New week-end, new expedition. This time, some of us decide to go to Jerusalem, where we’re going to spend the night in an apartment found on Airbnb. I’m really excited to discover this city which I’ve heard so much about, that has such an old and chaotic history.
So of course, I’m less excited to about the “border” that I’m going to have to cross again to get there. As usual, on the road, we go through several checkpoints, on several roads with many, too many Israeli flags on the side, like a constant reminder that they are not ready to leave Palestine to Palestinians. Once again, we come closer to the wall, to the watchtowers. We go through all the gates, we wait, we show our passports, we answer the questions. This may seem insignificant, for us, once in a while, but it is a lot less when thinking of all the people who have to do it everyday.
Jerusalem is a contested place. Palestine considers the east side of the city as its capital, when the entire city is considered the capital for Israel, after the country decided to conquer the eastern part, not satisfied of possessing only the west of it. That choice was contested by the rest of the world, and the embassies from other countries were thus withdrawn from it. The Palestinian administration is not situated there, but in Ramallah.
Although a distinction was made between the eastern and the western side, there is no border inside the city. Palestinians from East-Jerusalem must possess an Israeli residency permit, with a high price to pay. Furthermore, as for the rest of Palestine, there are victims of all the violences, destructions of their homes and implementations of new settlements. If you want to learn more about it, I recommend this article: http://www.palestinecampaign.org/media-wont-tell-east-jerusalem/
Our arrival in Jerusalem is a big shock for all of us. The very westernised atmosphere of the western side of the city, the infrastructures such as the tramways and the modern buildings, the carefree and relaxed ambiance in bars, at night… it feels like we changed continents. How does a universe so different form Nablus exist only a few hours away from there? And there’s this paranoïa, always. On the way, we have to discuss about what we’re going to say concerning the reason of our presence in the region to the man who is going to leave us his apartment for two nights. I am against lying, I don’t see why we should have anything to hide, especially since we are only volunteers; but it is true that these things are delicate… We will end up saying the truth, which doesn’t seem to bother him.
I think that at first, we are all a bit uncomfortable. Watching the people enjoying their evening (which we can’t blame anyone for), we can’t help but thinking of the occupation, to wonder if they support it, how they can lead a normal life in such circumstances, if they would act differently if they knew where we came from. It’s difficult to not think of these things, knowing what we know. I feel like I’m an intruder.
But the people from here don’t live so carefree as it may seem. The next day, as we explore the city, we discover hordes of soldiers, as well as many civilians proudly carrying guns. The tension is palpable.
This doesn’t keep us from spending a very pleasant day discovering Jerusalem. I won’t hide that I feel a lot better in the Muslim quarter of the old city than anywhere else. We enjoy speaking a few words of Arabic with some surprised sellers. It’s like telling them “We’re not normal tourists, we support your cause…”
The old city is full of historical and beautiful places, such as the Wailing Wall, the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, surrounded by the famous Mount of Olives.
The rest of the city is also beautiful, although a lot more modern. There’s a park with a pretty setting, where the Holocaust museum is. Its visit upsets me a lot, and I leave this horrible reminder of what man is capable of thinking: “Will mankind ever learn from its mistakes?”
Last visit, we have heard of a small village called Lifta, last remains of a Palestinian place as it was in 1948, before all of this happened. There, ruins of houses from which people were thrown out surround a hot spring where some Israelis are relaxing carelessly. The history of this place seems completely denied, as we can see on the signs that lead there, where the arabic writings have been crossed out…
With this last disturbing impression, we leave Jerusalem, excited to go back home…