Thursday, August 23, 2012

a very different tour of Jerusalem

I thought I had seen it all. I have toured Jerusalem countless times. Even though I live here, I still sometimes feel like a tourist, rather than a resident. It's the wonder and beauty of Jerusalem that does it to me every time.

I saw a post on Facebook that there will be a dual-narrative tour from Mejdi , and I thought that this would be a unique tour and would give me different perspectives, and maybe I'd even learn a thing or two.

Lucky it is still summer and work at the office is slow, so I was able to take the day off. Through Facebook, 3 other friends of mine found out about the tour and joined too, as well as connecting with a few other people whom I hadn't seen in a while - from the wide circle of peace people.

Standing on a scenic hill by Mt. Scopus, the guides, one Palestinian and one Jewish, began their narratives. They went something like this...

"Remember when the tunnels by the Western Wall were dug? They sparked riots from the Palestinians who were nervous that the Israelis would destroy the buildings above the tunnels or try to get to the Temple Mount from the underground passage."

"Riots?? They weren't riots. They were protests." remarked the Palestinian guide, and explained that language is a big part of the dual-narrative, that it's used in different contexts for both Jews and Arabs. He called cities over the green line "settlements" and she called them "communities". And so it went on like this for the day.

At Ammunition Hill, standing by a tank, one Jewish member of Mejdi told us of the dilemma he faced as a young soldier during a covert operation. On the hill was a young Arab boy reading a book. The soldier didn't know what to do with him, and called his commander who told him to tie the kid's hands and feet together. Of course, the child was terribly frightened. The soldier pondered whether to untie the child or not, looking back and seeing how terrifying this was for the poor kid who was at the wrong place at the wrong time. The soldier returned, untied the kid, who promptly ran as fast as he could to his village, obviously alerting the people to soldiers in the area. Needless to say, the operation failed, but this guy had cleared his conscience.

We stopped by a t-shirt shop in the Muslim quarter and the guide explained about the cartoon character Handala on one of the t-shirts. I knew nothing about this. The t-shirt merchant swung both ways,as many do in the old city, catering to all, with Free Palestine t-shirts next to Uzi Does It and Don't Worry America, Israel is behind you. When we remarked about the pro-Israel t-shirts, the merchant looked flustered..."They make me sell them!! They make me sell them!" Who makes him sell them, we never found out, but who knows what he thought of us. The unknown could be quite scary.

The funniest part of the tour was when our Palestinian tour guide ended up at the Western Wall and put on a kippah. The chabad rabbi came up to him.

"What is your name"


"Azi. Come with me..."

and he proceeded to put on tefillin on the startled guide. He then walked him over to the Wall and said "Pray for whatever your heart desires."

I hadn't gone with them to the Wall, preferring to remain in the shade of the entrance, but heard about it from him, who was like "You'll never believe what I just went through."

I asked him - "So, nu? What did you ask for when you went up the wall?" I smiled because I knew what he asked for. And I was right.

"Free Palestine"

And I, of course, burst out laughing.


Tomasz said...

Wow! If I had not read your post I would not ever believe that a Palestinian prayed in front of the Western Wall in Jerusalem, and not only wearing a kippah but a tefillin! Really interesting and extraordinary.

RSA Australia said...

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