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JERUSALEM DAY IS OVER, THANK GOD

May 22, 2012

As the mob of young yeshiva students streamed past Abu Shukri’s humus place in the Moslem Quarter, we stepped into the street. They were celebrating Jerusalem Day, singing and waving their fists in the air, blind to the people and homes and shops along their route. A five year old boy was knocked to the ground, and one of the yeshiva boys bent to help him up. The mob surged around them as a rivulet flows around a boulder in the stream bed. The boy was ok, the yeshiva boys streamed on, yet one of them helped the boy up. A spark, a moment of awareness that someone was paying a price for their relentless enthusiasm.

 This lie, united Jerusalem, that we celebrated Sunday. The devastating discrimination of Israeli policy in keeping East Jerusalem a collection of third world neighborhoods, bestowing on its residents “freedom,” without the right to vote for the Knesset. The poverty there, the schools with more students than chairs and desks, the children selling cigarette lighters and washing car windows at the stoplights, during school hours. Just down the road. My city.

On Friday, “Solidarity” scratched together a group of 30-40 Palestinians and Israelis and we chanted together before Damascus Gate. We then marched to Sheikh Jarrah, through the streets of East Jerusalem, drumming and chanting. We brought lovely smiles to the lips of the handful of passers-by and shop owners who watched us. Jews and Palestinians together, chanting and declaring the unity of Silwan, Beit Hanina, and Sheikh Jarrah, all three daily confronting the creeping infiltration by settlers and their private security men (costing tax-payers 1,500NIS per Jerusalem settler this year) and their lawyers.

 As we arrived in Sheikh Jarrah, our Palestinian colleagues led us through an alley to the door of a ramshackle stucco house. An old woman came to greet us, with her wheel-chaired husband and his oxygen tank. Last week, she was served notice to evacuate the home she has lived in since 1948. No one seems to get that the “rightful owners” issue is irrelevant in East Jerusalem. The “ownership papers” from the forties, brandished by the settlers, are not the issue. What is meaningful is that, in the future peace agreement, East Jerusalem will be the capital of Palestine, and it will not work for Jews to live there. This is common knowledge, though most Israelis don’t take the time to think it through. Of the 60-70% of Israelis who acknowledge that the two-state solution is the only viable one, so few have connected the dots to understand that two states will only happen someday if we begin now to behave as though it already has. In win-lose, there are no winners.

 I will love sharing this beautiful city. When the seam line is patrolled by joint Palestinian/Israeli teams in jeeps. When I can rest easy in the knowledge that, although my neighborhood, Kiryat Yovel, used to be thevillage of Beit Mazmil, the Palestinians finally have a piece of Jerusalem where they can feel at home. My pride in Jerusalem will then have to do with the mighty achievements of our making amends. When we have earned the title, “Ir Shalem,” the whole, complete city. When we have finally put our money where our empathic mouth was, and created win-win.

 

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