Friday, February 20, 2015

20-Feb-15: Jerusalem and Paris: Abuse and disabuse

Screen-grab from the Paris video
Here's TIME's coverage of a thoroughly-viral video that tries to throw some light on what it means to be a Jew living in one Europe's most civilized and appealing capital cities:
Zvika Klein, a journalist who works for the Israeli news outlet NRG, filmed himself walking the streets of Paris for ten hours one day while wearing a yarmulke. The video opens with Klein putting on the traditional Jewish skullcap in front of the Eiffel Tower, before walking around the city. Along the way, Klein experiences what he describes as “fear and loathing,” as the camera catches people spitting on the ground near him, shouting “Viva Palestine” or simply saying, “Jew” or “Juif.” The video has been edited down into a minute and a half and Klein had to go to areas where he, or any outsider, was likely to arouse attention. Klein, who wore a tzitzit or tasseled prayer garment to emphasise his identity, told the BBC that filming took place earlier this month and that while few incidents took place in the central areas of Paris, the outskirts of the city were a different story. “As we went to the suburbs, or certain neighbourhoods in the city, the remarks became more violent,” he said. (Klein also told the BBC that some bystanders also spoke out against the abusive comments he received.) [Watch the Abuse This Jewish Man Gets as He Walks Through Paris | Megan Gibson | TIME | February 17, 2015]
The video itself is posted on YouTube [click] where it has been seen 4.2 million times as of this morning. At a guess, we think some proportion of those viewers are likely to come away mistakenly convinced that if Jewish/Moslem (or Israel/Arab) relations are this bad in the bosom of European culture, they're bound to be as bad or worse in the hateful, uncivilized Middle East.

We live in Jerusalem. It's a city where Jews, Christians, Moslems and a broad spectrum of the faithful and the not-so-focused-on-faith live, visit and bump up against each other daily. You see it on the trams, buses and streets as well as in stores, hospitals and eateries. Spend time in Jerusalem's down-town area and you're struck by the very visible, disproportionate presence of Arabs, particularly since the Jerusalem light rail (tram) network began operating in 2010 after nearly a decade of construction. (Nonetheless it is routinely stoned as it passes through Arab neighbourhoods.)

This doesn't stop the snide comments from outside about how our's is an apartheid society. Easy to say, but a little harder to believe once you walk around. 

Jerusalem light rail
Security here is a reality that Jerusalemites and Israelis take in their stride by necessity. (Our daughter's murder in 2001 happened in a pizzeria where no security guard was posted, and no security barrier was yet in place.) Whatever people think of its significance or what it symbolizes, the lives it has saved, and the open interaction among people that it enables, ought to be beyond question. Tensions certainly exist if you go looking for them - though nothing close to what is depicted in the video from Paris. And from our own experience in dozens of visits to Paris and other European cities, tensions - particularly at a time of terrorism - exist. So, alongside the problems, does co-existence. It's such a natural part of life here that it's rarely talked about.

Here are some snapshots of Jerusalem life and a look at the unremarkable presence of Arabs (please especially the widespread presence of unaccompanied, unafraid women) as part of the life and fabric of the city.

Sisters waiting for family member to emerge after treatment
Shaarei Zedek Medical Center
Downtown Jerusalem last summer
Hadassah Medical Center, Ein Karem where she evidently
works on the nursing staff
Shopping arcade at Hadassah Medical Center, Ein Karem
Visiting a new mother: Shaarei Zedek Medical Center
Makeshift breakfast in the family waiting area outside
a surgical suite at Shaarei Zedek
On board the Jerusalem Light Rail: multiple destinations,
varied origins [Source: Tablet Magazine
(The images are deliberately low-res and faces have been disguised. We have no desire to intrude on people's privacy.)

Israelis and those who visit here might be wondering why the reality of people living different styles of life in this city even needs discussing. The NRG video from Paris is the answer. Israel's war with the terrorists is not so different from everyone else's. Israel's ability, learned the hardest-possible way, to safeguard the conditions for ongoing, ordinary, unremarkable lives is also not so different. In fact, compared with how some other countries' capital cities are dealing with their challenges, you might think things are not too shabby here.

No comments: