Tall dark young man, in appearance — a typical inhabitant of the middle Eastern country for a few days stay in Lebanon has already managed to gain popularity. The question asked most to meet him, one — what is to walk into a country where the unstable situation in Palestine.
The RIA Novosti correspondent met with the 25-year-old Swedish citizen Benjamin Ladra. During the conversation, the young traveler, who was a human rights activist, spoke about his family, about the motives of this “action”, the attitude to it in different countries and how he plans to get into Gaza.
The morning begins with phone calls. On the street it seems only dawning. In Lebanon at this time, the Muslim month of Ramadan, probably the only ones awake members of the Komsomol. In the receiver — voice of the leader of the local Komsomol movement.
He says that their comrades a few days ago met in Tripoli (in Northern Lebanon) Swede, who arrived from Turkey and wants to reach Palestine. Agree to meet at the headquarters of the “red” youth in the evening as soon as the traveler will reach Beirut.
It is worth noting that Lebanese youth greeted the traveler warmly. He offered all possible assistance, meals, coffee and a place to sleep. The latest from Benjamin refused, citing the fact that he has friends in Beirut who are waiting for him.
The tall guy in the free English willingly began to tell me about your Hiking trip. About the destination — Palestine — a young man said a lot of things: symbolism on the t-shirt, map of Palestine in the form of pendants on a silver chain, the colors of the Palestinian flag on the bracelet. It seems that even living in Lebanon Palestinians so clearly show their love and belonging to a closed homeland.
Familiarity with Palestine
“Almost all my life I studied music, but I am also the activist, the fighter for human rights. I care about people. When I worked as a volunteer for the Red Cross, one of my colleagues was a refugee from Palestine, he lived in a refugee camp in Syria, when there is also the war started, he left. Now he is in Sweden. We talked about the realities that the Palestinians who fled in 1947 in Syria and other countries, continue to be refugees is a tragedy. I began to study the problems of the Palestinian crisis, read books, watched documentaries. In the end, I decided to go there and see with your own eyes is the best way to find out what’s really going on”, — says Benjamin on the most popular, according to him, the question is — how did he even know of Palestine.
A large number of Palestinians in the late 1940-ies fled to neighbouring countries — Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. In Syria recently became known to the world largest Palestinian refugee camp in southern Damascus — Yarmouk. In 2015, the camp seized by militants of the banned terrorist group ISIS*. The Syrian army managed to release it only in may this year.
Asked about his past, a young traveller stipulates that “it is, shall we say, mixed”. Grandfather Benjamin’s mother’s side is Finnish refugee, he fled during the winter war of Finland with the Soviet Union. “Many Finns then sent their children to Sweden away from the war,” says guy. The my maternal grandmother is from Tunisia, his father is from Algeria.
“I grew up with my mom. They broke up when I was a child. I grew up as an ordinary Swede. I have no experience of a refugee, despite a mixed past of the family. In Sweden, a lot of people with roots from different countries, so we at home do not ask someone where it is, we are all Swedes,” continued guy, as it turned out, with Arabic roots.
More than a year ago, “human rights activist” was already in Israel. Then he, like many tourists went there by plane. But his first trip, the activist decided to spend as he considers useful, and not relaxing in the seaside resort. “I was doing a music project in Nablus, played in refugee camps and schools. I played together with other musicians from different countries, each performing their traditional songs, we played for the Palestinians, and the Palestinians played us. There were guys from Sweden, France and other countries,” says Benjamin.
“Evil” Germany and “strange” Turkey
Benjamin was preparing for a new visit to Palestine about a year. For short “walks” set aside funds every month to buy the necessary equipment.
“Swiping action for the sake of Palestine, and I check their capabilities. Passed 4.4 thousand kilometers in 10 months. Fifth August (2017 — ed.) I started my campaign, having 12 countries. Each traversed the country in varying degrees, interesting. But Turkey seemed very interesting. I knew little about this country before. Interesting people and a lot of history. They are for Palestine, but in the way that I did not like… They are worried about the al-Aqsa mosque more than in the whole of Palestine. A few of the people I met there, really know about Palestine. Many have been wondering why I care about Palestine”, — shares his impressions of the journey, the Swede.
According to the memoirs of Benjamin, to realize the full extent of how it is not perceived as Swede in Europe, he succeeded, only after having walked through several countries, including Germany. “In Germany it is (relationship — ed.) was disgusting, I was during the election period. Election posters of one of the parties that it had read about terrorism and Muslims… Some people think I’m Muslim because of the color of my hair, some of my name think I’m a Jew. In reality I’m non-religious person,” he says.
For ten months the traveler has made a lot of friends in social networks. According to the activist, before his journey he had no personal pages in the Internet. Create a free account in Instagram and Facebook, the Swede has decided, after going part of the way. To date, he has more than 20 thousand subscribers. Speaking of friends, nice guy shows up on the screen of your phone, where the corner — a figure: more than 1 thousand is applications to friends. The activist did not hide the fact that among the subscribers there are detractors and critics, but most “followers”, he believes, still support him.
“Speaking about the support of friends what I do, my mother at first did not understand. But she watches my social media and watching videos that I rented, in particular with the drone. She learned a lot about Palestine and what I’m doing, and now she understands and is proud of me. She, like many of Swedish citizens had no idea about what is happening in Palestine. Now I can say that opened my eyes to at least one person — his mother. My videos to date look of several million people is only the beginning. I’m doing all this not for himself and for Palestine specifically, I’m doing this for human rights. In Europe, the majority has no idea about Palestine, when I spoke, many were crying, they were in shock. They do not watch the Palestinian media, and they don’t know what’s going on there,” talks about the importance of social networks now “popular blogger”.
Israeli border — a difficult task
Benjamin, heading to Lebanon, understand that the border with Israel is closed here a long time and for him specifically it just will not open. Israel removing its forces from southern Lebanon, erected border fence along the entire border and brought to him the high voltage, while the gate on the border closed and are under the supervision of border guards. But still the traveler will travel to the Northern borders of Israel just to see her closer to them, and then continue the attempt to get to the “promised land” through other countries.
“Today I got to Beirut, unfortunately, part of the way from Turkey to Lebanon had to go on the ship. As the war in Syria, and it is (walk — ed) is impossible, very risky. There is the most difficult stage to reach Palestine. I analyzed how to do it. Initially I planned to go to Egypt and cross the Sinai, has been thought through Jordan, there is a very small distance on the water, I even thought to cross, read about the person who did this, but I’m a bad swimmer and it was a bad idea. In General, and boats I have found. Said, there is a ship from Turkey to Egypt. But it was in the past. On the plane I don’t want to. One friend, an Egyptian, while drinking coffee in Ankara, asked me to go to Lebanon and from here Board the ferry to return to Egypt. So I decided to come here, however, as it turned out, ships out in Egypt either, unfortunately. I do not regret that I came here. There is a lot connected with Palestine and a lot of (Palestinian) refugees living in Lebanon”, says future plans for the activist with a Jewish name.
Lebanese members of the Komsomol, hearing about options to get to Israel, taken to convince the guest that the most rational and logical way to get to Jordan by plane and from there walk further to an open border. Walking from Lebanon, again, will not work, as on the southern border of Syria is still dangerous.
Benjamin reluctantly agrees with her new friends and decides to leave the most difficult option in case of Jordan, the pass will not work.
Breakthrough from Europe
“There are still illegal the way from Sweden and Norway on ships trying to reach Gaza, and I know those guys. They are activists, they are trying to break the blockade and enter the Gaza strip, and they have that right, since it’s a territory of Palestine,” says the source.
Benjamin does not exclude, that in Israel he can be arrested and deported. But confident young man determined to get in there and talk with as a lot of people to tell their stories in their social networks.
“I’ll write in social networks. If I become a witness to the crimes of the Israeli soldiers I will try to show it to the widest possible audience. I must collect as much information as possible, of course, first and foremost, meeting people. When I get back, all this show and tell,” he explains.
“Can I get arrested Israelis? I don’t think, can try, of course. But what will they say to the Swedish government and the international media? “Swedish activist walked from Sweden to Palestine in the protection of human rights and against the occupation and was arrested by Israeli soldiers”? On what basis? I’m sure many media outlets will pick up the wave because of this. Maybe for business use and you can sit a month or a year in jail there if it will attract more attention to Palestine. I have nothing against Israelis or Jews, I am against violence and murder,” says “a fighter for justice.”
Upon returning to Sweden, the human rights activist intends to negotiate with schools and universities. He wants to share with students their stories about Palestine and human rights.
The situation escalated
For months, “walk” Benjamin’s situation in Israel escalated, particularly in Jerusalem. After the transfer the U.S. Embassy from tel Aviv to Jerusalem, thousands of Palestinians came out to protest. According to Palestinian medics, more than 100 residents of the enclave died, 13.3 thousand were injured from bullets and gas, and 300 of them remain in serious condition. On the death of Palestinian activists continue to report the Arab media.
Israel calls Jerusalem its “United and indivisible” capital, including its Eastern areas and the historic centre, captured half a century ago from Jordan and later annexed. The main part of the international community does not recognize the annexation and considers East Jerusalem and the West Bank of the Jordan river, to the occupied territories.
Will it have a simple Swede to pay more attention to the European public to the Palestinian crisis, time will tell. And while he’s a fraction of a second takes away from the sides of his eyes, thinking about what it might do to wait at the side of the Lebanese border.
* A terrorist group banned in Russia.
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