Under the Star of Bethlehem – Silence
When our small group arrived at a hotel in Jerusalem, we were unpleasantly surprised by the silence in the lobby. Before giving us electronic cards, which act as room keys, the clerk long and painfully searched for an application from the Ministry of Tourism, which organized a trip to Israel for five Russian journalists. The lull in the hotel looked even more amazing against the backdrop of a slightly tinsel shine of warm Eilat, nestled at the northeastern tip of the Red Sea, and the hustle and bustle in the five-star health resorts of the other Dead Sea. There, in fulfillment of various social programs, a whole pilgrimage of pensioners from the same Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa was observed.
However, the very next day in our hotel everything changed – the famous Jewish Hanukkah began. And the hotel immediately became a center of attraction for tourists from Israel and from abroad. As you can see, in the series of New Year’s holidays on the Promised Land this time, only two Christmases pass relatively quietly – Catholic and Orthodox. Under the influence of deliberately sensational reports by CNN and Euronews, many pilgrims at the turn of the millennium refused to travel to Israel. Silence reigned in the legendary Bethlehem and Nazareth, although the New Year’s antics of extremists happened very far from these cities. But, judging by all the signs, under the guise of another intifada, the civilized world is presented with only a series of squabbles between semi-criminal groups of various nationalities. Although some of them pretend to be some “avengers”, some are in a hurry to join the ranks of fighters for faith, this does not change the essence of the matter – it seems that in Israel they are tired of everyone – both Jews and Arabs.
Many events that Western journalists immediately qualify as Israeli front-line media simply do not pay attention. In addition, no one here doubts that the Israeli competent authorities always have something to answer to any threat of terrorists – an enhanced security regime. What is even worth a lengthy conversation with representatives of the airline’s security service or a thorough check of everyone who comes to the legendary Wailing Wall, after which it may really seem to some that the Israelis are crazy about security. But nevertheless, the Jerusalem police seem to have every reason for such vigilance. Indeed, despite Hanukkah, hooligans threw stones at worshipers at the Wailing Wall, but they immediately received a fair portion of rubber bullets from the police. But even for the sake of such news, it never occurred to anyone to interrupt regular broadcasts, as is sometimes done on CNN. But when the “Hanukkah” incident happened in the Russian capital, the representatives of the extremist wing of the Jews tried to drown the rabbis among the Hasidim who were tolerant in the ritual pool, the Israeli media did not remain silent. The broadcasts were not only interrupted, a lengthy commentary was also broadcast on disagreements among Russian Jews.
It is hardly worth wondering that the dismantling of extremists simply could not affect our stay in Israel. It seems that the resort charms of Eilat, and the philosophical silence of the Galilee desert, and the sanatorium regime of the Dead Sea coast, and the Mediterranean subtropics who want to “fight” are deeply indifferent. We can agree that the situation in Israel, let’s say, is not idyllic, but in order to somehow encounter terrorism, so beautifully painted by the Western media, even journalists have to make some efforts on the Promised Land. In the six days I spent in Israel, I thrice “went AWOL” three times — I made sorties to personally get acquainted with the difficult situation in the country.
The first thing I did was in Eilat, I visited the Egyptian and Jordanian borders – the benefit of both is only half an hour from the resort. I talked with Israeli border guards and even with a Jordanian sergeant. As it turned out, the only incident lately was a collective (for six) swim of our former compatriots from Jordanian Aqaba to Eilat. As told. Border guards, citizens of one of the CIS countries did not even try to hide that they sailed to Israel “to earn money.” However, what kind of “earnings” will be, the girls did not admit. I think you should not be surprised at such a craving for the promised land – here even the average pension is two thousand dollars, which is several times more than the average salary in the same Jordan, and ten times more than the best salary in any of the former Soviet republics.
The second sortie was no more successful – the residential quarters in the new part of Jerusalem were not much different from the same quarters in some other Mediterranean country. In the Jewish and Christian quarters, children returned from school, and in the Arab quarter, merchants in every way bonfired their own – “Arab” terrorists, undermining the entire trade of peaceful co-religionists.