Thursday, March 25, 2010

The myth and reality of Jerusalem (guest post)

From Zvi, in reaction to my post:
Jerusalem, like the Jewish people and the Jewish state, is the subject of vast and sweeping myths and legends that deeply color how people view it.

Many of the common myths about the Jewish people are monster stories (though some are "positive" myths about business acumen or high intelligence), and when you read opinion pieces, you can often see the myths poking up like rocks at low tide from the sea of opinion - if the opinion pieces are not simply parroting or inventing more lies. There are an awful lot of people out there who find it almost impossible to see us for who we really are; they see, instead, creatures composed of the myths they have learned and the fear, hatred or rivalry that they feel. They are so trapped in their prejudices that it is very difficult for them to escape. It takes a personal, conscious effort, and most people who have deeply bought into the myths have too much invested to make that effort.

Jerusalem, too, is shrouded in veils of mythology. Many people simply do not see it as a living place. They see it as a Beacon or a Cause or a Goal or - for many world leaders - a Problem - not as a place in the real world where 760000 people live their lives. In Jerusalem today, people were born. Kids went to school and played in the streets. People eat lunch together. People worked out. People blogged. They took showers. They met the love of their life. They got drunk and had a fight with their landlords. They proposed. They got divorced. They slept and will wake up in the morning with a hangover. They are raising kids. They will watch the sunset tomorrow. They will drop their laptop by accident this week. They are survivors of suicide bombings and survivors of Auschwitz and survivors of Israel's war of independence and survivors of stroke. They watch television, they paint pictures, they order pizzas, they fix the bathroom plumbing and ultimately, they die.

The picture below is not one of the standard "Jerusalem vista" pictures with the Temple Mount or other points of interest to tourists and fanatics; in that sense, it is much closer to the real life led by hundreds of thousands of people.

Here's a thought experiment. Imagine that your city was forbidden to build - anything. Forbidden to tear down illegal construction. Now go talk to your local city planners and ask if they have heard that there is a new proposal to freeze all new construction.

They won't believe you, because that's insane.

Now pick one window somewhere in this picture:
Ask who lives in that apartment. Ask what happens to her as the city fossilizes because foreign leaders want to impose that insane plan on her city.

Because they want to treat it like a symbol instead of a real city of real people.
You may also want to check out Proud Zionist's satiric view of the situation.