A Personal Experience of the Israeli-Palestinina Conflict
Rees, Gareth, Contemporary Review
I'D overdosed following the ending of university exams and was lying in a bed in Haslar hospital having my stomach pumped. I was listening to 'Hey Jude' which had just been released and searching through the personal column of The Times for an opportunity to travel abroad which wouldn't cost me. A chauffeur was wanted to drive an art expert around galleries in Europe. I'd try that. But elsewhere in the paper I read that the Jordanian government was planning to sponsor some European students in a visit to the region to observe the plight of the Palestinian refugees and to clear farmland in the Jordan valley. I immediately wrote to the Jordanian embassy in London and amazingly, a couple of days later, I found myself flying over Corfu on my way to Jordan.
Of the many things that surprised me were the amount of crusader castles on top of the arid, tawny hills. And for many of the people, especially the children, the 'crusaders' had never gone away. Despite our heavily armed escort, our buses were constantly attacked by hails of stones. Walking into a village, an old man cut a bunch of grapes and passed them to me. But when the children spotted me, it was a case of run for your life.
We used to go down into the jungle-like Jordan Valley to 'work'. But it was clearly token stuff. I think we were really there as a human shield. The Jordanians certainly let the Israelis know we were there. We were followed by press and television all the time both local and international. Knowing the Israelis wouldn't attack with us there, the Jordanians were free to strengthen their front-lines. Or was it the Palestinians? You couldn't tell sometimes.
One time I was hiding in the banana plantation smoking some 'medication' supplied by the Palestinian doctor attached to us. I was talking to Arthur who, like me, had been in Israel the previous year. We knew we had to keep that quiet and out of our passports. I then said, 'And what lot were you working for?' And we both went into uncontrollable giggles. Strange thing, in hindsight, I reckon I'd been an unwitting employee of British intelligence. But that's another story.
Our giggling stopped with a burst followed by an answering burst of machine-gun fire coming from the river about fifty yards away. Well, there was always gunfire but that was Palestinians loosing off or practising way back in the hills. This was front-line stuff and real and was reported in the newspapers back in Britain. A ceasefire breach. But we decided to carry on puffing until the banana fronds rustled and a heavily armed soldier suddenly confronted us with a gun about as big as himself. He looked about twelve but he had very adult disapproving eyes. …