My first sip of alcohol away from home was next door, at my Jewish friend's house. Granddad's wife, Nana, was babysitting but I snuck out to invite myself in. It was a holiday that we did not celebrate, and much of the ritual was in a language I had never heard. But one part impressed my memory by the unprecedented offer of a glass of wine to raise in the toast: "Next year in Jerusalem!
After Granddad and his successors British occupiers left this land in 1949, the seeds of today's headlines were already sprouting. Lawrence of Arabia's promises notwithstanding, the Arab world was not free and united after the defeat of the Ottomans. Colonial powers had never intended to honor that promise and had carved up convenient borders and installed compliant rulers - much as had been done 2000 years previously, by the Romans - before they banished the Israelites and destroyed Jerusalem.
One such border was the Kurdish, Iraqi, Iranian one that haunts us today. Another was drawn for "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people." And because that toast had been repeated, by many families, in many lands, for many years - from Moscow to Manhattan they came … and still do. But as the earlier Israelites found when Joshua crossed the Jordan River to attack the walls of Jericho, someone was already there - in their own homeland.
Jean and now I cross into the Occupied Territories and like that border has been doing, continue to move east. We travel with a Palestinian man I will call Abu. He tells us things, introduces us to people and takes us places that rival our worst expectations - the camps, the checkpoints and the wall.
My Granddad married Beatrice Marks - quite Jewish sounding. With little more evidence that that, I could claim rights to a new condo on Abu's family land, while he cannot visit his aunt down the road. He teaches me an Arab expression - "I have seen this with my own eyes," and I could glaze your eyes with the details - but you might change the channel like we do so well. But this is it in a nutshell:
1. Israel and Palestine have no ability to control their extreme religious and nationalistic groups - they do not recognize man's laws, only God's - as they themselves interpret them. One ranking Rabbi yesterday, called for hanging all the children of terrorists/freedom fighters … up in the trees.
2. Israel has never planned to pull back to the agreed borders. They continue to colonize and control more Palestinian lands, life, and importantly - water. Since again agreeing not to, at the Annapolis meeting last fall - over 1700 new houses have been built on occupied land.
3. Israel is purposely making life miserable for those Palestinians who remain, with the expressed aim of getting them to leave - and many are. This is the real purpose of the "security" wall - not security.
I have seen this with my own eyes - yet cannot make judgments. History, including my own people's, and especially, ironically the Jew's - is full of such stories. But the hate in the eyes of a young Arab man, as an Israeli cop passes, makes me see that another people are in the cycle of capitulation, conquest and colonization - and may themselves take up that toast; "Next year in Jerusalem."
- Sectarian Stew