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Monday, August 06, 2012

Good news/bad news

Good news from last week:
Towering platters of watermelon and Israeli cheeses brought together Jews and Arabs in the Musrara neighborhood this week as part of the first annual “Between Green and Red” festival in Jerusalem.

The festival, which began on Monday and continues until Saturday, is a throwback to what the neighborhood, close to the Old City walls, used to look like in the days after the Six Day War in 1967 and for the two decades after that, participants said.

Matan Israeli, the festival’s artistic manager and the brains behind the entire production, said, “The idea of a watermelon stand is not new; we just revived it. This is a place where everyone in the neighborhood would gather. When the people who remember those summer nights talk about it, their eyes still sparkle.”

The summer of ‘67 marked a critical turning point in Jerusalem. Israel had just recaptured Jerusalem’s Old City and what had been considered “no man’s land,” the area that had once divided the city, became an open space of opportunity.

Without permits or planning, watermelon sheds and stands, or bastas in Arabic, transformed the desolate space into a center of culture and refuge. At night, once the bastas had closed, the parties would begin, sometimes lasting all night, as Jews and Arabs came out, bringing with them watermelons, cheeses, coffee and pastries to share. Later, the stands set up videos and TVs, and martial arts movies would play into the small hours.

But in the late 80s, with the first intifada, came violence and tension, Israeli noted. The watermelon stands were shut down, the municipality began to enforce new regulations, and the area became something of a no man’s land again.

That was until this year, when several organizations came together with the Jerusalem Season of Culture to organize a watermelon festival, in conjunction with the Under the Mountain public art festival.
Ha'aretz also covered this, The bad news?

I could not find this story of co-existence with Jews anywhere in the Arabic press.

Co-existence might exist sometimes, but the Arab media and leadership do not want people to know about it.