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Sunday, 10 November 2013

Musings on Palestine


These are some personal musings from my recent stay in Palestine. Others can and have recorded the history, this is something different.

  •  We are walking on the ramparts of the old city of Jerusalem, ahead of us a middle aged woman shouts, in English, abuse at a man in a garden below us. She is accusing him of throwing rubbish onto the old Ottoman walls, she is probably right. He swears back at her. She looks at us, expecting support, she has heard us speaking and knows we speak English, she speaks to us. I turn my shoulder and blank her; normally I would have agreed with her. But this is his quarter of the city, he sees her as the other, an interloper, despite the rubbish we know he is right, it is his city, and he may do as he pleases.
  • We are walking through the old quarter of Nablus; our guide shows us photos of a family on a wall. They were killed when the occupying force thought that one of theirs had been killed by someone in the house, so they all died. The last time I saw photos like this was in a village high in the Apennines in Italy, there a whole village had been killed by the occupying force when someone in the village had killed one of the occupiers. Plus ca change, plus c’est the meme chose.
  • Now we are in an olive grove, high above the Jordan valley, the land below us is rich alluvial soil; in this climate it could sustain two crops a year. But the people whose land it is may not irrigate, so only one crop can be taken, wheat or maize and the vegetable which could have been grown must be imported. Meanwhile the occupiers, in their new properties high on the hill tops, have lawns and swimming pools. Anywhere in the Middle East that sort of use of water would be profligate, like the green ornamental shrubs I saw in Dubai being irrigated, but here it is wicked beyond belief.
  • As we walk along a short stretch of road a young conscript jumps out of his jeep, he is almost young enough to be my grandson. He is not quite sure who we are, so he cautions us to be careful. I resist the temptation to ask him if there are lions around, as all the local people couldn’t be more friendly.
  • After a picnic lunch we visit one of the few water treatment plants that are allowed by the occupiers. One of the men treats us to an impromptu concert; the style in which he is singing comes from medieval Andalucia when the Moors ruled in southern Spain. It is ironic that in those ‘barbaric’ times all three Abrahimic faiths lived in a sort of peaceful co-existence, rare today indeed.
  • Two days later we are in Bethlehem, standing by a Banksy cartoon, which happens to be on a very big wall, odd how the height of the houses in the old ghetto of Venice look very like a wall too. I wonder why this wall makes me think of that?  I think of other walls I have seen, Hadrian’s Wall, the Berlin Wall, the former now a tourist destination, the later crumbled into dust, one day here too………
  • We return to Jerusalem on a local bus, our large suitcases in the place under the bus for big items. The soldiers of the occupation get on at a check point, they look at our passports and wish us good day, no one and no machine has checked our cases; clearly this is not a security check, but a system of control and humiliation. We’ve lived in London, we know what a security check it. Or is it a form of profiling, we are elderly and not Arab, we have seen profiling in London too, we know what it looks like.
  • Later in the souk, there are soldiers of the occupation  perhaps two hundred metres apart, the souk is crowded, one could do a lot of damage before they could stop you, so what is their point, simply that they can?
  • Finally I am at the airport. There is a huge water feature, water spraying up from the ground and down from the ceiling, I am sure it is recycled, but what a mockery of the country which I have just left, where water can be turned off at the whim of the occupying power. I spend no money, but drink a lot of the (free) water and childishly flush a lot of toilets.
taking the message to Palestine.
 Can you see the bullet hole in the
top right hand corner? This is the
entrance to the Church of the Nativity
this mosque is opposite
the Church of the Nativity
in Bethlehem

that wall