by Jonathan Brooks Published 01/06/2002
Israel is a unique country, torn apart by war and politics. Most people turn away from you when they see a camera, and it's surprising how often they see you before you see them. I was told that photographers working for the government sometime take photographs of people for many reasons, I could be seen as one of those and therefore, not liked.
It was not, as I thought, as though these people thought I was "taking" something from them, like their soul, they are now far too educated to believe this, I think. This could explain why time after time I tried to photograph shepherds in the countryside and was chased away by them wielding sticks and shouting things I couldn't understand. Being on my own I was in no position to try to reason with these people.
Around the country there are many roadblocks, several hundred metres of concrete blocks making zigzags in the road, policed by armed soldiers. Although at the time I was there it was generally peaceful, you cannot escape the trappings of a country that is ready to go to war at any time. When you fly into Tel Aviv airport there are military aircraft lined up on the runway with support aircraft from the UN. Imagine flying into Heathrow and seeing all this activity, you would soon become uneasy, yet they live with these distractions and now far worse atrocities day in day out.
Conscription is in operation within Israel. Young men and women very often have to break their studies from school or university to take up military service. It is not unusual to be driving along on a Friday or Monday and see hundreds of army personnel waiting at bus stops, or standing at the side of the roads hitching a lift home for the weekend, all are carrying huge backpacks and firearms. One can only presume that they carry live ammunition, these are not games that they play. Often I would come down to breakfast in some guesthouse or hotel and have to step over firearms left all over the floor.
They seem to take them everywhere and one just takes them for granted after a while.
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