My First Flak Jacket & Other Stories from Israel

I was in Israel for a month, shooting my documentary about AP photographers called “Deadline Every Second.” 

The first morning I walked into the AP office in Jerusalem, the staff outfitted me with a bullet proof flax-jacket, weighing 16 pounds, a steel helmet, a portable telephone and sent me off to document Pulitzer prize-winning AP photographer Oded Balilty covering the "Day of Rage."

I later found out that protective gear comes in two sizes -- “heavy” for war wear and “light” for clash wear. Unfortunately, AP was out of the “light” at the moment.

The uprising, which was called by Hamas, involved "riots" or "clashes," depending on your politics, between young, rock-throwing, tire-burning Palestinians and Israeli police shooting tear gas, stun guns and rubber bullets. The police also used dogs to chase down rioters. The one place you don't want get caught is between the two groups. Especially when police unleashed the dogs who go after the protesters. The dogs, however, cannot distinguish protesters from journalists. The clashes alternated between the masked teenagers, using an overturned garbage container for protection, advancing on the police by throwing stones or using sling-shots to launch stones, and the police repeling the youth with canisters of tear gas and loud stun guns.

The sound of the stun guns made me think I was in the middle of a war. To add to the overall auditory illusion, the Palestinian youth were firing a series of firecrackers. As soon as the tear gas went off, all the kids ran up the hill with me huffing and puffing behind. AP was fresh out of extra gas masks for visiting photojournalists the day I arrived, so I was left to cough, cry, run away from the cloud of gas. Wearing his gas mask, Balility stayed in the thick of the action when the tear gas exploded, as I made a hasty retreat up the hill and shot the action with a long lens.

Two photojournalists were injured during the day at the clash I covered by Israeli police bullets and tear gas canisters. The Reuters bureau photographer wound up with shrapnel in his leg and the AFP (Agency France Press) photographer was shot in the wrist with a rubber bullet. I did not get hit with anything more than tear gas....

Read the whole story of my month in Israel shooting video of AP photographers in action for my documentary "Deadline Every Second" here.



Photos by Oded Balilty.