you things you never knew before, and so now I think, maybe, that betrayal was the seventh passenger on our trip. Maybe I think now that the problem with Israelis, is that they were betrayed so massively and completely sixty years ago. Maybe they think they can isolate themselves to keep the pain away, but instead they are creating more, so much more, for both themselves and others. And I don’t know what to do about that, I don’t know at all, but maybe if I watch this other scene I’ll understand a little, and then maybe I can cross-pollinate life.

All those maybes, such little time.

In a glass of water to the right of my laptop are two date stones I carried back with me from Palestine. Let’s hope that they sprout and that one of them is female so that I don’t make some monstrous, sterile, north London bastard. Maybe then I can make an oasis out of life after all.