Don's diary

March 26, 1999

Friday: East Jerusalem

Wake disoriented, but recall I am due on a week's trip to Israel/Palestine to carry out fieldwork near Bethlehem and give a paper at the annual conference of the Israeli Anthropological Association in Nazareth. Land after midnight and, knowing it is impossible to find transport across the Green Line into the West Bank after nine, book a night at the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem. Bask in the orientalist splendour of this discarded colonial outpost. The British Academy's recent decision to end funding will, most likely, lead to the school's closure in the coming year.

Saturday: Beit Sahour

Spend today analysing how the town's organisation enabled it to show solidarity during the intifada. In the evening there is a commemoration of the drowning of three activists (one Israeli, one Beit Sahouri, and one Jewish American) from the hard-left Alternative Information Centre. The church hall is full of Palestinian and Israeli socialists, and while the rhetoric from the podium is all of common cause there is little social intermingling.

Monday: Bethlehem

Meet with a Palestinian film-maker who lectures in cultural studies at Bethlehem University. He wants to carry out PhD research with me on 19th-century descriptions of Palestinian culture by Russian travellers. He cannot find funding, and thinks I, as a UK academic, can direct him to the grants that must exist to assist. I can't; they don't.

Tuesday: Ramallah

Collect statistics from the census office on the Bethlehem region and am promised answers to questions about the family, education and vocation in Beit Sahour. By Palestinian presidential decree, no information organised in terms of religious affiliation is to be released. Given the area's history, this seems positive.

Wednesday: Nazareth

Edward Said is guest of honour at the Israeli Anthropological Association conference. This is the first time he has addressed an Israeli audience per se. He talks of the necessity to remember the traumas of both communities, and of the way attempts to deny history can only deform. The audience's enthusiasm is qualified by talk rejecting as impossible his call for a single state uniting Palestinians and Israelis equally. An attempt to make the association more welcoming to Palestinians by changing its name to "The Anthropological Association in Israel" gains only two votes.

Thursday: airport

During security questioning I admit to having stayed with "Arabs" on the West Bank. Two hours later - my luggage dismembered and my body searched - I am escorted, five minutes before the gates close, to my flight. Peace seems a distant country.

Glenn Bowman Lecturer in the department of anthropology, University of Kent.

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