Jerusalem

I can barely contain my anger over the idiot Trump move to open a US embassy in Jerusalem, and on the eve of Israeli independence too, which Palestinians call the ‘Nakba‘, a time when many Palestinians were displaced in 1948. There goes any remnant of hope for peace in Israel-Palestine… My thoughts are very much there today and in my birth-city of Jerusalem…

Because I am thinking of Jerusalem so much, several songs called ‘Jerusalem’ keep popping up in my head. Most of all the song ‘Jerusalem’ by Sinead O’Connor is playing in my mind… I so can relate to the intensity in this…

Or ‘Jerusalem’ by Dutch singer Anouk…

Or the (not brilliant but catchy) German entry for the Eurovision Song Contest back in 1999 called ‘Reise nach Jerusalem’ (‘Journey to Jerusalem’), sung in German and Turkish, with a little English thrown in and at the very end Hebrew (they came in 3rd that year)…

Or the song ‘Crusader’ by Chris de Burgh, which is a very iffy, one-sided heroic view of the Christians as heroes during the crusades of the Middle Ages. Despite that, I do love the musicality of this song and the repeated line “Jersualem is lost” feels very fitting…

And there’s the Jerusalem song I remember best from my childhood, called Yerushalayim shel Zahav (Jerusalem of Gold)…

Despite the unholy alliance between Trump and Israeli prime minister Netanyahu, I still try to cling to hope for peace for Jerusalem and the region, even though a peaceful two-state solution feels very very far away right now…

Jerusalem 2008

Will there ever be true peace one day in Jerusalem?

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Oh, Jerusalem…

… what will happen now after Trump’s latest narrow-minded, selfish move? My heart goes out to you!

I love Jerusalem. I was born there, have lived there, have gone to school there, have visited many times after living there. It has always been a problematic city, home to the holiest sites of the 3 large monotheistic religions. The picture on the left was taken from behind/on the roof of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (where Jesus is said to have been crucified). The picture on the right is of the Dome of the Rock (where Mohammed is said to have ascended to heaven) with the holy Western Wall in front of it (part of the Jewish Second Temple which was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD).

And a few more pictures: my dad with my son at the Western Wall, my kids with cousins inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the closest we could get to the Dome during our 2008 visit, which was closed to non-Muslim visitors due to the whole conflict (I had visited there before, however, when there was more hope for peace).

These sites are very close to each other; the Holy Sepulchre is only about a 10 minute walk away from the Western Wall and the Western Wall is literally part of the outer wall of the piece of land on which the Al Aqsa Mosque & Dome of the Rock are situated. The sites and the feelings they evoke are so closely tied together, there is a real reason why the question of the status of Jerusalem is a very difficult one in the whole peace process… I just hope that what Donald Trump has done now won’t endanger a process that is already extremely delicate and fragile as is… I just hope that it will remain possible to walk peacefully through the Old City…

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… and that this bumbling fool of an American president hasn’t destroyed too much with his short-sighted foreign ‘policy’. If I were a religious person I’d be praying harder than ever for peace in Jerusalem now.

Rest in peace, Shimon Peres

And peace is the operative word here as he fought for it in the Middle East for many years…

shimon-peres

He wasn’t always like that, he began his career as a hardliner, was known as a ‘hawk’ who later changed his ideas and became a peacemaker, a ‘dove’ so to speak. His ideas on peace for the Middle East, the Oslo Accords he helped achieve, gave me such hope in the mid 1990s! He won the Nobel Peace Prize for the Oslo Accords…

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The Nobel Peace prize laureates for 1994 in Oslo: PLO chairman Yasser Arafat, Israeli foreign minister Shimon Peres, Israeli PM Yitzhak Rabin.

Sadly, the peace I had so hoped for never really happened… Things went haywire after Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated and with Netanyahu as president then and again now, all real peace endeavors seem to be vaporized. I have lived in Israel and the fact that the peace process is stuck after the hope there was 20 years ago still breaks my heart.

I have been watching Peres’s funeral on TV here this morning and Bill Clinton’s  and Barack Obama’s speeches were very powerful to me. Like them, I still hope for such dreamers as Shimon Peres to stand up in the Middle East and make the dreams for peace come true.

Shimon Peres, alav ha-shalom (peace be upon him). And may peace be upon the whole region hopefully one day.

Walls be gone…

Richard Armitage’s recent #nowalls tweet made me very happy as I have very strong anti-wall sentiments myself! It also made me think of my own wall experiences. (Posting a screencap here, in case the tweet gets deleted sometime in the future).

RA No walls tweet

I lived in Germany for the first half of my teens when the wall was still very much there and very much a part of German life. When I was 14 or 15 we went on a class trip to Eschwege (in the north-east of the province of Hessen)  and close to Eschwege was a portion of the border between the two Germanies. We visited the border there which was also a wall. It was my first confrontation with such a physical border, it was made of concrete slabs and it impressed me, not in a good way. It felt weird that behind that wall was a very different way of life and that people were forcefully separated from each other.

My next experience with the actual physical wall was when I was 19 and I went to Berlin. It was the summer of 1989, the summer before the wall fell. On that trip we visited East Berlin for a few hours on a special visa, we had our own guide and were not permitted to talk to anyone in the East. It was very surreal. No one that August would have believed that only a few months later the wall would actually fall! It was a huge event!

I also visited Berlin for a weekend just a week or two after the wall fell. What I most recall is walking through a huge department store in West Berlin. The store was jam-packed, if you wanted to walk you had to literally squeeze past people, and despite it being packed it was dead quiet in the store. These were all people from the East, coming to take a look in the West, gawking at everything that was available (but not yet affordable) in West German stores. I think it was one of the most eery experiences in my life. And it was the most miraculous feeling that this wall had finally finally come down, reuniting families and friends and allowing people to meet each other in freedom!

4 years ago I visited Berlin again, this time with my husband and kids. The wall is history now and is gone but you can visit parts that have been kept as memorial.

It’s a chilling reminder… the wall has caused so much sorrow and at the spot where these pictures were taken you can read all about it and see videos. It really helped explain the wall to the kids. It also makes you wish that never again will people think to build walls like that again…

But alas, these walls do exist and have been built in recent times too! The most prevalent one for me is on the Israeli-Palestinian border and that wall just breaks my heart. I hate it! Nowadays when you travel from Jerusalem to Bethlehem (on the West Bank) you have to go through checkpoints and you have to pass a wall that is very reminiscent of the Berlin Wall! I have this childhood memory, from way before the wall existed, of going to church on Sunday in Jerusalem. Afterwards we’d drive to Bethlehem and in Manger Square (where the Church of the Nativity is situated) we’d go for a falafel lunch before heading home again. I used to love that little family tradition but nowadays it is far less easy to do that, with the whole wall errected separating the two cities.

Luckily in the West Bank you can talk to anyone you like (unlike when I visited East Berlin in 1989) but the wall gives a real sense of being in a huge prison. I can travel freely enough between Israel and the West Bank with my Dutch passport but many Palestinians can’t. Heck, my cats have travelled more than many Palestinians! I can tell you here and now, walls such as these are not a solution, they never will be… They divide and alienate and breed distrust and inequality and they imprison. They do not ensure freedom, they restrict freedom…So yes, with all my heart I can agree with the #nowalls sentiment and hope that in the future walls will be torn down rather than be built.

A message of peace and building a future

I just listened to an amazing speech… I can’t say much more about this, other than that this is possibly the best speech I have ever heard on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Agreed, it’s from the Israeli “side” but with a little twist: it was spoken by an Israeli diplomat of Palestinian descent named George Deek. I think he had some very powerful things to say, the speech touched me to the very core……

To quote from the end of this speech:

“We cannot change the past, but we can secure a future for our next generations. And if we want to mend the past some day, we can help Palestinian refugees have a normal life. We can be sincere about our past and learn from our mistakes. And we can unite Muslims, Jews and Christians to protect our right to be different and by that preserve our humanity.”

Here is a 30 minute video of the speech, very much worth the listen. Please do, if you care about peace in the Middle East.  Even if you don’t agree, if you listen to it seriously it at the very least will give food for thought.

For some reason I can’t embed the video, so here’s a still of George Deek from the video and a link to the video itself:

Let us move forward and learn to live together and build a FUTURE!