Imagine this is your city
Imagine that one of its neighborhoods is Shuafat, a walled-off refugee camp with 80,000 people and no legal order or adequate city services, where zealots who recognize the rule of a Supreme Being not a Supreme Court judge, take actions that are daily heightening tensions in the city and new tenants take over the top floor of a home under the veil of darkness and proclaim that they are "Judaizing" the street of an overwhelmingly Arab neighborhood, throwing out the belongings of the family who is living there and camping on the top floor with their children, and their guns because the blue print calls for erasing Palestine and the history.
|imagine Palestinians never existed|
Welcome to Jerusalem, yes, Jerusalem. But, this isn't the Jerusalem that most tourists see. Because this reality is invisible, not least when it's unseen, it’s difficult to understand the eruption of violence that has pervaded the city since the summer.
For many American and other tourists, not least Jewish tourists, Jerusalem exists more like an historic theme park, which honestly isn't fair to this majestic city, holy to all three of the monotheistic religions. For sure, there's living history to be experienced when wandering through the Old City's Jaffa Gate, at the Kotel or in the streets of Mea Shearim. But there is also the daily reality of Jerusalem for Jews and Arabs alike, which is too often missing from the tourist itinerary.
That's because hotels in West Jerusalem are filled with like-minded tourists that welcome missions from Jewish organizations with big signs across the entrance. In the "united" Jerusalem, most Jewish tourists don’t even consider staying in similarly well-appointed hotels in East Jerusalem, at hotels that are Palestinian-run or owned. Nor do Jewish organizations book there. It's an implicit acknowledgement of an invisible border.
Tourists eat and drink in restaurants near Emek Refa’im, with the lilt of English in their ears, thanks to the number of Anglos there, permanent residents or tourists, or linger in the pleasant new restaurants amassed in the renovated train station nearby. It’s a lovely and livable neighborhood, where familiarity radiates through the white Jerusalem stone.
|Imagine the holyland is a European|
Jewish homeland called Israel
The reality is that for most Jewish tourists, Jerusalem is already a divided city, even if it’s not acknowledged. The invisible seam line is in fact the very seam line that existed in 1967, now called Road 1, that meanders along the Jaffa Gate entrance to the old City, spilling out past the divide between Mea Shearim and Sheikh Jarrah, an old and elegant Palestinian neighborhood.
But one ostensibly innocent history tour does make it on to the itinerary of these tourists: a spot religious Jews call "Ir David", or City of David. Ir David increasingly has spread into Silwan, a neighborhood of 50,000 working class Palestinians and about 90 Jewish fundamentalist families (roughly equaling 500 people). That’s because it’s strategically located across the road from the holiest spot in the Holy Basin, where the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock conflates with the Temple Mount, on the biblical site of Mt. Moriah.
It's here that a small but fervent movement of Jewish zealots wants to build a Third Temple, (including Yehuda Glick, who was seriously wounded by an assailant in Jerusalem recently), based on the Biblical ritual of animal sacrifice and high priests, which disappeared 2000 ago when Judaism moved to worship in synagogues. The status quo, which had existed between Israel and the Arab world to maintain a fragile peace, has been ruptured by Knesset members, especially from the Habayit Hayehudi and Likud parties, with little regard to the consequences.