Saturday, June 30, 2007

Same thing, different perspectives

Tonight, we visited one of Vivian's high school friends and her husband at their home in French Hill in East Jerusalem. Turns out her friends live on the same street as another of her friends -- married to author Robert Slater (who has written biographies on Donald Trump, Jack Welch and others), whom we visited last time we were in Israel three years ago.
So I asked about the cranes dotting central Jerusalem. "Oh, yes, there is some building going on, mostly for accommodation for foreigners, but much of the work is not really new -- it starts and stops," our host said.
French Hill is on the "Jordanian" side, occupied by Israel in 1967. Israel considers Jerusalem to be entirely part of Israel -- there are Arab villages and communities within the city limits, of course. Theoretically, the Arabs are eligible for Israeli citizenship, but most of them want nothing to do with the Jewish state, though their residence in Jerusalem accords them special privileges and rights, especially within Israel's health care and social services.
We told our guests that we were planning to visit (in an organized tour) a west bank 'settlement' next week. We heard a mouthful about the "extremists" who think that all of pre-1948 Palestine should be a Jewish-controlled state. There is irony here of course, because officially our hosts, denigrating the extremist settlers, are themselves "settlers" in east Jerusalem. Of course their attitude is different. "We don't see us as having any permanent right to live here," said Vivian's friend. "We are here as long as it is reasonable but don't claim permanent rights here." Refreshing, indeed.
Today, we toured the Old City again. I found my natural bargaining skills in high form -- to the point a merchant, in accepting my payment, essentially called me a pig for refusing to budge from an initial low offer. I probably should have let the guy save face for 7.5 shekels (about $2.00 US), or (more rationally) started with a lower initial position and then given him some room to 'haggle'. Lesson learned for next time.
We toured some British mandate colonial areas of Jerusalem; including the street with the Prime Minister's residence (but we missed seeing the home of the outgoing President, resigning after a sex scandal.)
Things here, indeed, are never exactly what they seem to be -- and there are many different perspectives of the same story. For example, if you read this comprehensive web site about the Irgun's King David Hotel raid, you might conclude that if what happened here is terrorism, it is terrorism with a surprisingly humane heart (and it is quite debatable whether a hit on the offices of the British military headquarters is terrorism or just a really assertive and reasonable military strike in war-time conditions.
Tomorrow, we head north for five days touring with a personal guide.

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