Thursday, October 16, 2008

Is Akko Burning?

Which is the most beautiful word in the Bible? It may very well be one attirbuted to the Lord of Hosts in Genesis 18, 21. He declares there that the sinning ways of Sodomites and Gommorah-folk has become known to him, and that he now intends to decend into these cities and determine "haketza'akata".

Haketza'akata - literally: "is it as she yelled", figuratively: are the disturbing rumors founded. In the King James translation: "altogether according to the cry of it". In the new American Standard bible: "entirely according to its outcry". No translation brings out any of the poetry of this cumbersome, lush word. The darkness of the outcry is lost.

A very dark outcry rises this week from the city of St. Jean D'acre, also called Akka and Akko. The capital of the second crusader kingdom became the site of major turbulance. The Jewish-Israeli and Palestinian-Israeli populations of the city clashed on the streets, houses were burned, vandalism performed, families evicted, and police presence hightened.

Four of us went north to see haketza'akata: Y the spy (not seen here as she is the photographer), Flashky, Renana and myself. We were joined by two Swiss tourists: Francesco and Sarah.

There was some smoke on the streets,

and indoors (somehow whenever I go there I end up with a photo like this one),

but altogether Akko was the very image of peace in the middle east. Haketza'akata? not exactly.

This should come as no surprise. Despite animosities in friction zones, the vendors of the old city's market are highly interested in the safety of visitors, as their livelyhood depends on tourism. This makes the cancallation of this year's Akko alternative theatre festival not only absurd but infuriating. It is an act that deeply hurts the old city's Arabic spaking population for no rational reason.

It was forseeable that this population would become the scapegoat of the current crisis. A simpleton driver, whose carelss Yom kippur trip to the ethnically mixed heart of town sparked the riots, was arrested despite not having broken any law. Arab families were evicted from the eastern neighborhoods after Jewish vandals burned houses there. How does that make sense?

It doesn't. Visiting Akko does. pack up an apetite for food and for salty air, hop on a fast train and come show solidarity. You may even catch some theatre: the festival is taking place in an underground, hushed way. Hang around the fortress gardens and you will catch word of performances or contact me for details. Bon voyage and peace be with you.

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