one city, three worlds…

the city i refer to is jerusalem.
i’ve been thinking about this city recently, and i think there are at least three worlds somehow coexisting here – definitely not peacefully, but coexisting nonetheless.

first, there is the city i most identify with – secular (or at least not super-religious) west jerusalem. this is where i live, where i seek out culture and nightlife, where i run in the mornings, where i do my grocery shopping, where i meet my friends.

but recently i’ve been discovering east jerusalem – part of the same city, yet an entirely different world. a world where i hear arabic rather than hebrew, and where i have plenty of opportunities to practice my arabic – at a coffee shop, at the shuk, or asking directions. believe it or not, despite having lived here for more than two years (at different points in my life), i am only just now discovering this ‘world’ in jerusalem. it’s got an entirely different vibe than the west side of town, and no, i don’t feel like i am going to get shot when i am there (not that i’ve spent that much time there). i was talking with a friend the other day, though, and we were discussing the fact that as jewish israelis we’ve somehow been taught (indirectly and directly) that we shouldn’t go to this side of town because it is dangerous/unsafe/bad/all of the above. it’s been an interesting challenge for me over the past few weeks to try to break this mindset somewhat. i can’t say i’ve totally succeeded, but i am definitely feeling more comfortable in the christian/muslim/armenian quarters of the old city. (and no, i haven’t ventured deep into east jerusalem beyond that). it’s made me think quite a bit about the way we’re taught to see the world and how this differs so greatly depending on what side of the line we grow up on – in israel, and elsewhere. and how much of what we’re taught is reality, and how much of it is not.


i mentioned three worlds. the third world, and, quite honestly, the one i least understand, is the world of the ultra-othodox jews (both in east and west jerusalem). this world has been crashing into my world the last few days – the haredi (ultra-orthodox) community instigated a series of violent riots throughout the city in response to the arrest of a mother accused of starving her son. the riots have been blocking major thoroughfares in the city, which is a major pain, but my morning commute is nothing compared to the fact that they’ve been setting fires, vandalizing traffic lights, and clashing violently with the police. this is in additon to the ongoing demonstrations that have been held in protest against the opening of a parking lot near the old city on shabbat…
i like to think of myself as a pretty open-minded person, ready to hear the views of almost everyone, but this has really thrown me for a loop. who are these people? what in the world are they thinking? and why are none of their leaders telling them to stop?? sheesh.

like i said, one city, three worlds. it’s definitely an interesting place…


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