Thursday, July 8, 2010

Away Game

There's a place in east Jerusalem where the ramparts of the old city are only a few meters tall. A steep bluff renders scaling them difficult, but not impossible. I often dreamed of giving it a shot. Living in this country does that to the spirit. you see a wall, you want to get past it.

There are plenty such walls to work the imagination. Last night, for example, we took a bus from a terminal directly across that bluff to the town of Beit Jala - a neighborhood of Bethlehem. Beit Jala lies immediately across the separation wall from Jerusalem, which means Israeli law forbids us Israelis from entering it. There will be no checking of documents on the way in, but there should be on the way out. We haven't yet figured out a plan of how to dodge it. We risk arrest and interrogation leading to a fine of several thousand sheqels, but we just have to try. There's a wall there, you see.

Also, there was a game to be watched there, a football match. Friends belonging to the American and European journalist community let us know of a special event: A Beit Jala restaurant is to screen the world-cup semi-finals on the wall itself. Ben, Itka and myself decided to head down after a long workday. Neither of them has been in the Bethlehem area before. I visited it often in the 90s, before the seperation became definite. I had only faint recollections and was awed by the city that greeted us, with its fine exteriors

and interiors

All of which are now surrounded by the most insanely opressive prison wall.

Construction of the separation wall began following the second intifada. Israelis were told that it would reduce terrorism within Israel and thus many, progressive, human-rights minded Israelis, scared to death following a wave of bombings, supported its construction. Guess what? there really is less terrorism inside Israel. Guess what again: the wall isn't the reason for that. There are ways to bypass it (as we will prove later in the night, by being easily smuggled into Israel). If terrorism receded, it is thanks to a changed political situation and and a temporary, undeclared ceasefire. This ceasefire began before the wall was built, with the "Hudna" ending the second Intifada.

Moreover, the wall works on terrorism in the same way a dirty band-aid works on an open wound. For the time being it may trap some of the blood flow, but ultimately is infects the area, making things much worse. Imagine growing up at the shadow of this monster. What would you think of those who trapped you and your family? What sort of fate would you wish for them? and if an organization supported by God himself offered to provide them with a punishment, with your kind help, would you not offer your hips to the explosive belt?

The answer depends on one's mental condition. Palestinians across the wall are working hard to keep their mental condition good and avoid violent thoughts. The owners of the Bahamas restaurant in Beit Jalla are looking for advantages in the wall. For starters - it's a great place to post their menu.

Where do they get mussels? every single mussel in the world is to be found on the other side of this wall.

Anyway, the real talk of the town, every town on earth, from Beit Jalla to all the settlements surrounding it, was about another mussel: the Spanish Mussel eaten by Paul the oracle octopus, predicting a Spanish win in the game. Over a hundred people gathered outside the Bahamas to see whether Paul was correct. About half of them were Palestinians, the other half - foreign journalists and diplomats stationed in Jerusalem. For the most part we felt comfortable saying we're Israelis and using our given names, a bit less comfortable admitting we support Germany. The public in Beit Jalla was overwhelmingly pro-Spain.

Some supporters of Spain brought an authentic Vuvuzela.

As You may have heard, Paul was right. This photo, taken during the first half of the game, is the last image of me smiling.

I actually stopped smiling well before the final whisle was blown. During halftime I took a short walk in the vicinity of the restaurant and discovered this: a house surrounded by the wall on three sides. This family, who built its home with a view to the hills and to Jerusalem, found itself imprisoned for no fault of its own. The concrete is only a physical manifestation of the humiliation and intimidation these people have suffered by the occupiers, by us.

After seeing that, the Spanish could win and the Germans could grill their octopus for all I cared. It'll take a long time till football will actually matter for anything in this world.

1 comment:

Tamar Orvell said...

Awesome. Keep scaling walls and blogging what you see on the "other" sides...