Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Other Side

There are more drastic dysjunctures between Palestinan experience and Israeli/Jewish experience, but tonight's was a view I haven't witnessed before so directly.

Just outside the Jaffa Gate of the Old City, a broad, beautiful set of stone steps leads down to the dazzling new Mamilla Street mall in West Jerusalem. From the top of the steps one peers directly down into the beginning of the long corridor that is flanked by swanky, brilliant, elegant shops and restaurants and cafes of all kinds. The mall runs a good 200 yards or more, taking just a slight curve to the left.

I had gone once before to use the ATM at the end of the mall. As I stepped down to do the same tonight I thought I recognized off to the left a waiter from the hotel I often stay at here. He was sitting on the top rim of the staircase, smoking a cigarette. When I returned some 15 minutes later, he was still there, so I approached to confirm it was him and to use the chance to practice Arabic. He was friendly as usual, but downcast. I asked what he was doing, thinking he'd say he's waiting for a friend. "I'm just looking at the other side," he said, meaning how the other side lives. He was peering into a world that was as far as could be from the poor village of Ram he lives in, near the vexing Qalandia checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah.

There was nothing physically stopping him from going into the mall, but I'd really only seen a couple of Palestinians in the busy corridor amongs the crowd of Israelis of all ages and dress enjoying a supremely comfortable, warm evening. It was clear, however, that there was in fact a border there, at least for Adnan.

Given where he lives - north of the city - it's noteworthy that he would have come here; it was certainly not on his way home. Perhaps he came, just as the others had, to enjoy the late summer evening. But, he sat as if looking across a forbidding border and the pleasantness of his evening seemed stained with loneliness, sadness and bitterness.

In front of us on the steps sat a group of young people with matching t-shirts with Hebrew lettering on the back. I asked Adnan who they were. "Settlers", he said cynically.

1 comment:

  1. :) good to read an update from you. Sorry for Adnan and others in his predicament.