Friday, November 12, 2004

Two Worlds

Amoun, the Gypsy, invited me to Iftar, the breaking of the Ramadan fast at the Jerusalem Hotel, a beautiful, tiny hotel, that hardly any Jew living in West Jerusalem knows about. It's beautiful, the food is great, cheap and it's a block away from the road that divides East and West Jerusalem, but still no one will venture there. Like when I lived in NYC and 96th Street was the "border" between safe Manhattan and unsafe Manhattan. I wouldn't venture past 96th Street - not even 1/2 block onto 97th Street when I was younger. I was late for dinner partly because my boss was overseas and called me at 3:00 pm to give me vast amounts of assignments and because my hair was a disaster and I needed some professional treatment (hair treatment, that is). Let me explain. At 7:30 I was to meet people from Toronto, whom I hadn't seen in 9 years. The last time they saw me, I had covered my hair with hats, wigs, scarves as a member of the Ultra-Orthodox clan. I didn't want my friend to think the wigs "were so much nicer than your own hair." Back to East Jerusalem - Amoun and her friends and 2 sisters were just finishing up dinner. The conversation was mostly in Arabic and I figured out words like "Suha, car, married, small, little, money, husband" but I couldn't put it all together. They seemed to be the only Arabic speakers in the place - the place was swarming with Europeans - journalists, peace workers, etc. I guess because Arafat died, no one in East Jerusalem was in a celebratory mood. I didn't even know he died until I checked in with the Internet in the morning and saw the headlines. Even on the bus going into the Jerusalem - no one seemed elated - and this is a bus full of "settlers". Everyone has an attitude of "wait and see." Even though I wasn't a personal fan of Arafat's because of his terrorist background, because he didn't help his people enough and let them fester in refugee camps when he had enough $ to build a good infrastructure in Palestinian cities, and assorted other things - it will be hard to fill his shoes. Putting myself in a Palestinian's place instead of where I am in my Jewish place, I'd feel terribly sad at his death, because he instilled pride in his people if nothing else. I don't think the world would have taken notice of the Palestinian plight if he hadn't exploded (no pun intended) onto the scene and caused a world ruckus. But my attitude is the same as most Israelis here - let's wait and see.

Then I split from Amoun to visit my Chassidic friends staying at a nearby hotel a few blocks away, after telling her why my Toronto friends would feel just a touch uncomfortable at the Jerusalem Hotel where she invited them as well for Iftar. "It's not kosher, first of all" I explained. I would actually have loved to have seen everyone's reactions at the sight of a Chassidic man with a flowing white beard and his wife - with a kerchief tied in the back - trotting into this place.

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