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  • I set off on a cruise from Marseille to Haifa, with my English youth group of six girls and one boy. A French group of six boys and one girl also accompanied us.

    As third class passengers we were separated by gender into dorms; twelve bunks to a room. It was stifling for me to be constantly surrounded by my group. I needed a space where I could peacefully centre myself and sort out my raging thoughts; but privacy was impossible on the city sailing across the Mediterranean Sea.

    To an observer it would seem as though I was enjoying myself. I danced in discos every night; I ate wonderful meals and sunbathed on the top deck. But I had nothing in common with my peers and was still in my prison of silence; weighed down with all the emotional baggage that had piled up over eighteen years.

    On the day of my nineteenth birthday a huge cake was baked for me and a waiter ceremoniously carried it aloft to our table; whilst all the passengers in the dining hall sang happy birthday.

    I should have felt excited and special; but I felt that it was a staged event; and none of my group sincerely wanted me to have a happy birthday.

    I escaped from my group sunbathing on deck one day, and wandered down to get a cool drink. I started chatting to young man who told me that he was dodging conscription to the Vietnam War. He had no emigration papers but was going to throw himself at the mercy of the Israeli government and ask for political asylum. It was the only interesting conversation I had on board. His bravery made me see my life in a different perspective.
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