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Oh Jerusalem

Ari Shavit's essay in last week's New Yorker, "No Man's Land", is heartbreaking. Jerusalem, his story tells, isn't a living city any more, but a sort of undead ghost town, already torn apart by violence, fear and death.

There's a ubiquitous tale about the wisdom of the ancient Hebrew King Solomon. Two women, the tale goes, both claim to be mother to the same infant. Neither will yield her claim. Very well, says Solomon; cut the child in half, and give part to each. At this, one finally relents, to the other's satisfaction. But, says Solomon, give the child to the first: No true mother would see her child murdered, so she must be the child's mother.

The child was saved because someone loved it enough not to destroy it, no matter what cost they themselves had to pay. But Jerusalem, it would seem, has no mother.

December 8, 2002 5:45 PM

Comments (and TrackBacks)

"Had they [terroists] come from one of the refugee camps, I would understand. But they are from here ... they probably used to play here, on the slides and swings. I wonder whether this concept we had of a cosmopolitan, nonreligious Jerusalem was plausible at all. Perhaps it was not. Perhaps it was self-deception."
-Shlomo Aronson

For me, the above text summed up this piece. Otherwise, i'd sum it up thusly: "Even we intellectual-class Israelis are clueless as to how it got this bad, how a dream called 'Israel' became a nightmare so opposite its original intent."

What he fails to remember, perhaps, or failed to see when those boys-to-be-terrorist played on the swings and their Israeli Arab mothers strolled along the walkway, is that they never shared the same freedom of the promenade as did their Jewish counterparts. They walked, simultaneously, in a very different land.

Unlike their Jewish neighbors, they didn't get new schools, consistently running water, permits to fix their leaking roof, or... The list of inequities between Jew and Arab in Israel continues.

Pretty promenades are just not going to cut it. A more righteous heart would. But, those are harder to build.


Posted by rob adams on December 9, 2002 2:19 PM

There's much to be angry about. But does that truly make the things that are sad any less sad?

Posted by M on December 10, 2002 11:58 AM

does that truly make the things that are sad any less sad?

No, no it doesn't. Not one little bit. I haven't been angry about the Israel/Palestine conflict for a long time; only very, very sad. Neither side has clean hands and no one can win regardless of the outcome, but they just keep fighting.

Posted by senn on December 10, 2002 12:06 PM

Actually, it is possible for one side to win and the other (Palestinian) to lose. It's very possible, and it's happening as i type this.

A 10 Year Recipe for Absolute Victory:

[x] Radicalisation of the Palestinian culture.
[x] Total destruction (killing, arrest, deportation) of the Palestinian leadership (both homegrown and Tunisian-based (those are very different ilks, too)).
[-] Destruction of any police force or other, internal, Palestini-to-Palestinian security.
[-] Continued abolishment of the West Bank economy.
[] Large scale transfer of the Arab population.

Some of these things have come to pass, and others have yet to be fully implemented; But, when the "right" political environment has been *created*, the final steps will surely come to pass as well. If you read the Israeli media not-so-carefully, too, you'll quickly see ample mention of each of these elements, with increasing frequency as the months continue.

Whose losing? Israel? Really?
Who says, Israel? Makes you think, no?

As we speak, Sharon and Israel's Far-Right Religious Fundamentalist faction are working extremely hard, and patiently, to create just such a place where all of these things are acceptable to the average Israeli. We're closer than most Americans would even attempt to consider.

One day (in our lifetimes) the world will be treated to full color news footage, perhaps even broadcast live at 6pm EST, of tens of thousands of Palestinians literally hearded over the Jordan River into neighboring Jordan and Egypt.

And naive, fattened American opinion will continue to lamment Israel's suffering and "loss", somehow neglecting to fully appreciate the whole historic process of this "loss" for what was once roughly half Eretz Israel's population.

Remember, not so long ago, say, 1994, if i were to have said "Sharon for PM" most educated, news-informed Israelis and Americans would shout "That's bizarro sci-fi, impossible... never."

*They* have been working very, very hard, and it finally shows.


Posted by on December 10, 2002 1:16 PM

Rob, the situation you describe is a loss for most Israelis as well as Palestinians, no? You see this as some sort of "victory" for a certain group of fundamentalists, but all I'm remarking on (and I believe senn is saying, too) is how great a loss it is for most everyone else.

Posted by M on December 10, 2002 2:43 PM

Yup, what Matt said. What you describe, rob, is no victory.

Posted by senn on December 10, 2002 9:56 PM

I'm not the most skilled at "reading between the lines", but my impression was that there was an insinuation that both sides were equally at fault for the conflict, that both sides' intentions were comparably evil/less-than-good.

My argument is, that on a scale of evil (i'm tempted to capitalise that phrase), the ultra-right/dati faction presently pulling the strings in Ariel Sharon's head are fairly "more evil" than the Palestinian factions could possibly muster.

The fast-lane to hell is jam packed with those who whole heartedly believe they're heading in the opposite direction. That's the distinguishing mark between the two beasts.


Posted by rob adams on December 11, 2002 8:46 AM

I didn't think this piece was trying to compare the two sides in this conflict, just to reveal one of its (many, many) costs. The piece doesn't seem to take a side between them, but that doesn't mean it thinks each side is equally responsible.

Posted by M on December 11, 2002 2:09 PM

Sadness is my primary emotion in this situation too. It comes from the seemingly never-ending string of deaths and the feeling of hopelessness.
I'm sad that people can't just tolerate each other. I just don't understand it. I'm just to sad and feeling too hopeless about the whole thing to assign blame.

Sometimes, though, I get angry at people for killing each other. I just want everyone to stop, for crying out loud.
I get mad, too, that Palestinians who go out and kill Israelis are allowing themselves to be fooled into participating in this conflict. I want to grab em and shake em and tell them that the people who want them to kill don't care about them.
I really think that the people who stir up these sorts of ethnic and religious conflicts have more sinister motives than bigotry. They're aiming for power and wealth.
I used to dream of going to Jerusalem. It sounded like the most enchanting place on Earth, and I don't even know why I was so fascinated with it. But I don't want to go anymore.

Posted by Camille on December 13, 2002 5:01 AM

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