Call it a postcard from Putin, if you will: The account below was posted by Gil Yardeni, one of my favourite Israeli poets and a Hebrew University biology major, who happened to be passing by the visiting Russian president’s convoy in Jerusalem, a few hours ago. The weirdest thing about the whole affair is that leaving out the odd demonstration here and there, Gil can hardly be even considered an activist, much less a high-profile one. She doesn’t organise protests, she’s not member of any movement or party, and does not work for a human rights NGO. That the secret service (whatever branch that was) would have so much information available on her, and would be happy to flaunt it on the preposterous pretext of crossing the street in proximity to Putin’s convoy, is nauseating. Here goes:
I was coming back from Tel Aviv thinking of all the things I like about Jerusalem. I fell asleep on the bus, and took the no.32 from the central bus station. It was held on Agrippas Street for 25 minutes. Then, when we got to Gaza Street, it turned out it was blocked. The passengers started a ruckus and the irate driver began driving around, looking for alternative route. He went up Jabotinsky, but the roundabout by President House was blocked. I asked to get off the bus and continued on foot.
It was hot, and late, and I have an exam on Wednedsday, so I was in a rush. I was walking quickly and when the VIP police convoy was driving by, I saw there are some gaps between them and crossed the road. I tried calling my boyfriend but my battery died, the Android rebooted itself, and I was trying to revive it as I walked.
On Harlap Street I was stopped by a man in a buttoned shirt. I thought at first he was a heckler, because he was speaking very slowly, but then he showed me a card and said I was detained. He asked for an ID card and requested that I show him what I have in my backpack and my binder – a Mearshemier article, a Gilfin article and my score sheet. “Why are you studying international relations,” he asked, and I started explaining it was an introductory course before I realised he knew what I was studying. He asked about who my boyfriend is and where he lives, where I work and the phone number at my workplace, he asked me dozens of questions and asked me to describe to him everything I did today, everyone I saw in Tel Aviv, what they told me and on what route I was walking home, whether I have bus tickets to show him, everything.
And I knew that while with some questions he cooly waited for my replies, in some he already knew the answers. At first I was answering everything, thinking it’s no big deal and he’ll soon let me go, because I didn’t do anything. Half an hour into it I was already crying a bit and asking for water, which he said he didn’t have. When he asked twice where I was working in 2007 and I realised I was giving the wrong answer, he made two phone calls and told me I have a problem, because I wasn’t telling him the truth. I changed three workplaces in 2007, I told him, I get confused. “What were you doing on the Atidim project?,” he asked, impatiently, and I told him I worked with police intelligence materials and had high security clearance, and then I had myself an anxiety attack under the building on Harlap 6.
He made another phone call and produced another guy, also in a buttoned shirt, who asked more questions but asked them tougher. I asked for water and again he said he didn’t have any, and spoke to me for some 20 minutes.
He asked me all the questions all over again and I answered them all over again and he didn’t believe me I didn’t remember the name of the CEO of the company that I work for.
He said, “I’ll make another phone call and I’ll let you go soon,” and then asked, “are you crying because of me, or because of the exam?”
“Are you always like that before exams?”
“I’m always like that,” I said, “I’m thirsty and anxiety-prone. Do you want the phone number for my shrink?”
“Is he from Jerusalem?” he asked.
“No, I’m kidding,” I told him. “I’m just anxiety-prone.”
“I see,” he said, shuffled aside and spoke on the phone. And then he came back, gave me back my ID card and told me I was released. I took my bag, without answering him, and walked home. When I got home I drank a glass of water. I feel ready to leave Jerusalem now.