Friday, June 29, 2007

Jerusalem under construction

I'd like to have more empirical information to back this assertion -- but construction appears to be booming in downtown Jerusalem. Lots of cranes, lots of projects, notably what appear to be high -end residential condominiums.
In vacation mode, I didn't come here looking for information about the construction industry in Israel -- but will look into more details later in the visit. Safe to say, however, that while there may be plenty of conflict around here, the mood of this city (population about 700,000 with perhaps 200,000 transient visitors) is healthy, in growth mode, clearly.
We visited the "Kotel" in the walled city, that amazingly contentious piece of territory that combines the "Dome of the Rock" and the Jewish temple wailing wall (the Dome is one of the holiest sites in Islam; the Wailing Wall is considered the most holy sites for Jews.)The juxtaposition of the two religious shrines at one piece of property clearly reveals the severity of the conflict here. The distinction is that in the period 1948-1967, when Jordan occupied East Jerusalem, Jews were denied access to their site -- in fact it was degraded in insulting manners -- while post 67, under Israeli "occupation" religious rights are respected for everyone, including Muslims, though clearly there is significant security at the site.
We also visited the King David Hotel, notoriously remembered as the place where Jewish terrorism reached its apex in 1946, as the British sought to find a way to hang on in Palestine, and Zionists and Arabs battled among themselves and with the British. The Irgun bombed the hotel (used as British military headquarters), killing 45.
In the hotel lobby, posters and old photos acknowledged the hotel's earliest history -- in 1930. The complexity of this history shows up even today, as an Egyptian bank is suing for shareholding rights it claims trace back to the early years. Of course, for several decades, Egypt and Israel were at war or in conflict -- now, the two countries recognize each other so it isn't unreasonable for an Egyptian bank to seek recourse in an Israeli court.
Tonight is the Jewish Sabbath; the city virtually shuts down; if I was observant I certainly would not be writing in this blog; but, regardless, the city will be quiet tomorrow; no buses, most businesses closed, and a degree of peacefulness and solitude in this dynamic, changing, historic environment.

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