Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Jtown Run around.

A few days ago, I was on top of the roof of King David's tomb in the old city. From this viewpoint, one sees almost all of Jerusalem: the wailing wall, the dome of the rock- on a clear day, one could even see the dead sea in the foggy distance.
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There is a wall that snakes around the Palestine terriritories from Jerusalem onwards. Some call it the apartheid wall and some say it is the only solution to minimize the threat of terror in Israel. The last time I saw a wall like that, I was 6 years old in West Berlin. My father let me walk up on the stairs to stare into East Berlin. My 6 year old fear of being shot was apparent as my dad held me in his arms. All I could ask is why would they have such guns and want to shoot us? Why do they look so serious? Would they hurt me if I touched the wall?
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My recent move to Jerusalem has opened my eyes to more racism and bigotry than Tel Aviv allowed me to witness. Once again, many will say it's because of the bubble Tel Aviv is floating in, a middle eastern city not in the middle east. A vibrant, young community who chooses to ignore the threat of terrorism from our extreme counterparts. A community who chooses to focus on frisbee on the beach and Thursday nights out in packed clubs and 20 minute lines.
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Here in Jerusalem everyone seems to be wearing their gang colors. From what sort of Kippah (Yamika) one is wearing, to the chosen style of head dress a woman uses to cover her hair. These colors and these sleeves are not only a reflection of a persons religious level, they are a reflection of their politics and of their social viewpoints. Many will embrace diversity despite of what gang colors they are wearing because they have been taught to. Most will judge you if you do not wear their garments, if you do not walk their walk. They will assume who you are and sentence you in their minds. This is how it is in Jerusalem.
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I come from a country where racism was challenged 40 years ago, and compared to Israel- has significantly advanced since then. It was only a few times in my life where people had the intolerance to comment on my asian mother. I never saw much of a difference between black, white, indian, or pink man in the corner. I don't understand bigotry, I do not understand racism.
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Living in this city, my frustration leads to almost clausterphobic levels. You do not call someone an animal, a pig, you do not make reference to their last name and try to associate them with the crazed Tractor driver from yesterday. Your disregard and disrespect for others is unexcusable. How can there be peace when parents teach their children to disrespect women who dress differently, to disrespect those with greener eyes than yourself, or those who speak with an eastern european accent?
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I miss that bubble of Tel Aviv, where Jerusalem's problems can be in the news and not on the same road I travel everyday.

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