October 16, 2015

Still Tense?

A friend and colleague asked why I used the phrase "still tense" when referring to the situation in Jerusalem, mentioning that she doesn't see an indication of improvement. Another friend told me that "tense" is an understatement, adding that the situation is "crazy".

They are both right. Although I have a couple of other posts ready to be published, I felt I cannot simply pass by the present political state without addressing it directly. This crazy state, though not called "war", certainly feels like war. Moreover, there is no real sign of improvement.

The occupation continues to take its heavy toll. I cannot put it strong enough: Though on the Palestinian side, aggression is essentially the consequence of oppression; on the Israeli/Jewish side, aggression is fueled by fear (and not by reason)!

One oppressive measure follows the other in order to restore a feeling of security. In Jerusalem, police and army are everywhere visible. The number of checkpoints is increasing, but mostly near the entrance of Arab neighborhoods. Living on the Israeli/Jewish side, my life is not severely disrupted. However, my clients and I have a hard time concentrating because of the helicopters and shooting one can hear from my place, and I do think twice before leaving home, even simply to put a letter in the mailbox. (You remember those we used before email?) An Israeli friend called to warn me that I shouldn't take any risks and visit Palestinian villages. I responded that my own neighborhood, French Hill in Jerusalem, seems dangerous enough. Actually, also a Palestinian friend gave the advice to be careful.

For my Arab friends the situation is much more difficult. One of them told me that he didn't go to his job in Jerusalem, since he was afraid that something bad would happen to him either there or on his way. Another friend had a problem getting his car back from a garage in Nablus, which he needs for his work. The car is stuck in the garage, since the workers cannot work steadily. In Hizma, both the restaurant I have written about previously and the garage are almost out of work, leaving many families without income.

What I find terribly sad, is that reporting is polarized, and that you hear mostly the extremes. News on both sides is about murder and oppression. Demonstrations, events and expressions for cooperation and peaceful coexistence take place all the time, but are hardly mentioned. It's almost only on Facebook that you can see how many individuals and groups try to do something positive. I'll name just a few, and not necessarily the most prominent, but to give an indication of the variety. There are non-governmental organizations as Parents Circle - Families Forum and Sikkuy - The Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality, and Facebook groups as Anti-Apartheid League and Born Equal, aiming at bridging the gaps between Jews and Palestinian. Political parties, as Meretz, criticize the Israeli leadership. Also general human rights organizations, as the Public Committee Against Torture, Amnesty International and many more, speak out against the way the present situation is handled by the authorities. There are roadside demonstrations of people in mixed neighborhoods, and many individual publish pictures of Jews and Palestinians holding signs that they refuse to become enemies. Sadly enough, even a well-respected news service as Haaretz, reports on few of these more encouraging pieces of information.

So, back to my words "still tense", referring to the situation in Jerusalem, I used them with the sincere hope that things will be better soon...