cc: flickr – Photo by: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org. Protest against “Jerusalem Day”, East Jerusalem, 20.05.2012
1. I started the day with three other activist friends in Sheikh Jarrah. Excuse me: Shimon HaTzadik. Don’t know what got into me. I thought for a moment that it was a Palestinian neighborhood! I said Salaam 3leikum to people passing by, so they’d know I wasn’t there to Settle their Hood. I said Salaam 3leikum to two big guys passing by. They looked at us very crooked and responded in Hebrew. One of the activists I was with posited that they were from the Shabak. We laughed very hard. Salaam 3leikum yaa Shabak.
2. At the Damascus Gate, usually a thriving center of commerce in East Jerusalem, the Israeli police came around three PM to shut down shops and arrest Palestinian kids who were getting too rowdy (I also saw the police drag away at 60-something year-old woman who was talking back to them loudly). Making room for the Coming March. Letting the Arabs know Who is Sovereign Here. All of Here.
3. At one point, there were Jews standing on one side, waving an Israeli flag and chanting “Mohammad Met” (Mohammad is Dead). On the other side, Palestinians were waving their flag and chanting “Khaybar, Khaybar ya Yehud” (A reference to the Quranic story of Muslims massacring and expelling Jews). For a second, it seemed like a two-sided struggle between two nationalistic, violent groups of young men. Then I remembered that we were in Occupied East Jerusalem, and that the heavily armed, horse mounted Israeli Police were just that: Israeli police, there to protect the Israelis. A note to remember: Palestinians aren’t more moral, per se, or less violent. They’re just way oppressed and wicked occupied. While the conflict is not 1:0 in terms of fault belonging to Israel:Palestinians, it for damn sure ain’t anywhere close to 1:1 as of Jerusalem Day 2012.
4. During the down time, folks were making jokes. A Palestinian friend of mine sees the following and she goes: “הפרחה, החייל והחמודה” (the ditz, the soldier and the cutie).
5. There were thousands and thousands of people- of my people- marching in this march. I felt to sick to take their picture. It was too much. I remember when I loved this flag.
6. Some of the Nationalists were carrying purple flags with God is the King written on them. That is a desecration of God’s name.
7. The White Soldiers came. “They are leftists!” “They think the army is hypocritical!” (Pun in Hebrew: צבוע). “Go fuck yourselves!” Me, quietly: “You guys are my heroes.”
8. I was wearing the classic Sheikh Jarrah shirt, partially to emphasize my anti-Jerusalem Daity, and partially because the message is just so on point for today. I walked away from the demonstration, into the sea of Marchers. One guy told me I had sold my soul to the devil. Another told me to die. Only after did it dawn on me that I might have put myself in the way of physical harm by walking through the March with that shirt on. A friend of mine just told me that another activist did get pushed around and hit for wearing an “I Love Silwan Shirt.” There is no holiness in an occupied city. No to occupation.
9. This was a sad day.
10. But there was good, too. After emerging from the Blue and White sea of Marchers, with a friend, I flagged down a Taxi to get to a meeting in Katamon. The driver was Palestinian, and we immediately started talking about all that I’d seen, the words rushing out of me like a sea, foaming blue and white. He reminded me that this march does not represent all Israelis, and definitely not all Jews. He told me about his kid, who is two, and I told him about why I was feeling sad. We were laughing, and joking, and talking about hate and love, and then we arrived. “Is your organization paying for this, or are you?” He asked. I told him I was, and he said no. “What?” “It’s on me,” he said, “you gave me something, now I am giving you something.” I immediately had tears in my eyes. Maybe he was an angel. Maybe angels are really just people at their best.
PS. One more nice story: in the middle of the demonstration, a tall, stern, handsome man put his hand on my shoulder and said “Hey.” I turned around to look at him. “I saw your poem today,” he said. “I liked it.”
I am really honored at the reposts and feedbacks my friends (and folks I don’t know) have given my piece. Thank you all. You don’t know how much it means.