With my grasp of Israeli politics now so strong, it’s comparable to the vice-like grip of a sleeping toddler, I headed off on my first real assignment today as Benjamin Netanyahu formally launched the Likud Party’s election campaign.
I say first real assignment but this doesn’t include yesterday’s mission to cover the funeral of a leading figure in an ultra-orthodox area of Jerusalem. The first problem of the day was to find the place. Having got hold of my car the other day, I also opted to get a sat-nav for the duration of my stay. Having been warned that there may be some problems with translations by my boss, I soon discovered that the Hebrew translations of the road names are very different to the English version. “Jaffa Road? Ah, you’ll be looking for Yafo. Of course. How silly of me.” When I pointed the problem out to the guy in Hertz, he said “Ah yes, many road names are not included. Also, if the road you are looking for isn’t there, try the Hebrew spelling.” Genius.
Anyhow, my only pictures filed through the AFP system so far have been less-than exciting shots of political party stickers and posters for a feature angle. It’s very different from English elections in that, so far, the advertisements seem quite limited in their placement. This may change as the day draws closer but, for now, I had to settle for stickers that are handed out at junctions by enthusiastic kids and a few posters. It doesn’t help that if the poster doesn’t have a photo of the leader on, I’m currently trying to identify the names of the parties (in their original Hebrew script) with names like “the one with the first letter that looks like Elvis’ profile”. I’m dead intelligent, me.
It’s strange working in a location that is always potentially close to “something” happening. In London, everyone is prepared to some extent but photographers have to have their cameras with them here AT ALL TIMES. Breakfast, bathroom visits, popping down one floor of the building to get a sandwich; it’s all included. It would feel quite ridiculous if it wasn’t for the level of security that’s there to remind you of possibilities. Nearly every restaurant has an armed guard outside and bills include an optional “security fee”, most parking garages have a guard that checks the boot of your car, young kids that in England would be hanging around on street corners are walking the streets in uniforms with assault rifles. Actually, there’s not that much difference with that last one.. *Switches back out of Daily Mail-mode*
So, after a long wait involving lots of friendly Bibi fans wandering over for a chat before realising there was a decided language barrier and wandering off again, Netanyahu made his grand entrance. As usual, seconds before he walked in, a quick agreement between all the photographers not to rush forward collapsed as everyone just decided to monster him. Being far too British and polite, I ended up being one of the last to go for it. Thankfully, London has sharpened my elbows enough to get stuck in if there’s a shot worth having.
Not speaking Hebrew, I can pretty much say that he said all the usual things you’d expect a politician to say when fighting a political battle and the audience lapped it up.
So the battle has officially begun. With a terrible dawning feeling, I remember that in political war, the first casualty is usually sleep. I think I need to grab some advance slumber..