Sunday, April 24, 2011

Practical Peace in Jerusalem

Last week the Economist had a cheery little item about the Jerusalem Zoo. Now I recognize it's ungrateful of me to nitpick when the paper is being mostly positive, but the subtitle of the item said the zoo is "a corner of cheerful coexistence in a largely segregated city", and that does require a response. Of course, the city is largely segregated, and will remain so no matter what, since the Jews and the Muslims speak different languages, live by different calenders, and are separated by different cultures. Having said that, however, here's a short and abbreviated list of places where you'll find both Jews and Muslims together on a regular basis:

The four Jewish hospitals. The University (all three campuses). The center of town. The Mamilah open-air mall. The Malcha air-conditioned mall. The public swimming pools. The Hadassah Technological College. Cafes on Emek Refaim. The Knesset. Machane Yehuda. The markets of the Old City. Abu Shukri in the Old City. The city parks. City Hall. The courts. The National library. Most supermarkets. Buses. Taxicabs. Security guards: you'd be astonished how many of them seem to be Arab. The Police. The water company. The Firefighters. Construction sites.

Which reminds me that last week we overheard a lady at the cinemateque, probably a visitor from Tel Aviv, saying to her friend "this little Jewel is the first place we've seen since entering the city where there are no Haredi. Such a relief!"

Having recently read Simon Sebag Montefiore's Jerusalem: The Biography, then a book in Hebrew on the Jerusalem municipality under the British, and now I"m approaching completion of Karen Armstong's Jerusalem: One City, Three Faiths, I feel reasonably confident in saying there has never been a period in the past two thousand years when all of Jerusalem's inhabitant's enjoyed freedom and equality - unless it was in the periods when entire religious or ethnic groups were simply banned, so the remaining insiders enjoyed equality among themselves. This morning, being Easter Sunday, I walked through the Christian Quarter of the Old City. Masses of Christians from the world over were celebrating. The Arab Christian shop owners had mostly not opened their establishments so their Muslim neighbors were doing a roaring business. The Jews are celebrating the week of Pessach, so there were lots of them around - Israeli tourists or international ones. It wouldn't be accurate to say there's perfect peace and equality in Jerusalem at the moment, but the situation is closer than it has ever been.

Something to be proud of.


Avigdor said...

A hearty shout out from Milwaukee, the most segregated city in America.

Avi said...

Yaacov, of course you are correct in your description. What worries me is that many of the people who will influence what actually happens to us Jerusalemites have no idea or interest on what the actual situation is on the ground and are only interested in what they believe the situation is, seen through their own distorted ideological spectacles.

Their slogan is, don't confuse me with the facts. People see what they want to see.

I am not sure if the West is willing to concede that the Jews have the ability and right to rule themselves and others. The fact that we do it better than they ever did is an annoying fact that they would like to ignore.

My personal response is that for the foreseeable future we will continue to live and work in Jerusalem and enjoy it a lot too.

Hag samaah to you all.

Silke said...

The fact that we do it better than they ever did is an annoying fact that they would like to ignore.

exactly - how dare you ...

you are disproving centuries of a solid Weltbild

and talking about segregation, alas it exists but not promoted by Israelis ...

That the Palestinian police felt comfortable opening fire on these vehicles today indicates that they have received new orders.

another item mentioned machine gun fire ...

Anonymous said...

Amen, amen.

Chag sameach.
Nycerbarb said...

Great post. Thanks!

Avigdor said...


If you find the time, please post a follow up on Karen Armstrong's "Jerusalem: Once City, Three Faiths" when you've completed it. Given the author's well known proclivities, I'm interested in hearing your take.

Yaacov said...

Victor -

I may well do. In a nutshell: It's a fine book, but the lady doesn't like Israel, to an unprofessional degree.