Team Talk - Rohan: Tech Guy
Life Member of the HAK whanau. He’s also known as, “Bro han”, “Rohana”,or just, “Get out of the shot eow”.
The great thing about telling stories from outer space is that you can see shapes or patterns or ideas while being oblivious about the finer details. Telling stories from the ground - it quickly becomes apparent that the world is more complex than you want it to be. And so the stories are harder to tell. They are made of fragments, and sometimes the overall picture is hard to put together.
Where you from? Why did you come here?
Everyone can see that I am not from the area.
One of the Israeli flight attendants looks confused when I have an Australian passport, but I am living in New Zealand. I have fun explaining the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement (1973) at 2am in the morning while they try and find me a better seat to sleep in.
One Israeli guy in Jerusalem with an American accent tells me “Welcome to our country” after asking where we are from. His emphasis seems more possessive than patriotic.
A Palestinian shepherd stops me when I am walking down the street. “Why are you here?”, he says. I tell him I am here to learn about the region. He looks at me very puzzled.
Two Israelis on the plane ask where I am going to visit. I tell them I want to go to Haifa and Jerusalem. They say “No don’t go there - really boring. Only place worth visiting is Eilat”, which is a resort town on the gulf of Aqaba.
A Palestinian takes us out to dinner the first night we get to Ramallah. We have mixed grill with different dips and salads. It is seriously the best food ever - “This is really good, this is excellent, this is the best food I’ve had here, best food I’ve had anywhere” - and not just because I have eaten poorly in Tel Aviv.
The same Palestinian takes us on a late night tiki tour of Ramallah. He shows us the upper class regions of the city where large amounts of oil money has gone into building palatial structures, the massive hotel where the UN delegates stay, the Fatah or Palestinian Authority enclave.
On the flight there, I forget to order special food, but the Israeli air hostesses manage to find me a first class meal of sauteed mushrooms in butter. Delicious. On the flight back, an Israeli air hostess I have been talking to hands me a first class kit containing toothbrush, sleeping mask and smiles.
Seeing a map of all the Israeli settlements in the West Bank was a bit of a shock. They are dotted throughout the country, particularly a newly sprouting ring dotted around the border with Jordan, and behind the city of Bethlehem. Usually located on hilltops, with walls around the outsides and ring roads for security. Maybe a thousand buildings housing tens of thousands of people just in one settlement alone. Some settlements have been around for decades. The gravity of the situation reaches you when you see an orthodox Jew out in the middle of the West Bank desert waiting for a bus. Israeli buses go from Jerusalem to the settlements in the West Bank. They are heavily armoured.
The true nature of the situation with demolitions in the West Bank. Everything in Area C (the majority of the West Bank) is under Israeli state and military control. This means that people who live there need permission from the Israeli government to build new structures, but the Israeli government rarely gives permission for Palestinians to build, giving preference to settlements. Palestinians build anyway, because it’s their land in their eyes and their family has been there for generations. Nomads that used to drive their stock up and down the country have been constrained to certain areas and live in makeshift huts. Every so often the Israeli military comes and demolishes some of the areas destroying people’s homes.
The final message of the holocaust museum's main hall echoes the Israeli attitude - “Nothing will deter us from Palestine. Which jail we go to is up to you [the British]. We did not ask you to reduce our rations; we did not ask you to put us in Poppendorf and Am Stau.” - It shows force of will and assertiveness.