Photo: AP
Jerusalem – will it be divided?
Photo: AP

Jerusalem: A tale of two (half) cities

Jerusalem may have 90 percent of the world's beauty, but it's all covered in dirt

I was in Jerusalem last week. I approach the subject cautiously, because over the years I have discovered that people take where they live very seriously. The sillier their address, the more gravity they attach to it.


You often meet a likable guy with a pick-up truck and ask him where he is from.


"Moshav Mildew," he replies and throws you an accusatory look.


At this point I tend to lie and say, "Oh, that's in the south isn't it?" I figure I've got a 50 percent shot here of being right.


"No," says the pick-up, "It's next to Kibbutz Kernels, near Puncture Junction." And what he really means is: "What is it with you, you worthless Tel Aviv lefty? Didn't you serve in the army?"


Only at the end of the conversation, when it's clear our relationship has changed forever, he casually name-drops the celebrity who comes from his area. "Moshe Kahlon's (The top candidate on the Likud Knesset slate) cousin is from our moshav," he says, "but he moved to Los Angeles."


I know how to get to Jerusalem actually. It's on the other end of Highway One. It's just that what happens within the city limits is always a little foggy.


Jerusalemites, out of 5,000 years of habit, are convinced that everyone knows how to get around their wonderful town. Thus, a typical explanation of how to get to a friend's house sounds like this:


"Take Highway 443, turn off at Ramat Kislev in the direction of Givat Jabotinsky because you don't want to end up by mistake in the village of Majaderah, proceed to Satmar junction, there's a sign there but everyone knows it as Satmar junction. You'll see a lot of black hats; there you turn left to the neighborhood of Mishkenot Raananim, after about 200 meters you are on a bridge that takes you right into my neighborhood through the open market. There just ask someone for directions."


You summon up the necessary courage to drive there, follow the instructions to the letter and you end up with Izz al-din al-Qassam demanding jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti in exchange for your release.


The only thing I understood about the explanation was that it was better to drive via Highway 443 near Modi'in, because the chances of getting into town in less than two hours is about as good as MK Ruhama Avraham being made Minister of Interior (Editor's Note: Ruhama Avraham is the Interior Minister. Lapid's Note: You've got to be kidding)


As I approached our holy capital, the Israeli border police stopped me at a checkpoint. I asked the policewoman if I was entering an area under the control of the Palestinian Authority. She looked at me accusingly (I guess she's also from Moshav Mildew) and said seriously: "No, you are leaving it."


My self confidence thus restored I continued on in the direction of Jerusalem, flanked on my right by a threatening cement wall about six meters high, on which orange (?) trees have been painted. It's as if one of Mayor Lupolianski's kids painted them as part of a civics class project. It's not exactly an issue worth complaining about to the U.N. but I think we need to demand the scenery back in any future agreement with Hamas.


Fifteen minutes later I was finally inside the city limits of Jerusalem. This may be the place to note that this town is not completely foreign to me. I worked here for four fascinating years and I clearly remember that from Mahane Yehuda market, if you take a left and proceed 30 meters, you arrive at a restaurant that's always closed.


Ten measures of beauty were given to the world, says the Talmud, and Jerusalem received nine, but they have disappeared in a cloud of filth that covers the city. I have no idea why Jerusalem is so dirty.


On a good day you can find candy bar wrappers on Jaffa Road, which have been there since the Crusader era and still no one has bothered to pick them up. At a certain stage even the municipality decided to put a stop to this, and posted new trash cans all over town. Jerusalemites, well behaved from birth, understood that such attractive new trash cans should not be dirtied so they continue to throw litter on the ground around them. If you dare to mention the dirt to a Jerusalem pal, he will embark on a discourse about the air.


"I could never live in Tel Aviv," he'll mention with contempt, "the humidity is unbearable. Look at the air we have here."


I saw it and its true the air is wonderful, some of the best I've ever experienced. You'll never get such excellent air in Tel Aviv unless, by chance, you buy an air conditioner. Anything else?


Pondering all this I continued my tour. Originally it was supposed to be a tour of the 'bypass security barrier'. The only problem with it is that after you bypass the wall you find yourself… again in Jerusalem.


It's true that Maaleh Adumim is the undisputed eternal foundation of our existence but whoever believes it is part of Jerusalem needs to approach the said wall and flip the satellite photo of it.


On the other hand, one must be careful with people who are ready to give up Abu Dis, mostly because it's not entirely clear who would want it.


I can already imagine Palestinian leader Abbas standing on a hilltop overlooking the village, turning to Mohammed Dahlan and saying: "Hey, look, an overcrowded slum of a neighborhood, filthy, lacking infrastructure. We don't have enough of these! We gotta have another one."


Despite all of this, any investigative journalist like me would be remiss if he concluded a study tour of Jerusalem without reaching some profound conclusions.


The truth is, I do have (only) one, and it's not for export: The whole thing is complicated. The upcoming elections, like those that preceded them and the ones that preceded them focused on the question of who would least divide Jerusalem.


Right now we've got Peretz, who won't divide Jerusalem, Olmert, who REALLY won't divide the city, and Bibi Netanyahu, who would rather cut himself in half than see the city divided.


Their argument, if I understand it correctly, is that Jerusalem must be a warm Jewish city, traditional, peace loving and upbeat; forever including within its borders: Abu Dis, el-Azariya, Beit Tsafafa, Issawiya, Shuafat, Anata, Beit Hanina, Beit Aqsa and the guy with the kaffiya that sells fresh sesame pita at the central bus station.


There may be one or two politicians who think there is something about this that doesn't make sense but they know better than to discuss it in public. After all, there are things that, if you delude yourself long enough, they have a way of resolving themselves to your advantage.


After all, look how well things have worked out in Hebron.


פרסום ראשון: 02.06.06, 18:27
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