Tuesday, October 17, 2006

City of David

Last time I went down to see the excavations being done on the biblical City of David was perhaps 10 years ago. We walked through the streets of Silwan and saw ancient stones and steps built into the hillside. It is believed that the palace of King David was built here, as well as the pre-Israelite Jebusite kingdom.

ancient City of David

Then there was the Intifida and it was no longer safe for Israelis to venture into this area.

This year, during the holiday of Succot, I ventured there again. It looked completely different.

Entrance to the City of David

This time, I entered a gated “village” built up for tourists and viewing promenades amidst lovely olive trees, etc. The paths takes you through Hezekiah’s water tunnel where Jerusalem received its main source of water from the Gihon spring. A tour inside the tunnel means you walk waist high in water with flashlights. I steered clear of the tunnel and walked along newly cobblestoned paths to the Gihon Spring - past Arab homes and Jewish homes standing side-by-side. My ideal dream of living in a mixed neighborhood seemed to be here (Alas that is not true, if you read the linked articles below - but it still remains my dream)

The history isn’t so simple and the present situation of the City of David/Silwan has its conflicts. In the late 1882 a large group of Yemenite Jews trekked across the desert and made their home in Silwan. There they lived peacefully with their Arab neighbors until the 1929 Arab riots. Some Jews are now reclaiming the site because of the biblical history attached to it and saying they are reclaiming the homes the Yemenite Jews left behind. The Arabs naturally are feeling like they are being pushed out. Last year, the municipality wanted to raze 88 Arab homes to expand the City of David national park amidst a lot of protest, myself being included in these protests. There’s a lot more to uncover, it is claimed. I’m sure there is. But not at the expense of people living there now. I suggested to no one in particular that they should build underground viewing sites so as not to disturb the residents living overhead. In fact one particular story here is quite heartbreaking.

There seems to be quite a few Jewish settler families who have bought-out homes from the Arabs in the City of David area.

Jewish home - City of David

I saw some Jewish kids on a gated street. I asked the kids if everyone inside the gate is Jewish. No, half are Arabs. Do they get along with their Arab neighbors? Yes - was their answer. I seemed satisfied with that, thinking this is certainly not Hebron where the tensions are awful between Arab and Jewish residents of that city. I’m not too sure they visit each other’s homes here, but they don’t seem to harass each other as much as they do in Hebron. I’m wondering how much the media revs up the situation as well. But I am wondering if I had spoken to Palestinians that day, what reaction would they have given me. I gazed below at a Palestinian woman drying her laundry on her rooftop.

A view of Silwan - Jerusalem

I walked down the steep hill past archeologists who were excavating a home adjacent to the Gihon Spring.

Sifting through City of David excavations

Arab legend has it that the water flows here from Mecca. My Jewish New Age friends tell me there are more crystals in the Gihon water than any other water source they know of. I felt the holiness of that place immediately. There was something special about it, though I can’t express it in words. It’s just something you feel.

As I walked back up towards the modern city of Jerusalem, past the Jewish and Arab homes, I felt a deep sense of tranquility in that area. Perhaps it was an illusion, perhaps not. The grape vines and beautiful gardens that peeked out from behind the walls and gates certainly contributed to it. But perhaps it was my wishful thinking.


John said...

That ancient spring is what made Jerusalem possible.

david said...

I'm very moved by your blog. I had a very different impression of the City of David -- admittedly, an outsider's: