Over the past few weeks, Core18 has heard from speakers and listened to their political views of the Israeli/Arab conflict and possibilities for peace. Last Friday, we went on a walking tour of West/East Jerusalem with our tour guide, Rotem, to learn about alternative narratives of the conflict, by physically going and seeing how folks live and what they want.
Here's what Madison Fischman (MTVA) had to say about the session:
EveryFridaysession is a unique experience with Core18!
Our walking tour of east Jerusalem actually started on the west side, in Musrara. (also known by its Hebrew name, Morasha) We got a basic history lesson of the places we were walking through and how they interact with and impact the east side. From there we moved to the "border" between the two sides. There our guide pointed out an incredibly subtle design point in the street: traffic can only move from north to south -- there is no opening for a car going west to keep going in that direction, once it reaches the intersection. The same is true for a car going east. I would like to say, though, that he only took us to one intersection and I cannot speak for the rest of the city.
After pointing out the subtle design in the urban planning, we crossed the street into unknown territory, a place we only hear about as ‘a place we must not enter.’ The same place that is a decent percentage of the city we call home -- East Jerusalem.
I took my first steps expecting to find a world of black and white, a world where buildings only existed in ruin, and the sky a perpetual grey. It wasn’t. There were children playing in a park, apartment buildings that looked new, people talking and walking on the streets. That was the first time that day that I was shocked.
From there we walked the streets of Sheikh Jarrah. Rotem gave us the history of the communities we were in, and the buildings we were passing. We then arrived at a few homes off one of the main streets. There, he told us about the evictions of the Palestinian families that had lived there and the Jewish families that had been put there, neither of which people have been given reasons for. Shock number two.
Shock number three came later when talking to one of the residents of the town. He was a kind gentleman who told us a bit about his story, and then left time to answer our questions. Someone from the cohort asked the seemingly simple question, “What would happen if someone in the community sold land to a Jew?” The response -- “Anything from being ignored and removed from the community, to being killed.” My jaw dropped, the sky turned grey and every building around me no longer gleaned in the sun.
I received so much from this opportunity and I know that while I can’t write it all down, I would like to conclude with three points:
1: Take a walking tour of East Jerusalem, and experience the city we only ever talk about when it comes to the them. The residents of East Jerusalem aren’t a them, they are our neighbors.
2: Have conversations with people that you agree with, but more importantly those that you disagree with. That is the best way to find a bridge.
3: Nothing ever only has one voice. Nothing. Not ever.