Q/A: Jewish? Israeli? Huh?

When I was in Israel and emoting allll over the intertrons, commenter Sorn posed the following query:

There seems to be a difference in mentality and experience between someone who is Jewish and someone who is Israeli, and correspondingly a process whereby Jews “become” Israeli. I have a feeling that the process of becoming an Israeli has more to it than living in Israel and being Jewish and I was wondering if you had already spoken to that somewhere or were planning to speak on it.

I told him I would answer “next week,” which was last week, and here we are at the end of this week, and… like that. I figured I better get on it!

But here’s the thing: Though these questions are fascinating and I think even important, I have a very hard time answering them, because for me, the process was reversed: I became an Israeli before I became Jewish.

Of course, I’ve argued that I was always Jewish, I just didn’t know it — and on a certain level (the level at which we transcend literal fact), I believe this to be True. Yet, however True it may be, it wasn’t true when I was born Protestant in a Protestant nation, nor did it make it true when I landed in Israel and started a life there (little knowing that was what I was doing). I have no idea what it’s like to grow up Jewish in America (observing my own children has been something of a revelation), and I have no idea what it’s like to come up in the belief that Israel is my spiritual homeland.

What did happen, in truth and Truth, was that when I landed in Israel, I discovered myself to be home (Home). As the years went by, as I admitted to myself that I had been surreptitiously sinking roots behind my own back, I became Israeli. I just fit there: I’m brash, I’m confident in my opinions, I improvise at the drop of a hat, I don’t let formalities hold me back, I value the warmth and easy generosity of Israeli society, and the notion of casually marrying history to modernity — the past not as a relic but part and parcel of our lived present — resonates very powerfully for me. I discovered a love for Hebrew and the natural landscape and Israeli popular culture, and I discovered, more slowly, that I was really meant to be Jewish.

So I converted, and though I didn’t formally become Israeli (citizenship, voting rights, passport) until after I had completed my conversion, I was already Israeli. The decision to convert sealed that, and the rest, even the conversion process, what just paperwork. The two — the “Israeli” and the “Jewish” — are for me personally inseparable.

I don’t know what it’s like for other people. I have watched non-Israeli Jews who have slowly but surely become Israeli (or choose not to, and eventually go back from whence they came), but I don’t know that process personally at all. I am, genuinely, an Israeli Jew, if for no other reason than, because like other Israeli Jews, that’s where I learned what being a Jew is.

And yet. I moved back to the States permanently in 1998, once again not knowing that that was what I was doing (but in this case, I wasn’t hiding anything from myself, I just didn’t know what future Israel had in store for itself, and the rage that future would engender in the husband and me both), and I find myself, in the past couple of years especially, becoming more and more of a Diaspora Jew — understanding what it’s like to be a minority, struggling to find the best ways to convey Who We Are to our children, reshaping our own little traditions in light of what the community does here vs. there — but I think that what this really is is an odd case of immigration. I’m an immigrant in a place that I actually grew up in. I’m learning the ways of my new country, shedding old ways, adapting. None of it really makes sense, but I’m trying!

So. None of that answer Sorn’s question, but it’s the only answer I could hope to give! If any readers have thoughts on this, I’d love to hear them.

Having said all of that, though, it’s winter in the Midwest and Shabbat comes early here — I’ve already cheated the clock a bit, and I feel a powerful need to stop. The kind of Jew I am keeps the Sabbath, so off I go! Shabbat shalom to Jews and Gentiles alike, Israeli and non-!

Riiight. Lice.

Looking for the Holiday Marketplace? Click here! (It’s much nicer than a story about lice anyway).

When I lived in Israel, I was forever hearing these horror stories of kids getting lice. My friends recalled their own tales of parasitical woe, and as we grew older and got married and some of us procreated, some began relaying tales of their spawn’s parasitical woe. I would shudder, instinctively scratch my head, and praise the heavens that I could in no way relate, because in America, kids don’t get lice.

Oh, youthful ignorance!

When the girl was a toddler, she got lice, we all got lice, we got rid of the lice, and she got lice again. At the time, she had very curly hair and, let me just say this again: she was a toddler.

Oh.Mein.Gott.

“Getting rid of lice” involves not just spraying down unwashable upholstered furniture, not just washing loads and loads and loads of laundry, not just sealing stuffed animals and favorite pillows and blankets-that-will-disintegrate-if-they’re-washed-one-more-time in plastic bags for 3-4 days — it  mostly involves putting smelly insecticide shampoo on the affected scalp, leaving it there for ten minutes, lathering and rinsing, and then very slowly and methodically combing out sections of hair (with a special gel, if you have it) to get as many as the nits (eggs) as possible. And then doing that again in a week, because you almost certainly missed a few nits.

So again, let me repeat: The girl had curly hair and she was a toddler. It was hellacious, and I got into a fight with the husband because when it happened the second time, I said something about “if this happens again, I mean it, I’m shaving her head!”

Honestly, this is what mothers of boys with lice do all the time! Why the hell not do it to a girl? He maintained I would scar her for life; I maintained she was a toddler and wouldn’t know the difference; he maintained that he might just up and leave me if I went ahead with my nefarious plans. Well, ok, maybe he didn’t really threaten divorce, or mean it if that’s what he said (it was a pretty big fight. The details may be fuzzy!), but thankfully, we were never tested again.

Until Saturday.

By Saturday, however, years had passed in the meantime, so when I finally had to admit that her scratching was clearly something other than dry scalp (this realization dawning in no small part because I, too, had started scratching, and in a way that I remembered all too well) and found nits along the hairline at the base of her neck (that’s the place to check first, kids! They look like dandruff but can’t be flicked away. They cling like grim death to the strands of hair), I merely sighed heavily, sent the husband out for the full compliment of lice killing accoutrement, and commenced to gathering sheets.

But what had really changed (I realized as I went through the hours-long song-and-dance) was not the girl’s hair, but my attitude about lice.

Back in Israel, I was genuinely horrified each time these stories would arise, and would literally shudder as the tales unfolded. When we were infested the first and second times, all that horror remained, plus I cleaned like an insecticide-loving fiend, spraying virtually every piece of furniture to within an inch of its (or, more likely, our) life, washing anything and everything that had come within 6 inches of our heads, and generally freaking out. (Upon reflection, it’s possible that said freaking out may be best illustrated by the “I’m shaving her head!” story).

This time though, I just looked at the girl and said: “We have lots of bugs on us. It’s just that the lice are the ones that bother us.”

Somewhere along the line I’ve realized that this is the essential truth: We are walking bug habitats. I once read (and goddamn it but I have no idea how to even begin to Google it) that we have somewhere in the vicinity of 10 million foreign organisms living in and/or on us (or, as my sister once said: “I know I’m never alone!”), and I also recently realized that “bugs” (bacteria and viruses) are essentially our only natural predators, the only animals that consistently bring us down in their savanna. All lice want is a little sip of our life juice!

And furthermore, as I took to telling the girl when she was at the height of what I believe was a peer-induced “ewwww! Ants and gnats and spiders and mites and anything-that-crawls-in-my-backyard are gross and creepy!” phase: It’s the bugs’ world. We just live in it.

So I sprayed the couch cushions on which our heads most often rest, stuffed a lot of plush things into plastic bags, and changed the sheets. The dirty sheets and winter hats and various hair accessories got left in huge piles in the basement, so that the lice and their babies can die horrible starvation deaths over the course of a few days before I launder everything, thus obviating the need to use boiling hot water and super high drier heat as my anti-lice weapons (this approach works on so many levels for me — it’s better for the environment, less damaging to the articles in question, and very appealing to my natural laziness!).

And then I washed two heads of hair (and oh my God but mine is about 12 times longer than the last time!), and that was it. The husband combed my hair, which was kind of lovely in a chimpanzee sort of way, and the girl played on her new Bop-It (and got her highest score yet!) as I combed out her’s.

Not fun, but — meh. The bugs that made her vomit a few weeks ago were probably way worse, all told. Parenting: It’s one grand adventure after another!

So, yeah, lesson for today: Lice. Not our friends, but hey! At least they don’t want us dead.

Holiday Marketplace

On a much less cranky note: I wish I’d thought of this last week, but I didn’t, so what the hey, I’ll do it now.

Hey there! Are you a maker, creative type, knitter, photographer, painter, have an etsy shop, whatever? Have something you’d like to sell during this crazy holiday season? Leave information in the comments, and maybe your stuff will find itself in the hands of those you know and love online!

UPDATE: If you leave a link to your work, please also leave a line or two describing it! “I knit decorative mushrooms and gnomes from the finest unicorn hair,” for instance. (And if you do that, I will most certainly buy some myself).

It’s gone up to 11 long enough.

So. Christmas.

The day after Hanukkah was over, I thought “Suckers! The rest of America still has much holiday madness to come, but I’m done!” And then I added, with a self-satisfied smirk, “Ha!”

I forgot that I live in America, too.

Because if you live in America, you are hounded by the frenzy of the winter holiday season no matter who you are, what you believe, and what you do or do not celebrate*. The radio, the TV, and the stores I frequent care not that Christmas is not my thing — they still want me to BUY and CELEBRATE and BUY and GET WORKED UP and BUY and WATCH YET ANOTHER CHRISTMAS-THEMED SHOW and mostly BUY!!1!

And you know what? Fine. I’m a minority here, and minorities just have to deal sometimes with the fact that they’re minorities. The majority culture is having its annual moment, and what the hell, the lights are pretty and some of the music is really, really nice, not to mention the very genuine spirit of kindness and generosity that prevails. Lovely!

But could y’all just shut up about it now and then?

I finally realized this week that my problem isn’t being other-than-Christian in a culture gearing up for Christmas — my problem is that I’m a damn crank and I get tired of everybody yammering on and on about something that interests me not in the least.

I feel the same way about football season, about March Madness (fucking hell, I don’t care one eeny-weeny iota about March Madness, and yet I still somehow know what a bracket is!), about reality TV, about celebrity gossip, about — oh, so many things at which I can hardly even shake a stick! It’s exhausting, that’s what it is.

Honestly, go ahead and have your holiday! Enjoy your little sporting events! Talk about people you don’t know as if they were your trashy second cousins! Have at it!

But please, please: Don’t make me go off the grid just to get some damn peace and quiet!

This though? This can be played in a loop for as long as anyone wants to. Best Christmas song EVAR!

“Hippopotamuseses”!

*Full disclosure: I’ve already established that I am, more than anything else, a Jew, but I am also technically a convert, a convert who happens to love her mother, and so I take my wee family over to Grandma’s on Christmas afternoon so that her grandchildren can “help her” celebrate the holiday. Because I’m not a monster, that’s why.

Cross-posted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles.

On conversation + housekeeping.

On the one hand, I am a big believer in dialogue. Dialogue — the genuine and respectful exchange of opinions and stories both small and large — is, in my humble opinion, the only thing that will save us humans from our own damn selves. If we can learn to hear each other, we may make it through. If not? Probably not.

On the other hand, often what is sometimes disguised as “dialogue” is actually the simple repetition of contrary viewpoints. No one is listening, everyone is shouting, and nothing but individual catharsis is ever achieved (and sometimes not even that). People get to feel like they told someone off. Whoot.

Now, it’s worth noting that I’m also a believer in telling people off. Sometimes, a person just needs to be told. Period. “What you are saying is nonsense, hurtful, damaging” — whatever. Particularly if that person is a person in power. Speaking your truth, even if you know it will not affect the individual to whom you are speaking it, is also valuable.

But there is, as they say, a time and a place for everything. And this blog, which is the tiniest of specks in the blog sea, is not the place for telling people off. Even with the understanding that I have some very strong opinions about some very polarizing issues, it’s a place for engaging in genuine dialogue, or taking your trucks and going home. It is not a space for continually saying, on the same issue, over and over again, to me and the occasional commenter: “You’re wrong!” Even when the contrarian statements manage to (usually) stay on the right side of nominally polite, continually knocking on someone’s front door so as to tell them how wrong they are — when you knew you would think them wrong even before they opened the door — is just plain rude. And really tiring.

All of which is a very long and round about way of saying that I banned someone today. That someone knows it, others may be able to guess, but it really doesn’t matter who it is. My point is that I really, but really, don’t want my teeny-tiny, itty-bitty, dust mite of internet to be yet another place where yelling-at is the preferred method of communication. There are a metric shit-ton of sites available on which such behavior is entirely acceptable; there are half a metric shit-ton on which the opinions on Israel/Palestine (for yes, dear reader, this is the issue that has inspired the nearly-civil yelling) are the direct opposite of mine. Such sites would no doubt be grateful for even more support.

So, right. Ban hammer wielded! And, moving on….

On a much brighter note, I thought I would also mention that I’ve done a little dusting and polishing on the blog rolls, and must now urge you to skedaddle on over to Library Grapes, the new collaborative effort in which Lev (of Balloon Juice commenting fame) is taking part, as well as to the film blog maintained by thekahn (from Ta-Nehisi’s Golden Horde/Team Commie/Lost Battalion), called Les Fous du Cinema (as I am a Real American [tm], I do not speak French and thus do not know what the blog’s name means. I assume it’s something along the lines of “I spit on you, you lousy American cinema, you!” But I could be wrong). You must check them!

And finally! In the comments to one of the posts I wrote from Israel, commenter extraordinaire and all around swell guy Sorn wrote

you seem to have hit on something that I understand exists but don’t necessarily know how to explain or articulate. There seems to be a difference in mentality and experience between someone who is Jewish and someone who is Israeli, and correspondingly a process whereby Jews “become” Israeli. I have a feeling that the process of becoming an Israeli has more to it than living in Israel and being Jewish and I was wondering if you had already spoken to that somewhere or were planning to speak on it. I know you have a policy of not replying to comments, so I will understand if you don’t say anything, and like an old talk-show call-in-program take my comments off the air.

To which, in spite of the correctly-noted policy of not replying to comments, I replied that I would reply in the form of a post “sometime next week.”

Well. “Next week” was last week and here we are! So I just want to say that I will be writing about that this week (and if anyone has any thoughts they’d like to throw into the comments, please do!).

Human Rights Day should be every day.

In a comment on my last post, dmf sez:

pardon the jack but: http://www.bloggersunite.org/event/human-rights-day-2010

No need to beg pardon, dmf old pal! Human Rights Day is just about the most worthy jack one might jack.

So, Amnesty International is asking people to do that thing AI does best: Write letters to win the freedom of the unjustly imprisoned, or to secure the passing of crucial human rights legislation. They ask that everyone take some time today, International Human Rights Day, to write a letter or two — and, of course, if you can’t find time today, the letters will be just as necessary tomorrow and next week. And the week after that.

They’ve asked bloggers to share some of the cases they’ve featured on their website, and I’ve chosen the following two (and I will be writing letters regarding each). The other cases feature activists in Burma, China, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gambia, Guatemala, Indonesia, Iraq, Mexico, Romania and the United States. You’ll find information about each case, sample letters, and addresses at the Amnesty website — click on the individual cases to get the appropriate information. Please click through, please write a letter, and please pass the word on.

Albertine – Maternal mortality BURKINA FASO

Albertine, a 25-year-old mother of two from Burkina Faso, died of childbirth complications after her treatment was delayed. Her brother-in-law had to make several long trips to and from the hospital to borrow over US $100 – significantly more than the average monthly income – to pay for medicine and blood. Albertine’s story is not unique. Every year, more than 358,000 women around the world die from complications of pregnancy and childbirth. Almost all of these deaths can be prevented if all women have timely access to quality maternal health care. If passed, the Global MOMS Act will be an important step towards ending preventable maternal deaths. Read more

Majid Tavakkoli – Student activist, prisoner of conscience IRAN

Student leader Majid Tavakkoli was arrested on December 7, 2009, for speaking at a demonstration marking Student Day in Iran. Following an unfair trial, one which his lawyer was not allowed attend, he was sentenced to eight and a half years in prison. He now suffers from a serious respiratory condition that may deteriorate while he is imprisoned. He is a prisoner of conscience, jailed solely for peacefully exercising his human right to freedom of expression. Read more

Don’t know the steps, can’t hear the music.

OK, I lied a little. This is kinda-sorta about that place I said I wouldn’t write about — well, not really. It’s about my experience in that place. It’s all about me, is what I’m saying.

I’m prettier in Israel.

Or so it would seem. To this day, at age 46 — lugging two kids and a handful of gray hair with me wherever I go — cute Israeli men of all ages engage with me in a way that just doesn’t happen in America. They look, they smile, they flirt, they flash dimples and beautiful brown eyes at me, and I walk the streets (I walk everywhere in Israel) with a spring in my step and a womanly confidence that I lack almost entirely here.

Here, I always feel that I am seen as too-large, too-loud, too-shaped like a collection of dumplings, in clothes that a woman my age shouldn’t wear, topped by hair (whether my old faux-hawk, or my current luxurious locks) that a woman my age should no longer aspire to. Here, I have felt my entire life — in high school, in college, and once I came back at age 34 — like I don’t have any real, useful grasp of what works, what does or does not make me attractive, how and what a woman in my position (whatever the hell that is, from graduate student to reporter to suburban mother to political volunteer to active synagogue member) should do/wear/be/act.

I tell jokes that I can tell horrify people. I wear combat boots. I listen to — and care passionately about — music that literally no one in my social circle has ever heard of, much less gives two figs about. I say things like “give two figs about.” My mind and my heart are, at least 30% of any given day, hopelessly entangled with the ins and outs of a region that very few Americans can find on a map. My mental references, the language I dream in, my cultural touchstones, are all an amalgam of an America that no longer exists, a religion shared by a small minority, and a country that rests on the other side of an ocean. Here, I’m weird, and that’s an odd, uncomfortable thing. There, I’m weird, and it makes men smile at me and women strike up conversations.

I know that this is a big slice of what I mean when I say that I am full of life in Israel. “My eyes are more open,” I wrote the other day, “my laugh is louder, the blood in my veins pounds harder and faster.” Not only does the place speak to me, not only do I feel like I know how to move there, how to talk and what the words mean, but the place also receives me more fully — even with all my contrary politics — than this one does.

I’m prettier in Israel. I’m cooler, I’m more relevant, my feet know where to go, and my head knows where to turn. Here? Who knows.

PSA: Please help protect at-risk kids.

This blog (like all blogs, I imagine) has a comment spam filter, and every few days, I eyeball all of the spam, to make sure that some innocent soul hasn’t gotten caught in its web. Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of p*rn spam (and I spell it like that in order to not encourage more of it), nearly all of it in Russian and some other language I can’t even identify. So, you know, whatever, I delete it. Today, though, I found two English-language comments directing me to various outlets for child p*rn, and dude. That shit doesn’t fly.

I’ve reported the sender to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, but I wanted to also take the opportunity to call everyone’s attention to the organization and the work they do. If you ever run across child exploitation, they’re the folks to tell (+ readers in Canada, Australia, and the UK will also find useful contacts on the NCMEC site). Their name is a little convoluted (I can never remember it when I’m trying to dredge it out of my memory banks), but their website is easy to remember: www.missingkids.com . Online exploitation or stalking/harassment/etc should be reported to their CyberTipline, which can be accessed through the site’s front page, or by going to it directly, here.

Darth Thulhu (oops!) speaks.

It’s my intention to write something today that has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with Israel/Palestine — you and I both deserve the break, I figure — but commenter Darth Thulu Thulhu, who I know from Ta-Nehisi’s place, left the following in a comment on my I’m-visiting-Israel-and-it’s-driving-me-nuts post (“Words” ), and it really spoke to me, so I decided to pull it up.

There’s been a lot of discussion [at Ta-Nehisi Coate’s blog] of the book What God Hath Wrought, as part of the Coatesian Book Club, and in particular an examination of how the South mutated across the decades from a society that reluctantly continued slaveholding into a society that lynched abolitionists and trumpeted plantation slavery as a moral beneficence so inviolable that the leaders of the South would rather start a war than risk it. As someone with half my heritage in the whites of the South, working through the details of their corruption and fall is achingly infuriating and hypnotically transfixing at the same time … you know the vale of tears these people are walking into, you rage at them for deserving all of it and worse, and then you weep for all the innocents in their own families and in their captive population that they callously mutilate along the way.

Replace “the South” with “Israel”, “slaveholding” with “settlement”, and “lynch” with “ethnically cleanse”, and the (somewhat less utterly evil) road of damnation that Israel has started walking swells into view, and the gruesomeness It is conjuring for Its future manifests like a rising Dark Lord out of Tolkien, monstrous and shadowed but plain for every Cassandra and Gandalf to foresee.

Like prideful antebellum Southrons, the Israelis are embracing a martial ethos wherein they “know” they are the equal of scores of their foes, where coexistence is unthinkable and survival requires limitless military triumphs of cumulatively increasing improbability. Like fearful Jim Crow Southerners, they desperately dread any rebellion or equality among their captive subjects, which drives them to ever harsher methods of segregation, disenfranchisement, and police state control.

They insist on marching down a path that will, if uninterrupted, eventually result in a conflict they will fight without support, which is a conflict they are going to lose (or win solely by becoming monsters – purging the entire West Bank at a minimum, and nuking several of their neighbors at the extreme). Assuming non-monstrosity, the only question is whether they are marching toward being the white South defeated by the Civil Rights Movement, or the white South defeated by the Civil War.

You may not be able to stop your people from continuing their marching (though the cessation of that march is, obviously, the best case scenario) … but I believe you can influence which doom they march toward. If your voice, and others like you, can make the Palestinians into “people” rather than “subhuman captives” in the eyes of enough Israelis, then the marched-toward defeat will be one that Israelis, and Israel, will survive. Horrific as that is, it is vastly better than the alternatives, and it is a goal worthy of your faith, your hope, and your children’s continued instruction.

This idea — that even if the disaster is (at this point, to my mind) inevitable, we may still affect the shape it takes — is a powerful one to me.

Even if taking my kids to march in Issawiya last week won’t bring salvation, it at least showed all the Palestinian kids running around that a couple of Israeli kids cared enough to come to their neighborhood and support them. And that sort of thing resonates, in all kinds of directions.  As we fall off the edge together, the more that the sides are able to conceive of each other as people , the more likely we are to find a way to help pick each other up once we hit bottom.

I’m not thrilled that at this point, the statement the more that the sides are able to conceive of each other as people, the more likely we are to find a way to help pick each other up once we hit bottom now constitutes a hopeful statement for me, but there it is. We don’t choose the times in which we live, we can only choose what we do in those times.

Home again, home again, jiggity jig.

After two weeks in Israel, an endless series of modes of travel that eventually ended and brought us back to our American home, and two nights of decent sleep (neither of which of has yet caught me up from the appalling lack of sleep I got while in Israel and especially on the modes of travel), what I am feeling, more than anything else, is quiet.

I have some thoughts, some ideas, some questions, stuff about Israel/Palestine, about my career, about what home is and means, but nothing much that I actually want to talk about. I imagine I haven’t landed yet. I sometimes feel it made more sense when people crossed oceans by boat — one needs more time to really travel the distance from there to here.

So, in lieu of blowing off another day of posting (as I did yesterday) and also in lieu of actually writing anything (since I seem to not really want to talk), I present here two clips of the protest in which we participated on Friday — you can even see us marching along!

In the first one, look for a little girl in green, and a man in sunglasses holding her hand, at the top of the screen at about the 1.30 mark, just after a big sign that reads “Stop the Imprisonment of Isawiya” is moved — that’s the girl and the husband! In the second, look for the same girl in green, the same man + a nearly invisible boy in brown, and a woman with a ponytail wearing black and pointing at something, crossing in front of a fence at about the 1.24 mark — that’s all of us!

*

And as to why it was important to march in Issawiya — a Palestinian village that was annexed by the Jerusalem municipality — please read this, from the march’s organizers, Just Jerusalem (aka Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity — I know the organization by their Twitter handle, @JustJerusalem, but their real name is Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity):

The village of Issawiya lies at the foot of the Hebrew University Campus at Mount Scopus, near the French Hill neighbourhood. Today, between 16 and 18 thousand inhabitants live there, many having moved from more distant Jerusalem neighbourhoods, a few holding West Bank IDs. The village is very neglected. The Municipality refuses to approve the outline plan submitted on behalf of the villagers by the Bimkom association and has issued and continues to issue many demolition orders for houses built without permits because there is no master plan for the village; the infrastructure is dilapidated, sanitation has gone hang and a pervasive feel of negligence and indifference predominates. A particularly noticeable example of this is the little playground the municipality built in the village a decade ago (at the request of the French Hill administration, to keep Issawiya children away from its playground). When the lease of the plot expired, the municipality dismantled it completely, leaving a deserted, ugly plot at the entrance to the village. In addition, a good part of the land originally designated for village development has now been turned over to the “Nature Reserve”/”National Park” societies. There is not even a minimum of city planning and the village’s roads demand virtuoso juggling skills from its drivers.

The situation in Issawiya began to deteriorate on Friday, 5 November. Since then the village’s inhabitants have suffered increased harassment from the authorities, such as:

renewed obstruction of paths and roads connecting the village to the outside world. New concrete barriers have been erected, trenches have been bulldozed in several places to prevent traffic from passing through it.

A mobile checkpoint was set up at the main entrance to the village. The greatest pressure was experienced by the residents on the morning of 10 November when each and every private vehicle was examined by the police to justify the imposition of fines for unfit mechanical condition or other alleged offences. Tens of residents were fined to the tune of between 250 and 1,000 shekels. The checkpoint also served to collect debts for various authorities (rates, national insurance, broadcasting licenses, etc.).

– In addition to blocking the entrances the police patrolled the village, probably to provoke the stone-throwing that resulted; their response to that was to shoot limitless quantities of tear-gas, including into the houses.

– Lastly, activities damaging to residents increased: demolition of agricultural structures, fining of animal-owners, etc.

When will it end? One of the East Jerusalem police officers said that the abuse will stop when he can “walk around Issawiya waving an Israeli flag” and when the village becomes “as secure for him as King George Street”. Clearly this is a classical example of a show of force of the “burn into consciousness” kind that does  more harm than good.

The inhabitants condemn the stone-throwing by a few of the village’s young people. One of the activists said that he himself reported the stoning of a vehicle to the police; the response was “go find out if the rock-thrower is a Jew or an Arab”.

The village’s residents condemn the goading and the violence of the police and its use of collective punishment. According to many, no-one would dare close the whole of Meah Shearim after an Arab attack there, and in no Jewish area would it occur to the police to punish the entire area for the criminal activities of the few.

The residents have expressed their wish for non-violent Jewish Arab partnership.

It goes without saying that all of the above is taking place in “unified Jerusalem,” aka “the eternal and undivided capital of the Jewish people.” Like the t-shirt worn by many of the Sheikh Jarrah activists says: Ein kedusha b’ir kevusha — there’s nothing holy in an occupied city.

For more on the discriminatory policies of the Israeli authorities in Jerusalem, please read my earlier post, “Ethnic cleansing, slo-mo.