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hope, fatality and defiance in Sheikh Jarrah

March 9, 2013

Today started early. I’m still waking up excited to be in The Middle East. So I got up and kissing_rockwandered around the city again. I sat outside the Holy     Sepulchre again, just watching the crowd move. This time there were women kissing the front stone and rubbing their stuff all over it, apparently to bless photos or something. I was so angry at everything I’d seen the day before and at the resilience of the Palestinian people. The day before I’d been a bit proud of getting a coffee at near local prices (2 shekels, the people who live hear pay much less and tourists tend to pay five or ten shekels a coffee (about four shekels to our dollar)). But the Palestinians have a hard time paying all of their taxes and covering everything else, so I realised if I wanted coffee, I should pay tourist prices (in the Muslim and Christian Quarters) and help the Palestinians any way I could. I got so angry at the Christians and tourists going through city without any knowledge of the racist oppression right in front of them, that I decided to shop. I bought some pastries for breakfast (30 shekels worth, though breakfast is provided by the hotel) and a neck scarf thing that was over priced (40 shekels) and I don’t really need one, but I was so angry, that I shopped. When old mate at a tea stand charged me an outrageous ten shekels for a cup of tea, I sipped it and in a loud voice said “My man, that is the best tea I’ve ever had in Jerusalem!” To the hundreds of tourists passing by.

AAP Police mosque

Photo from AAP.

That all being said, this morning was supposed to be a quiet morning, a few hours to wander the city and check it out, I, now a veteran navigator of Jerusalem, decided to go and have a post-breakfast coffee (only 5 shekels for a great Arabic coffee). A nice relaxing way to decompress from yesterday. As I’m sitting sipping on my coffee with Jasmine I casually inquire as to why there were so many police and soldiers in the City of Peace this morning. “There was trouble near the Mosque yesterday, so the police are not letting any man aged 15-45 into the mosque.” I nodded “No toursist,”
“No, no-one, Muslim, no-one.”

I was shocked. This is Friday, the day Muslims knock off early and go to prayers to hang out in community and relax. Jasmine and I then went for a walk around the city to investigate. There were literally hundreds of police in the City of Peace. They had blockaded every entrance to the Al-Aqsa mosque (only the third most holy site to the Soldier_JerusalemMuslims) and made everyone trying to get on to the Mosque show their Israeli. Apparently yesterday a Jewish man had yesterday provoked the Muslims by infiltrating the Temple Mount as a tourist and then kicking around copies of the Qu’ran, highly offensive to Muslims. The ban on men going to mosque was to stop the Muslims from retaliating. Palestinians denied entry to their Holy place on their Holy Day by an alien occupying force. Just another day in the Holy City… Read story in Haaretz.

Meanwhile, a Christian burnt some incense over the place where Jesus might have been buried (I can say that because I am Christian!)

So that was my relaxing morning to prep me for the draining afternoon ahead.

The women in black vigil was really good and uplifting. As I write this others around me are writing about the vigil, it was great to stand with people holding signs saying “End the Occupation” in the middle of Jerusalem, most of them Israeli women who’ve been doing it for 24 years, for more info check out jasminepilbrow.wordpress.comSJ Protest

We walked through leafy West Jerusalem, an advanced, eco-sustainable city that was pedestrian friendly and encouraged people to connect, like  a good city should, except that many Palestinians have been kicked out of their homes here.  Then we got to the  weekly Sheikh Jarrah protest. SJ is a Palestinian village full of Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war. They fled to Jerusalem when Israel kicked them out of their homes from around Haifa. Recently, Jewish settlers have gone to Israeli courts to claim some of the houses as theirs. There is a full some-what valid history on the Wikipedia post on SJ, but basically the 1948 refugees and their descendents are happy to leave- if they can leave and go back to Haifa. This isn’t going to happen! Arabs being allowed to return to Haifa will not occur the way things are at the moment.

So, court case falls to the Jewish claimants and the Palestinian families are evicted. So this afternoon SJ Protest 2we marched down to one of the houses that had recently been handed over to the Jewish Trust. About fifteen people were there on the front-line of the Occupation, including the owner of the house who is now homeless.

Whilst there I spoke to a woman named Rana. She was succinct and strong, the kind of traits I’m seeing in most Palestinians I meet. Rana meets the situation with a combination of hope, fatality and defiance. That may sound strange, but I’m starting to see it may be the best approach to occupation for the Palestinians. Hope that things will get better, fatality that if they don’t then they can not win the fight for their emancipation and defiance that they will do what it takes to keep their identity and their humanity. Rana was given the chance to teach art in Australia and wants to take the chance, Ranabut not until she can be sure that there will be no more Palestinian refugees (right now there’s 5-6 million) and her homeland is as secure as she can make it.

Rana described life as tough, the whole neighbourhood faces eviction and homelessness as well as persecution from the Jews and state (police and soldiers) in the area. I couldn’t leave her. Finally someone came down and told me it was time to go. Saying goodbye to Rana and turning away from her “Hmm, persecution, homelessness, loss of identity, yeah that sounds bad, anyway, I’m going to my hotel now, good luck with that” was how I felt. I felt punched in the guts and I’m not the one being persecuted. I just have a guilty conscience that people are suffering and all I can do is write a blog. Rana was grateful to have us there and implored me to ‘spread the word’- which I’m doing now. But the more I learn and meet these people who live under oppression the harder I find it to turn away.

Peace and Love to you.


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