My last full day in Tel Aviv was spent going to Holon to visit the new design museum conceived by Ron Arad, a truly wonderful building, all curves and loops in different shades of red. I also walked around Herzl park with its fabulous multicolour playgrounds. Then back in the city, a wander around Neve Tsedek with its mix of old and new, trendy shops and cafes and late lunch of meze at Manta Ray, by the sea. A fitting place to say good bye to Tel Aviv with its motto of “incurable optimism”.
There I met another friend from the literary world who represents a host of great Israeli authors. I was glad to hear that the boycott had no impact on her and that she had the same amount of meetings with foreign publishers as ever if not more. Dalkey Archives has started a new series of translation from the Hebrew which is good news. She said she envied me having been able to go to the West Bank. She is very worried by the political situation and does not see the way out.
In the evening I was invited to a dinner where I met Ilan Pappe. Our host was surprised to hear the historian had never spoken at JBW. Even if I disagree with his views, I wish we could invite him but I can just imagine the hate mail we would receive! His positions are clear: Israel is a colonialist creation and cannot be justified by such a totally unreliable text as the Bible. As to “next year in Jerusalem”, it only alludes to a spiritual city, not to be taken literally. On that day, the deal between Hamas and Fatah had just been announced. He predicted tumultuous times ahead and eventually one state which would certainly not be called Israel… Back to what I heard at the beginning of my trip but from an Israeli.
I left the next morning with plenty of time to go through security. People travelling on their own are suspicious. Plus having entered the country from Jordan did not help even if I was not asked any question on that matter. My old laptop held together with tape, my bag of zatar (that delicious herb you put on cheese), a bag of cables (various chargers) and soaps from Nablus were thoroughly examined. In the end I was only rated 3, still much less that the clean shaved thirty something guy from the UN (6: maximum security threat apparently) and the pretty young German woman on her own (5) who had spent 3 months with a theatre company in the West Bank but we all made it onto the flight.
I’m now in Chamonix for a couple of days before driving back to London. Israeli intellectuals have endorsed a Palestinian State, Hamas/Fatah have apparently made peace, Palestine might be declared in the UN in September and then?… In the last few days we’ve had a royal wedding, a bomb in Morocco, scores of dead in Syria and another 2 hour speech from Ghaddafi. I keep thinking of my trip, of the various conversations I’ve had, the apparently irreconciliable narratives, and above all hope against hope there will be a miracle solution. I am now in the land of shrinking glaciers, visibly so from one year to the next, and I remember the other threat, possibly even bigger to the Middle East, the fight for water.
I have no answers, only questions. Writing this blog may have been naive or presumptuous on my part. Once again, this was only my personal take on what I saw, experienced and heard. My search for answers might be reflected in JBW 2012 but programming is a collective enterprise. We are soon to embark on a major brainstorm exercise to come up with the best possible 2012 festival and for now, this is all I can strive to achieve.