A trip to Jerusalem is not always a holy experienceby Marion McGilvary / May 20, 1997 / Leave a comment
I don’t like Jerusalem. For all its historical photo opportunities, it is an unpleasant city filled with more than its share of unpleasant people. Israeli soldiers loiter on every street corner, their machine guns slung lewdly across their chests. Fat European tourists waddle along the narrow streets to the mantra of their polyester-clad thighs rubbing together. Tacky shops sell Palestinian pottery decorated with menorahs or T- shirts bearing the slogan: “Don’t worry Israel, America is behind you.” Hassidic Jews scurry down the Dar el Wad, eyes down, always in a hurry-busy men with a purpose in life, which seems to involve knocking over anyone who gets in their way. Settlers from Brooklyn with their twangy American accents and shiny guns swagger through the Arab quarter, winding their way to a courtyard in the Sufi area to insert prayers between the stones of what they call the “little wailing wall”-and after they have gone the local Arab children come and pick them out.
The word “settler,” implying as it does the making do with something that exists, is an odd description. These people have not come to make concessions -they have come to acquire. More land, more territory, more of the God-given right to relocate halfway across the world. Does God not balk at prayers made through the use of force? I suppose not-the settlers seem to be doing all right so far, occupying 80 per cent of what used to be Arab Jerusalem.
We are all guilty of a little cultural appropriation of the city. When I was growing up in Scotland, I joined an after-school club called the Scripture Union. Every member was given a stapled pamphlet with various shoddily printed tales from the Bible. Each week we attended, we were given a sticker to place beside the appropriate story. I remember the taste of the gum on my tongue as I licked picture after picture-the good Samaritan, the washing of Jesus’s feet, the last supper. Somehow, I felt as if the pamphlet was like a book of tokens-entitling me to access to the real thing. A lifelong membership to the Jerusalem theme park.
My only real connection with the city is that my husband is a Palestinian whose family had lived in Jerusalem continuously for six centuries until they left in 1948. His father was raised in the Arab college founded by his grandfather, a building now…