Samstag, 2. Februar 2013

With Moad’s Eyes

Jerusalem, 28. Januar 2013
To see Jerusalem with Moad’s eyes means first of all to be funneled with him and a long line of waiting Palestinians through the rat cages that pass through the Check Points and into Israel. We almost don’t make it through the system because Gerd my fellow hiker fails to show the proper immigration document that he received at the airport upon arrival as a substitute for a passport stamp. He is controlled by a handful of lazy idlers in uniform, young soldiers in a box behind bulletproof glass. I will not talk with you. Go back to Palestine! says a young female soldier, half lying down in her office chair, legs spread like a cowboy. Moad speaks Hebrew to her, all in vain.

Our luck turns when a dark-skinned fellow soldiers gets up from the group of the other loiterers (Moad said later: probably a Palestinian with an Israeli passport), and makes his comrade to rethink her views. In the meanwhile, also the entry card is found, and Gerd is finally allowed to go through.

I enter Israel - walls and barbed wire all around me - with the bitter feeling that at boundaries like these a whole generation of young Israelis is spoiled for their whole life. They learn to look down on an endless stream of people only to find the one in the Million who carries explosives and is planning evil. They learn that only they are the wary, the good guys. Those outside in the cages belong to a nation infested with vermin that is what must seem to them. People are beaten up here occasionally, Hamze told me, and when one defends himself he is locked away - without rights, without possibility of appeal to a judge.

We take a bus through the Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem and reach the Damascus Gate that lies on the northern edge of the Old City. We enter the narrow streets and markets of the Muslim quarter and are soon lead by Moad to a plain door through which one gets to one of the best views of the Old City of Jerusalem: the roof of the Catholic guesthouse.

Christian pilgrims on the Via Dolorosa
The 31 year old Moad went already as a child hand in hand with his father through Jerusalem, and so he knows that you only have to press the bell at this door to be let into a spacious and quiet complex in which the hospice is run by the Austrians. The view from the roof goes over the Mount of Olives, over the Dome of the Rock with its golden cupola, over the Jewish and Armenian quarters and finally to the quarters of the Christians with its many churches. Again and again, it feels amazing that there is not a permanent clash of civilizations here in this narrow maze of streets, but rather the opposite, a peaceful coexistence.

The Dome of the Rock is located, together with the Al Aqsa Mosque on the old temple site, where Jesus preached. You have to enter through a special entrance, which is unfortunately closed because of the lunch break. So we walk further into the area of the Jews and see them at the Wailing Wall, the Western Wall of the ancient temple, praying, talking and sometimes singing and dancing to celebrate a bar mitzvah.

Moad loves a particular Café, the  Aroma situated before the Jaffa Gate on the western edge of the old town. The owner of the Aroma chain is a man from the political left and he employs many Palestinians. Between the bar and the kitchen there is a vivid exchange in Hebrew and Arabic and it sounds like the babylonic confusion in the Strasbourg restaurants where they switch freely between German and French (and the local dialect) - only that the two Semitic languages ​​are more similar than the languages ​​of the Germans and Romains.

Later in the taxi and the bus to the airport I find it almost impossible to distinguish whether Moad is speaking Hebrew or Arabic to the people. In the noble shopping arcade Mamilla Moad tries to use the winter sale for a bargain purchase, but gives it up in the face of still high prices. Watching his beautiful winter jacket by Tommy Hilfiger I get to the conclusion that he does not need a replacement anyhow. I often heard that the Palestinians love the two major cities of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and they would very probably leave them as they are, together with their inhabitants even if they had the power to expel the Jews
What would this whole country be without the skyscrapers of Tel Aviv, its schools, hospitals and universities, and the five-star-hotels at the beach? Where would you go shopping, if not there?

A Palestinian told me that he dreams of how the elegant government officials from Palestine and Israel meet in a not too distant time, at noon in the cafés of their joint capital Jerusalem. Yes, a sensible person also cannot think away the Jews from Jerusalem. Who will keep up the high standard of the new stairs and stone paths around the Old City walls? Who can maintain the ultra-modern tram that since a few years connects the West with the East Jerusalem? At its one end it swings, sustained by wires suspended from a steel harp, in a circle back into the opposite direction. Something like that can be done by Israeli engineers for the time being.
This town has an own way to make the ancient prophecy come true that here should be a house of prayer for all people (Isaiah 56: 7). Here, indeed, all pray, and each one prays in his own way, into the direction of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, only that the text book of the one has some significant differences to that one of the other. All goes peacefully and smoothly. One only has to work a little into the direction that the Palestinians from whom many live here with an Israeli passport are not regarded as second-class citizens. Many complain about that.
A little further west in Mea Shearim, the quarter of the Orthodox Jews is the strangeness that we as Christians feel in this somewhat derelict neighborhood, probably not much different from the strangeness that the Muslim Moad experiences. Those Haredim that hurry around with bowed heads do not take any notice from us the goyim. I have met hundreds of them on the streets of Israel, but there has never been anything like an eye contact. I take photos only from a hidden place (like the picture below, if you enlarge it, you can see them in the background). What do these mysterious creatures do in this world? Do they remember that God has given an important promise to their father Abraham, the promise that he and his children will be a blessing?
eh-barech-echa - I will bless you - ve heje barachah - and thou shalt be a blessing, so God says in 1 Moses 12.2. Do today's Jews, orthodox and secular, read this as one word? When I see how they immure the Palestinians behind concrete walls, I doubt it. But I trust the old God in the end that he does not understand these words as an imperative but as indicative.

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