We’ve Been Waiting 60 Years For Things to Calm Down: Conversation with a Friend From Silwan
I spent ten minutes today speaking with an acquaintance who is Arab and lives in Silwan, a neighborhood of East Jerusalem just south of the Old City. I’ve known him for several years, and we’ve always had a friendly relationship, but I’ve never asked him about his life before. Today I decided to ask how he’s doing. I asked whether he lives in an area where things are really bad, and he told me “everyone lives in an area where it’s really bad.” Then he told me that a couple days ago he drove past the house in Silwan that they demolished this week: “You should have seen what happened – pieces flew everywhere, large chunks of the house, and all of the houses and cars nearby were damaged. It’s never been like that before. I’ve seen houses demolished before, and it was always contained to that house. But this time it was like they didn’t even care what else got damaged. They weren’t even trying to be careful. They didn’t bother cleaning anything up. I don’t know why they did it like that this time.” Thankfully his house is far enough away that it wasn’t affected. (Thankful, really, that I don’t have another person to feel too worried about, at least for today.)
He told me about his 9 year old daughter, his twin 4 year olds, and his 1.5 year old baby. About how the drive to and from their preschool, near Armon Hanatziv, has gotten much longer because of the checkpoints and blockades that have been put into place recently. That it’s taking him much longer to get to and from work because he can no longer drive through Abu Tor. That no one wants to come play in Gan HaPa’amon (in West Jerusalem near the seam line) anymore. That he doesn’t really ever go to the mosque anymore; he used to be religious, but he stopped being religious quite a while ago (he said this a bit apologetically – I told him I understand). He said he thinks things have gotten worse because of social media. It used to be that if something happened, it would take a while for news to spread. Now, everyone knows everything as soon as it happens. It makes people act much more impulsively.
I told him I hope this challenging period will end soon. He said ruefully, “we’ve been waiting for 60 years for things to calm down, to pass. It’s not going to pass. Nothing changes.”
He smiled the whole time we were talking, and wished me a shabbat shalom when we were done.
Yesterday, my five year old asked me, “is an ‘Arab’ a bad person?”
“My friend Shoham told me that Arabs are bad people.”
“Do you know what ‘Arab’ means?”