Yesterday was fairly intense for me. Last summer I spent the majority of my time at the Hebrew University, which sits in East Jerusalem on a hilltop called Mount Scopus. One day, before the war broke out with Hezbollah in the north, I went for a long run around my new neighborhood. My huffing and puffing came to an abrupt stop when I reached a steep cliff that overlooked the valley below. Contained within the valley was a forgotten Arab town. From high above, I could see children playing and people drinking tea. I could see men working and women hanging laundry. Even though I had only been in Israel for a few days, I instantly knew that it was an Arab town because the streets were largely unpaved, and the hillsides were covered in trash. Yesterday I learned that the Arab people living in Israel pay the same taxes as other Israelis, but they are given 8% of the municipal services. I had always assumed that the Arabs that live within Israel were considered citizens of the state. Yesterday, I learned that they are considered "permanent residents". This allows them to stay in Israel, pay taxes, receive 8% of services and never vote. This means that they have no representation. It made me wonder, what ever happened to the idea of "no taxation without representation", but I'll put my geek brain aside for now.
Yesterday, I was invited to travel to Jerusalem and visit the other side of the city. From there, I went into the Palestinian village that I spent so much time peering down on last year. From my perch on the hilltop, none of the life below felt especially real. Yet, when I got down into the heart of the village, I was overwhelmed with sensory overload. Just like my experience of running into a cliff edge, this time I ran into a large cement wall. I discovered that at the far edge of the village, the "security fence" that Israel created along the West Bank essentially divides the town into two. There were small holes dug along the foot of the wall that people made so that they can pass money and goods to their friends and family on the other side. And there was writing all over the wall in every language conceivable about how the wall is evil and will not stand forever. It made me think that nothing man-made will stand forever. Still, I looked around and wondered how long it would take for someone to come in and clean up all of the trash that these people are living in.
Funny things, these walls in the Holy Land.