Mohammed Hanif in Dawn:

593c9f12c8e35I met the only Jewish-Pakistani in Israel by accident. It turned out he had also ended up there through a historic misunderstanding.

I wasn’t looking for him. He wasn’t expecting me.

In the last days of the last millennium, just before the millennium bug was predicted to wipe out all our computer memory, there were reliable rumours of peace between Israel and Palestine.

The proof of this impending peace was in my passport. I was given a reporting visa by the Israeli embassy in London on a Pakistani passport.

They were understanding enough not to stamp the visa on the passport. I had grown up with a green passport which said in bold letters, ‘Valid for travel to all countries of the world except Cuba and Israel.’

I was convinced that peace was about to break out when I reported to the Directorate of Censors in Jerusalem and discovered all its staff was on strike.

Having lived under various forms of censorship in Pakistan (from midnight knocks to what your uncle will think of what you are writing), I found it exhilarating: when your directorate of censorship goes on strike, who is there to fear?

Hours later, trying to score a meal, I was terrified. Like a naive tourist who believes that the best way to get to know a city is to get lost in the city, I tried to walk into random shops and cafes and bars.

When I tried this in the upmarket district of West Jerusalem I was pounced upon at the doors.

Your name? Your ID? And as I presented my passport with the hope of hearing, ‘Oh where is Pakistan? What brings you to our country?’ I was told, ‘We don’t allow.’

I almost wanted to say ‘But I am not Palestinian’ but I realised it all probably sounded the same.

I retreated to the safety of the Jerusalem Hotel, where a tour operator with three mobile phones gave weary directions to lost souls like me.

More here.