Rome to Beirut or Tel Aviv

The airport of Rome sticks the gate of the plane going to Beirut to the one going to Tel Aviv. Every single time I use Italian airports for flight connections it is the same story. It could be taken as a lesson of ill-directed pride. It could be read as something like: for us you are the same, chunks of lands juxtaposed, bunch of brown people with similar attributes, so your gates should be just like Paris and Brussels, gates next to each other. Or it could be read as laziness to separate both gates just because there is a conflict between the two post-colonial countries even tough ironically enough, the actual planes are separated because of “security issues”…

I usually go and sit between the Israeli crowd. As I am early, only one Rabbi sits there with his usual big belly eating a sandwich. I take out my laptop and starts listening to Bach’s art of the fugue (blabla). Try that, listen to Bach gently setting a serene almost mystical atmosphere while seeing Israelis arrive. Slowly emerge out of nowhere passenger after passenger and this weird feeling of being surrounded by something different, hostile but exiting overtake me. “Khkhkh” that’s all I can hear. I try to rationalize things thinking that these are individuals, mostly harmless “civilians” as prevailing political legal structures would have it, but my mind seem to evade my will. I always play this game actually. Every time I travel and the occasion presents itself I do that, I go and sit with the Israelis, and each time, I try to feel somewhat differently, this overbearing feeling of irritation but struggle to understand and subliminally ‘reach out’.

This time I listen to a conversation next to me, and it is in Lebanese Arabic. At first, it seems like these two men are Lebanese, like me, and thought of playing this stupid game of “sitting between the Israelis.” But it turns out these are Lebanese who live in Israel. Later on, I sat between the Lebanese, the ones sitting for the plane leaving to Beirut, and I watched the other Lebanese board on the plane to Tel Aviv. I want to wave them goodbye, do something, anything. And then the brouhaha of spoken Lebanese slowly embraced me and gradually tame my ardors. There were more pressing voices bursting into my thoughts. Our own divisions is the subject of the day. The recent armed clashes in Beirut, the various political squabbles following the election of the new parliament, the appointment of Saad Hariri as prime minister, the Sunni-Shi’ite conflict, the increasingly scared Christians and their ill-understood liberty, and so on, and so on…

I give a couple of clicks to my computer and listen to Zaki Murad, that great Jewish Egyptian singer of the early 1900s: Yes’ed layalik, laya…alik, ya…a…a…amar! Akh ya Zaki…


5 Replies to “Rome to Beirut or Tel Aviv”

  1. AAAAaaaaakh (khkhkh) ya zakiiiiii…. Ya hayété :):):)
    I love that post ! The bichboch I know :’)

    I’m always tempted by hanging out with them by the way, actually made a friend at work a long time ago.. But not exactly for the same reasons I think, it’s more like a fascination for me: something beyond what I can understand, like another breed.. But I feel the same about saudis too…
    And I love Syrians and Irakis, by definition. I don’t know why. Probably because they’re always so friendly and all smiles! And the french piss me off, assholes.

    People are strange, where you’re a stranger…. Popopompompom

  2. I’m not sure if this is still the case now, but in the mid 2000’s the Vienna airport had the Tel Aviv and Damascus flights at adjacent gates. Naturally both flights required special security lines, which made for a crowded and sometimes confusing pre-boarding process. Nice idea for the musical accompaniment :).

  3. Same thing in Larnaka, Cyprus. The planes also arrive and depart at the same time, and since the planes are not connected to the terminal, they even use the same bus to drive the passengers to the terminal. On the bus there’s an immediate separation; one ‘people’ to the front, the other to the back of the bus.

    Funnily enough, a lot of them later meet again in the town-halls of Larnaka and Nicosia, waiting in the hallway for their turn at civil marriage…

  4. Thanks for the comments everyone, yes it does exist in several airports actually, and the security arrangements vary. Once I had to wait at Heathrow’s airport for all the Israeli passenger to take their luggage before we could have ours, as both flights arrived at the same time and through the same terminals.

  5. “there is a conflict between the two post-colonial countries.”

    Israel is a POST-colonial country? I didn’t notice. I thought Palestine had never ceased to be ruled by colonists….

    Interesting post nevertheless. I had the “pleasure” of being stuck in a presentation group for a political philosophy class I was taking, with an Israeli… He was one arrogant SOB, excuse the term! There was no way I could change the group, so whenever we met up to prepare the presentation, I had to wear a Palestinian flag pin on my shirt and pro-Palestinian buttons on my backpack……(well, never really removed those buttons anyway).

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