Nicky Larkin, an Irish photographer and filmmaker, hated Israel – until he spent seven weeks in the region in 2011 to shoot his upcoming film Forty Shades of Grey, about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Those weeks changed his opinion about Israel, a transformation he writes about eloquently in The Independent:
Back in Tel Aviv in the summer of 2011, I began to listen more closely to the Israeli side. I remember one conversation in Shenkin Street — Tel Aviv’s most fashionable quarter, a street where everybody looks as if they went to art college. I was outside a cafe interviewing a former soldier.
He talked slowly about his time in Gaza. He spoke about 20 Arab teenagers filled with ecstasy tablets and sent running towards the base he’d patrolled. Each strapped with a bomb and carrying a hand-held detonator.
The pills in their bloodstream meant they felt no pain. Only a headshot would take them down.
Conversations like this are normal in Tel Aviv. I began to experience the sense of isolation Israelis feel. An isolation that began in the ghettos of Europe and ended in Auschwitz.
Israel is a refuge — but a refuge under siege, a refuge where rockets rain death from the skies. And as I made the effort to empathise, to look at the world through their eyes. I began a new intellectual journey. One that would not be welcome back home.