It seems like everything in the city was created, paved, dug, blocked, crossed, neglected, annexed, and complicated such that it’s impossible to ever move anywhere
Every so often, I try to bring the subject of peace back to my consciousness. Purely out of nostalgia for other times. I simply remember it, or myself in that period, and I miss it. If I’m not mistaken, peace was once a relevant concept that even served as a platform for parties. People took it into consideration when they went to vote. How strange.
The last time I tried to bring it back was through the organization ‘Women Wage Peace.’ I tied a turquoise scarf around my neck, went to several ‘hope marches,’ and barefoot, wearing a jalabiya, I sang ‘the prayer of the mothers’ together with Yael Deckelbaum in Gan Haatzmaut in Jerusalem, until I stepped on glass.
This time I remembered peace because of the Geneva Initiative. I was invited to join – love Swiss philanthropists – several indulgences: a visit to Ramallah, a meeting with Palestinian officials, enrichment lectures and a tour of Jerusalem. Even despair can be enjoyable. An amazing cohort. Excellent conditions.
We began the Jerusalem tour in Nebi Samuel. The place today serves as a synagogue, a place of pilgrimage for the three religions, the memory of a traumatic battle that Yoram Kaniuk described well in his book “1948” and, moreover, the home of a raggedy, freezing cat that one of the members of the group, a guy named Rotem, decided to adopt.
The view from the top of the hill is blindingly beautiful. Breathtaking. But on a good day, if Shaul is your guide, you can see more than a view. You can also see with great clarity the geographic story of Jerusalem. How the entirety of the cement and concrete were designed, and how the contours of our eternally united capital were set with thick staples.
I understood Jerusalem a little better that day through several other vantage points: Mount Scopus, Mount of Olives, Ramat Rachel, the wall in Abu Dis. I was there in the past, in all of these places; I lived in Jerusalem for two years as a student, but I never looked at the mess. I looked at the view, the weather, hang-out spots, the way back to Tel Aviv.
Researcher of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, borders expert and man of the Geneva Accord, Col. (retired) Shaul Arieli, spread in front of us laminated maps with great speed. The map muscle is apparently well-developed for retired colonels, as he passed from the two-dimensional drawing in his hand to the three-dimensional reality before us without getting mixed up – pointing west and east, north and south. Here’s a checkpoint, here’s a mine, here’s megalomania, here’s a holy place, here’s a ticking bomb, here’s short-sightedness, here perhaps, but not for long, is a possible solution. Not simple, but possible.
I don’t remember, obviously, the names of the villages he pointed out, the names of the settlements, the neighborhoods and ridges and certainly not the demographic statistics or public opinion surveys. Both because I was busy, as is my way, with other matters: with the fascinating relationship between Rotem and the cat, where to pee, when we would eat, who was worth befriending, and also because the superficiality helps me to see the main point. And I saw it. I saw, visually and with great clarity, the joke embodied by the word “unified.” It seems like everything in the city was created, paved, dug, blocked, crossed, neglected, annexed, and complicated such that it’s impossible to ever move anywhere.
Two weeks before the tour in Jerusalem, we also went to make a bit of peace in Ramallah, to meet with officials from the Palestinian apparatus, and to eat in a restaurant. We heard Jibreel Rajoub and two others whose names won’t mean anything to you, because they didn’t mean anything to me either. The Palestinians spoke and we listened. They spoke like politicians: threw out slogans, demonstrated confidence and self-importance, and blamed the other side for the failure of talks. Oy, I thought happily, they’re just like our politicians. Extremely similar. I immediately felt at home. We’re brothers.
Amongst the officials from the administration who graced us with their presence, there was a woman. She didn’t sit on the stage, but rather in the audience, next to us, wrapped in a hijab. Oh. Here was an opportunity to feel enlightened and quiet leftist guilt. “How do you see the integration of women in politics?” Daphni, one of the women from our group, asked the row of men. “We’re very happy about it,” said one of them, and proudly waved his hand in the direction of the woman. “Yes, but she’s sitting here, and you’re on the stage,” someone answered angrily. It’s possible that it was me.
A mistake. Because the most boring, banal, empty and meaningless speech was given by the woman who we decided “to save” from the fingernails of the patriarchy and raise up onto the stage with rhythmic applause. Nu, I thought to myself, this is also extremely similar. To strive for the inclusion of women in Israeli politics and then be disappointed with what comes out of their mouth.
But then we met Niveen, a feminist Palestinian activist from Beit Hanina. She was smart, interesting, critical, empathetic, realistic. Why are real politicians never in politics? Niveen said that with them, too, peace and the dream of two states had ended. So what was the horizon line? There wasn’t one, she said, the horizon of youth today is despair.
The cat we meet at Nebi Samuel is blind to the history of the site; he is more interested in the tip of his tail than if Samuel the Prophet was buried here and if the fortress is a Crusader one. He has no connection to holiness, to religion, to the dead who fell like flies all around. And despite this, when Rotem wraps him in his coat and walks him to the bus and onwards to Tel Aviv, the Nebi Samuel cat leapt from his hands and ran back, deeply stricken. As if he would forget his paw if he forgets Jerusalem. And that’s a cat, by God, just a cat. What will we do with all of these feelings for the city?
In order to make some order out of the mess that Jerusalem spreads out on the rug that has been yanked from underneath our feet, we need Marie Kondo, priestess of order in the western world. Either give up on a democratic state. Or peace. It’s true that it’s no longer as cool as it once was, but there’s no choice. It needs to come back. Marie Kondo is fully booked until 2060, and we don’t want to live in an apartheid state.
Read the original article in Hebrew as published in Yedioth Ahronoth here.