Dead Sea, Israel
January 30, 2000
It’s only our second shoot and I’m wondering if our subjects are trying to complicate identity issues more for me or just trying to say something like “Hey…I can be a Cowboy and still be Chinese” or “I can be a Christian living in the midst of religious conflict and still be Chinese too”. As my stream of conscious wanders, I’m distracted by the Klezmer Hip Hop tuning in from a near by radio in the kitchen.
We check out and say goodbye to everyone before heading off to Jerusalem, taking the scenic route through Nazareth along the Sea of Galilee to avoid possible snipers. Cheuk is exhausted from the driving after we passed the Jordan River. I take over with the West Bank ahead. Driving into Jerusalem through rush hour traffic was quite a kamikaze ordeal. After much getting lost, we find my bed and breakfast and Cheuk flies home early while I stay behind for a few more days.
I spend the next few days shooting (not literally) diverse faces and different neighbourhoods in and around Jerusalem, Old City and Bethlehem. I’m told to avoid the Arab quarters by the Israelis and the Arabs tell me not to tread too deep into Jewish neighbourhoods. At night, I mostly look for Swiss-run (neutral) cyber cafes to check for e-mail… just kidding about the Swiss part.
Sexy babes in army fatigues are a common sight here. Living in a country where you’re surrounded by potential enemy attacks, every soldier must carry their automatic assault weapon even during off-duty hours in bars and discos. After causing a domino affect on a row of Uzi’s leaning up against the bar, I meet Rachel. She invites me to join her to bath at the salt springs in the Dead Sea after I asked if that was her Uzi or is she just happy to see me? Yeah… so I’m a bit cliché… but what else are you gonna say to a hottie in uniform? Especially one with an Uzi.
Rachel and I spent the next forty-eight or so hours together. I can’t say that it was a “till sunrise” experience. We both knew that a Saba would never leave Israel and I could never see myself living there. So we made the best of forty-eight hours, spent the night together, went to the Dead Sea the next day. After that, we could only stand each other long enough for a sweet goodbye at the airport as the sulfur from the salt springs made both of us stink like rotten eggs. Nonetheless, it was an amazing forty-eight hours and my former girlfriend has become more or less a faded memory.
The airport experience was the worst I’ve ever had. Thank God I gave myself plenty of time. I was grilled and interrogated by midget cops for nearly three hours. Standard interrogation tactics, but really annoying. I was cooperative until they blew up one of my lamps. After that I just lost it and demanded to speak to Canadian authorities, US cash for compensation and told them to kiss my sulfur-clad ass. Since I lived to tell the tale… it’s needless to tell you that I got my US cash in a neat pile without any paper work and was personally escorted to my gate by head of security but they never did kiss my sulfur-clad ass.