|Photo Credit: Uri Lenz|
31 October '14..
"It's all a game," Hamas supporters said to me this week -- with a mixture of dismissal and a anger -- not far from the home of Abed al-Rahman Shaludi, the terrorist who rammed a car into a commuter-filled light rail station in Jerusalem last week. The Shaludi family lives deep in the heart of the village of Silwan.
Some of the Hamas supporters were wearing balaclavas. Some of them agreed to speak with me from behind the window of their home or their car, which was rolled down only slightly, because they knew I was a journalist. Nonetheless, instances of good neighborliness and coexistence between Jews and Arabs, which are becoming more and more frequent in the City of David (at the foot of the Silwan neighborhood in east Jerusalem) in defiance of the wishes and machinations of the Hamas backers, prompted shouts of epithets and insults.
For years, the media narrative that has been disseminated about the City of David, speaks of a nationalist conflict, terrorist atrocities that were hatched here, stone-throwings, fire-bombings, fireworks, and, of course, the recent vehicular terrorist attack. But there is another narrative that has not been sufficiently highlighted.
Far from the media spotlight, in the area that lies between the Pool of Siloam and Dung Gate, just meters away from the entrance to the Western Wall and the Temple Mount, at the foothills of Mount Zion slanting down in the direction of the City of David, there is an emerging civic fabric of coexistence, cooperation, and normalcy.
Nobody there bothers to conceal the state of religious and nationalist conflict. It's fact of life. Still, contrary to all predictions and media-fueled assumptions, the coexistence of the two communities' has diluted the conflict. It has even brought to the conflict a humanizing level, whereby both Jews and Arabs learn to recognize one another as people.
How else could one interpret the recent toddler race -- in which Jews and Arabs both participated -- near the Oz complex? What other conclusion could one reach when seeing an invitation to a wedding, written in Arabic letters, that hangs on the refrigerator in the home of one of the Jewish families in the City of David? How else could one call the joint construction of sukkah huts by both Jews and Arabs on the eve of Sukkot?
How does one explain the cooperation -- also not seen in public -- between Jews and Arabs on everyday matters like negotiating the municipal bureaucracy to ensure water supply or the paving of walkways? How does one explain the Jews buying produce at Arab-owned shops and vice versa, the expressions of Arab joy at the sight of a newlywed Jewish bride, and the mutual bereavement visits and condolences during times of mourning? What about the expressions of Jewish anger over the municipality's chronic neglect of services and infrastructure for "our Arab neighbors"?
The Jews who came to live in the City of David arrived there fueled by ideology. Their intent was to reconnect to tradition and "to the place where it all started." They were also there to "prevent the partition of Jerusalem."
They say these things openly, but another element has been created as well. While there has been an escalation in tensions on the security front, there has also been more dialogue, more quiet points of agreement, and a joint effort to fight off the threats and violence being committed by Fatah, Hamas, and the Islamic Movement, all of whom are competing with one another.
There are close to 70 Jewish families living in City of David. The first families arrived in 1989. Three weeks ago, the purchase of six complexes was finalized. Now there are 25 apartments currently in the midst of being inhabited. Elad, which is also known as Ir David Foundation, is behind the purchases and the drive to populate the area with more Jews. The company formally executing the transaction, however, is Kendall Finance.