Every day-trip in Israel-Palestine is also a lesson for life

Gepostet von am Mai 19, 2013

When friends visit us from faraway places in Israel-Palestine, we kind of want to give a tour with an attitude. But this weekend told me that you only need to plan an ordinary day-trip and it will turn out to be a lesson for life. Or rather: a mosaic of small events that together explain much about the current situation.

Setting one:

„They say its theirs but it’s ours, it’s all ours here“, said a woman with an American accent, walking down the stairs form the roof of the Austrian Hospice in the old city of Jerusalem, which is an oasis of quiet and an odd reincarnation of Austrian colonial history. Situated in the heart of the Muslim quarter, the Hospice serves as some kind of neutral space. But that increasingly means that it became a safe ground for Jewish Israelis on weekend trips, who enjoy Austrian coffee and “Strudel”: But more problematic: it has become a safe rooftop for Israeli tour guides with a nationalist agenda, who explain to groups that Muslims in the old city have less of a right to it than Jews. And I witnessed this more than once.

Setting two:

Our tour-group consisted of one German traveler and two tour guides: me, and a Palestinian Israeli woman. As we stand beside the entrance to the Haram ash-Sharif – the Noble Sanctuary/Temple Mount – talking in Arabic, one of the Israeli police man approaches us: “Hey, where are you from?”. I try to answer friendly, but my Palestinian partner immediately turns aggressive and tells him to mind his own business. Tension develops between us, as I feel she unnecessarily escalated the situation. But in fact she just began to explode over the horrible reality in Jerusalem. A little later the same police man approaches me again: “So where are you from?” – “Austria”, I say. “Tell your friend to respect me. I am a police officer, she has to respect me”, he said in Arabic. It was a helpless outcry by an Arab citizen of Israel who became a police officer to get more respect, only to find that for Jews he will never be a full Israeli, while for Palestinians he became a traitor.

Setting three:

“What can I do. Wherever we work, it is work for Israelis“, said a Palestinian in front of the archeological excavation; which is digging underneath the square in front of the Temple Mount. He does not see contradiction in working for politically motivated diggings. Living in the down-ridden and highly tense East Jerusalem neighborhood Silwan, he has suffered enough. Work is work, he says. „But I saw how they are digging“, he continued. “They only want to find things from the Roman period, from Jewish times. I saw them finding things from later periods of Turkish or Arab rule, and throwing this stuff away.” He actually saw them modifying and damaging old water channels, he says, giving evidence to old-grown suspicions that much of the archeology done in the old city is politically motivated with the goal to legitimize Jewish rule by means of finding historic evidence.

Setting four:

We exit the old city through Damascus and see a crowd of people standing around a small van and a guy shouting prices. “100 Shekel, 100 Shekel, …..!”, “Who offers more?” It was a public auction. On sale were all kinds of kitchen utilities and electronics. A considerable crowd gathered around him. But then we spotted Israeli riot police with horses, guns and full-gear standing further up. Where they here to calm down the auction? Of course not, they were hear to meet Palestinian teenagers who were set to hold a demonstration against Jewish extremists who have entered the area around the Islamic holy shrines under police protection recently. A t first a few teenagers were standing around a flag and everything seemed to go along peaceful. We went to eat at Jerusalem Hotel restaurant after a few minutes and where about to pay, when we suddenly saw groups of teenagers running up the street, followed by clowds of tear gas and Israeli riot police on huge horses. There was a battle going on between the busses standing there, a battle of youth without alternatives who live in the increasingly slum-like Palestinian quarters in East Jerusalem, where discriminatory policies advocate Jewish settlement but offer no resources to Palestinian residents. We saw how two of the teenagers were caught and tied with their back to a fence, ordered not to look up. They must have been between 15 and 16 years. A police guy started to beat one of the teenagers as he tried to resist being pushed into the van. Only when my Palestinian partner shouted at them did they seem to realize that they are filmed and he immediately stopped.

Setting five:

Is it ironic, sad or concerning, that the easiest part of our day-trip was the drive from Jerusalem to Ramallah and the time we had there? It is probably all that together, and the Ramallah bubble at least provides some safe ground from occupation and conflict. We sat down in a bar and ordered drinks. “So what did you know about the conflict before you came here?”, my partner asked the German visitor. “It is hard to say. I remember Joschka Fischer, the former German foreign minister, who said: ‘When I meet Israelis I listen to their story and think, yes, you are right. When I meet Palestinians after that I listened to their story and thought, yes, you are right too’”. Can we summarize all this twisted evil in such a way? Is it really two different and irreconcilable versions of reality that Palestinians and Israelis present, or is there a truth beyond it, which we must discover and reveal?

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