I’m back in Jerusalem, this time as a journalism intern with the Palestine-Israel Journal. PIJ is a quarterly magazine that aims to explicate complex issues dividing Israeli and Palestinian societies, among other things.
This morning, the co-editor narrated an anecdote about the confounding nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A man visited the region for a few days, the co-editor said, and declared that he would write a book about it. Time passes, weeks turn into months as he learns more about the conflict and now states that he would now write an article about it. Years later, he gives up in entirety his attempt to write about it at all, throwing up his hands in the air and admitting that the more you learn about it, the less clear it gets. Little did my boss know that when I had first moved to Jerusalem, I’d arrived harbouring similar thoughts of writing a book (from the perspective of an outsider, of course). And now I wouldn’t even know where to begin. If there’s one thing to keep in mind, it is to avoid the temptation to oversimplify .
There’s the thought that a lot of foreigners are confronted by: “What is my place here? Who am I to even offer an opinion about a conflict that has almost zero effect on my life?” The magnitude of these perfectly valid questions can be overwhelming at times. It’s easy to get cynical, to move on with your life and let those fighting continue fighting. After all, hate is tiresome. But cynicism, too, is pointless. What draws me to Jerusalem is the fact that it escapes categorization, it defies possession by any one state, ethnicity or religion.
When I was last here, I lived and worked in West Jerusalem (the Jewish side), in a calm, clean area with beautiful views of the city. I now live in Musrara (Morasha in Hebrew), a neighbourhood that is squarely in the middle of the East and West, between Arab and Jewish neighbourhoods. It takes me about the same amount of time to walk to Jaffa street, with its cafés, bars and eclectic mix of liberals, labourers and ultra-orthodox, as it does for me to walk to Damascus Gate, overflowing with people, loud chatter and the smell of kebabs.
It’s certainly an interesting place to be!