We get out of the airport and into the biting cold of Oslo. It’s almost midnight but I feel fresh. People with suitcases, business men, tourists with backpacks. Norwegians. Bus drivers. Several buses are lined up and people find their way to the bus that will take them to their destination. Some walk in confidence towards this or that bus. Others ask around about a destination. We walk towards a bus randomly, and it happens to be the Airport Express Bus that we need to take to get to the center. 350 meters from our hotel. The bus ride takes about 45 minutes, and when we get off, the bus driver gets off the bus with us, helps us with our suitcases, and even walks with us to the corner of the street to show us a shortcut to the hotel. We are amazed at his kindness and helpfulness. It could never happen in Israel – I can’t imagine a bus driver actually leaving the bus and walking with us to show us directions.
I slept good the first night. There was some kind of a calmness accompanying me all the way from the airport to the hotel, which I was able to pinpoint on the following day. There were no weapons anywhere to be seen! No 18-year old kids walking around with sub-machine guns! No armed security guards to the entrance of hotels, public places, not even to the entrance of the Parliament! Guns have, unfortunately, become a “natural” part of our public sphere in Israel. Such a “natural” part, that most people have become blind to them. And it does strike you odd when you travel abroad to see gun-free public spaces.
However, it doesn’t mean that Oslo public spaces are “open.” Pretty fast, I realized that security measures are taken to such degrees so as to lock people out of their own offices, with no way in, and no way out.
We were accompanied by an organization representative to a meeting in their offices. She unlocked the front door with the help of an electronic card attached to her clothes. We walked up a flight of stairs and she used the same electronic card to open the door to the offices. But the card didn’t work. She tried several times. Giving up, she had to bang on the door, looking through the glass window. From the inside of the offices, a man approached and tried to open the door with his electronic card, also attached to his clothes. He, too, failed. So we were locked out, he was trapped in. Embarrassed smiles passed between the two. So we walked up another flight of stairs, and entered through the door – needless to say, with the help of the magic electronic card. We entered the offices and walked down from some internal flight of stairs to the floor below. We were inside.
After a briefing meeting, we were interviewed for the organization’s website, and then asked to walk outside to the roof to be photographed in daylight. Again, we had to go through several locked doors. When the photographer finished, I wanted to stay on the roof for several more minutes to smoke a cigarette, but was told that I couldn’t, as I don’t have an electronic key, and you need this key to open the door of the roof to get inside!
The next day, the same offices, between two meetings: I ask where the toilet is, but am told that I can’t go by myself, as there are several locked doors on the way, and obviously, being a visitor, I didn’t own any electronic key attached to my clothes! The representative had to accompany me and wait for me on the inside door to the toilet, as that was locked too – from both sides! This is when I began to feel like a prisoner. When I asked about these security measures – I didn’t get any clear answer. After all, the front door is locked. The locks are on all doors – whether it makes sense or not.
This seems to be the norm in
Oslo – at the hotel, you need your hotel key card to be able to use the elevator, and to open the door to the stairway.
Yes, extreme security measures are taken in Oslo. The only difference between Oslo’s security and ours is the fact that in Oslo technological means are being used, while here in Israel military means – weapons. The security in Oslo can – in the worst case – lock you out on the balcony or lock you in the toilet, while in Israel it threatens our very lives, and can often end in firing a gun at an innocent person, ending her life.
(c) khulud kh
(c) khulud kh
photo: inside of the Opera House. Surprisingly, it was wide open. photo by Hannah Safran.