Friday, March 16, 2012

The Street Where I Live

It is easy to be critical of Palestinians and the way they live in comparison to how we live in the States. Most would say everything looks dirty. I was walking home today from the Intercontinental Hotel where the evangelical conference "Christ at the Checkpoint" was taking place. The route took me on a now desolate street of auto body shops and vacant businesses that is bordered by this 35' wall built for security. This road was once the main road from Jerusalem to Hebron, now divided by the "security barrier." I walked along the wall, which curves uphill and meets with Caritas Street or "the street where I live." There are few sidewalks and the road is rutted and uneven with large potholes. As this area next to the wall is military area, the roads cannot be repaired. The wall has been spray-painted with amazing artwork, come crass and ugly and some done by famous artists from all over the world. There are many sayings written on the wall, i.e. "The Spirit if the Palestinians is stronger than this Wall."

There is a lot of trash on the side of the road. There is a dumpster on the corner that is overflowing with trash and today two cats were fighting over the good stuff. There is so little infrastructure in Palestine that trash collection is a nightmare. We take our household trash across the street to a dumpster-- a very small dumpster according to our experience-- and hope it doesn't spill over. It doesn't really matter if the plastic bag is well secured because the cats will gnaw through anyway and what they reject will be tossed out into the streets.

It's treacherous to walk up the road to home because we walk on the poorly paved road which are more shoulder than street, with two-way traffic and no white line down the middle. Fortunately drivers are courteous and will honk so you have time to jump aside. These roads remind me of back roads in remote communities, not municipal roadways.

Another part of the topography is the rocky soil. I have watched my grandsons' absolute inability to put down rocks as they are such a delicious toy to a small child-- irresistible. Rocks are more abundant than weeds, most of them about the size of a fist. It is easy to understand why children might throw rocks at soldiers. There are also many building sites along this road with half-built buildings. The workmen are working on sites where the building materials are stone, rebar, and mortar. Every wall is constructed by hand using hand tools that look like they belong to another century. Along the road is a bridge over a deep ravine that houses several dogs on long leads, building materials, several flat bed trucks that may work, the carcass of a 1957 Chevy with no engine or seats. It is ugly by my standards. Vacant lots are not cared for. There is dog feces on the few sidewalks that do exist, raised at least 8" above the road, about 12"-18" wide, and normally only go the length of the lot onto I which it was built. The gardens are strewn with garbage including carpets, mattresses, piles of building rubble, and perhaps a small vegetable garden. Gardens are not the norm because water is precious and in small quantity. Watering a flower garden is a luxury that one cannot afford if they want to bathe, have drinking water, and irrigate their vineyards and olive groves.

In the village of An Nu'man that is in no mans land, Siham's house has been demolished. There are no trucks allowed to enter the village and certainly no way to haul off the remains of a house demolition which carries memories like the children's small shoes, toys, clothing, furniture, contents of kitchen cabinets, appliances, rugs, electrical wiring, etc. The debris will be removed by one villager's bobcat and will be scattered throughout the village. When archeologists unearth this village they may have difficulty figuring out what exactly happened to cause the debris from one home to be so scattered.

On the other hand the Palestinian home is pristine. The wealthier homes have two parlor areas, one close to the kitchen, small, warm, and with a flat screen TV, cable TV and a VCR. The other parlor is more formal with heavy wood- trimmed, overstuffed, matching sofas, love seats, and chairs to seat at least twelve. The tea is always ready, followed by coffee, and if you stay there enough there will be a freshly baked cake.

I spent a few days in Tel Aviv and noticed something I did not expect--lots of trash, unkept yards and gardens, balconies full of trash and building materials, lots of solar panels, no recycling. I have also seen a spirit that is difficult for me to understand or identify with, and that is the firm belief that G-d has given the Jewish people this land and that is an absolute. It requires no purchase of that land, no title or deed, regardless of who has the deed or can prove the purchase of the property, as this land belongs only to G-d, and as G-d has deeded this land via a promise to Abraham, no one could have owned it or sold it who was not Jewish, so all titles and sales are thus void.

If I take a step backwards and take a broad picture what does it contain? It contains trash, rocks, filth, under resourced municipalities, and poverty. That poverty is offset by the number of large, gorgeous homes, expensive cars, thriving merchants and dying businesses. Rich and poor living together in the same neighborhood. Christians and Moslems sharing neighborhoods. Street vendors, taxi drivers with Masters Degrees, and a people who are so resilient that hope cannot be taken away by any oppressor. The oppressor sees itself as the victim whose land has been mis-appropriated by a people who have no right to live on this land. It is all about three communities of faithful people who believe in a just God. I do not know what the Jewish people want, but I do know that the Palestinans want to love, will not be forced to hate, will continue to see God in the faces of the "other", and will not lose hope that the occupation will end.

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