Bulldozer on the Beach

I almost decided not to write about this weekend's experience, because I've already complained so much about what it means to live under a military occupation, but I know you like to read about what goes wrong here. Otherwise, you'd get too jealous of me and my sweet life, right?So this weekend we decided to go to a new beach, one north of Tel Aviv. It was to be one of the first weekends of warm weather this year. And this time, we had a real, live Palestinian in the car.

Also, a real live Scot.

So with two Americans in the front, a Scottish lass named Kate, and a Palestinian habibti in the back, we set off for a beach we'd never been to called Herzaliya.

Now, normally, I'm prepared with my realism and slight cynicism about traveling to and fro between Palestine and Israel. It's always hard. We always get lost. There's always traffic. Checkpoints suck. Blah, blah, blah.

But lately, things have been easier. We've been making local friends who've helped us through the more difficult parts of life here. We sort of know where things are, and when we need to avoid certain checkpoints. It's about time, since we are just a few months away from the one year mark.

So as we rolled up to the checkpoint, I made a swaggering comment about how I'd bet money that the guard would just wave us through.  I was willing to put money on it. Seriously.

No ma'am. They asked for all our paperwork, and our Palestinian friend pulled out her I.D. and her special card from the UN giving her permission to enter Israel.

Holding our passports hostage, they told us to pull the car over, and open its cavities.

Then we had to get out, and put our bags through the x-ray machine. We had to pull out water bottles and for some reason, our Kindles had to get scanned multiple times.

Then they pulled aside our Palestinian friend to get her alone to interrogate her. In the end, they told her she couldn't pass through this checkpoint.

What was so frustrating for me is that I'm pretty good at negotiating with the teenagers who run the entry points to Israel.  (Yes, it helps that I'm a white American female.) I realize that negotiating with teenagers  is always a delicate and unpredictable process. And I'm aware that negotiating with teenagers who are CARRYING FIREARMS  is a delicate, unpredictable, and dangerous endeavor. However, I've done it before. with success and the help of an adorable puppy.

So I asked the soldiers what was up, and where our friend could get the information that said she couldn't pass. Turns out, she needed to find out from the  DCO (which stands for District Control Office or something) to find out which checkpoints she is able to pass through. At that point, I was thinking of trying the puppy method, which I'm pretty sure would have worked.

However, as I talked to the guards, the other members of my party were giving me "let's get out of here," looks, so I didn't continue to negotiate with the guards.  However, I think that, given another year of experience here, I will have the confidence to negotiate more effectively with the guards. It's all about confidence, whiteness, and having a few phone numbers of U.N. representatives in one's pocket. We seriously needed to get to the beach, and I was and will be willing to negotiate with armed and brainwashed teenagers both now and in the future.

But the story doesn’t end there. We turned around and drove maybe three more hours, getting lost and irritated as our planned time in the sun dwindled. We finally made it to another checkpoint where we had to get out again, and went through the same x-ray process, right down to having to scan our Kindles twice.

This time, they let all of us through.

But then we got lost again. Charming simply gave up, his foot cramping from driving so long. Our normally bubbly and outgoing Palestinian friend felt so humiliated that she stopped talking. That left me and Kate to figure out how to get to the beach. We pulled over, and thankfully, Kate offered to ask some nearby people for help.

They gave us directions, which matched Charming's suddenly operating phone GPS directions.

We finally made it to Herzeliya beach, with just a few hours left to enjoy.

But we did enjoy them, filling up on sushi overlooking a marina.

Then we met more friends (who'd come from a different direction and arrived hours before us) and settled in on the beach.But, I kid you not, just moments after settling in, a huge bulldozer came over in front of me and started creating a pile of sand that blocked my view of the water.


This was a huge beach, and the bulldozer was just a few feet away. You can see from my body language  how pissed off I am.

(Charming has decided to appear photographically on this blog. I'm so happy! This is a rather mundane photo for him to be making his first appearance in, but I'll try to add more shots that show his good looks later.)

If this had been an American beach, they would've been handing out hard hats.If this had been an American beach, they would've done the beach improvement work at 5 am when no one was there, instead of the middle of a Sunday afternoon.

But this was Israel, where if someone wants to plant a pole on the beach on Sunday afternoon, they are going to do it.

And they told us it would take  5 minutes.  Of course It took 30, and made me feel personally in danger of being squooshed by a giant wooden pole.By this point, the day was just hilarious. There was nothing to do but laugh.

And fly a kite.

I'm dancing, because after seeing this project, I decided I would dance in all future posed photos of me.Thanks Charming, Kate, and our dear Palestinian friend for contributing to a wonderful horrible adventure day. Seriously, life is so funny and crazy and wonderful.

P.S. All photos in this post are by Kate Aykroyd. Thank you Kate!