by Jonathan Brooks Published 01/06/2002
I wandered in to the town and began looking for those unusual photographs that can be so photojournalistic. Rounding a corner several streets into this maze, I came suddenly face to face with a dubious looking character who asked what I was doing. I explained that I was taking photographs - it seemed relatively harmless, and I was being honest. At this point the man insisted that I follow him back to the tourist area, he didn't want me to see how and where the local people lived. He then proceeded to give me a very rushed tour of the city, and then asked where my coach party was. I explained that I must have got separated. With a Nikon camera draped around me and a camera bag with my passport in it,
I was beginning to feel very vulnerable. He now asked to be paid for his five-minute trip around the sea wall and back to somewhere in this maze of streets. I was beginning to feel very lonely, all the tourist coaches had left, something he too had realised. I protested that he offered to show me around and I had not asked him. His demands for cash grew by the minute and I emptied the small amount of change from my pockets into his hands and tried to back away. This only made him madder, he was now insulted and began asking for large amounts of money. After some fasttalking I managed to get several paces away and kept on walking as he followed me. I was lost in the maze of narrow streets with him behind waving his arms and shouting.
I rounded a corner, saw my lone car on the car park, hastily ran, jumped in and sped off. He was last seen chasing me shouting and waving his fists but I breathed a sigh of relief and set about finding some where to spend the night.
After about an hour's drive north along the coast in darkness I saw the lights of a large hotel and stopped - it was the only one I had seen. I now felt safer but found that the hotel was empty as it was out of season. The night porter, who seemed to double as a security guard, was the only person there. He said I could stay and gave me the keys to a room as he hardly took his eyes of the TV perched precariously on the counter. I took all my bags and cameras up to the room only to find that the lock on the door was broken. A check revealed that none of the doors along the corridor had locks either.
I debated what to do, but when I asked the porter he didn't seem so worried. In addition, there was no food in the hotel, which seemed to be miles from anywhere. I didn't wish to leave all my belongings or to return them all to the car to drive off looking for food so when he offered to ring for a pizza I agreed. Having shared a meal with this very interesting person I was soon fast asleep with the chair propped against the door, having had enough drama for one day. However much more was to come.
I had reached Kefar Rosh Ha Niqra, about as far north as you can go in Israel on the coast. After doing the tourist thing of exploring the caves, I visited the cafe and struck up a conversation with two American, UN soldiers. They had just finished two weeks duty in Lebanon began to tell me all about life on the other side of the fence, how restrictive everything is and many other things, although they were a little guarded about what they said. I had them take my photograph as close to the border as was possible. If you step too far you can be arrested and cameras are banned from this area anyhow.
I just wanted to be able to say "I was there". After saying goodbye to my new-found army friends, I decided to travel inland, along the Lebanon border. The road was marked as a scenic route on the map, so I thought it would provide more photographic opportunities.
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