Bus tour of Jerusalem

6 Jun

Tuesday after class, we went on a bus tour around Jerusalem. It really made me open my eyes and realize how gorgeous and magnificent Jerusalem is. I also realized that in these past two weeks, I had really confined myself to a small area of Jerusalem. I got really comfortable keeping to Ben Yehuda and Jaffa street, as well as the old city and the Mamilla area and of course, my favorite place in all of Jerusalem, the Shuk. Just driving five minutes past all of my usual spots, it was as if we entered a new city. We immediately saw spectacular views to die for, while simultaneously learning so much about the history of Jerusalem with all the political and religious conflicts involved in each area. Most of the places we saw were far away views of residential areas or places that are considered to be low income housing developments that began in the 50s when people began immigrating. The coolest and most complex sight we saw was the wall/fence that divides the West Bank from all of Israel. The most fascinating thing we saw was a tiny town in The West Bank that was a Jewish settlement. Considering how unsafe those areas are to visit, it was intriguing to get a good look at them from as close of a view as we could and observe from a far.

Our first official stop on the bus tour was in the area of the Knesset called government hill. We stopped at, in my opinion, the most beautiful park in Jerusalem. Directly on the other side of the park, you see a clear view of the Knesset in all its glory. We started off by learning about how when the country was developed in 1948, there was conflict because the city became divided which left citizens without access to the religious sites in Jerusalem. There was a green line which was the cease fire line between Jordan and Israel. Jordan had claims over East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Hebrew University had to build a new campus because their campus was on the Jordanian side of Jerusalem. We learned that in 1948-1949, the government was formed in order to build a capital city against the United Nations. There were no embassies built in Jerusalem because before the division happened, Jerusalem was supposed to be an international city, so all embassies were built in Tel Aviv. It was amazing to in this park that was practically on the border, so new and modern, basically representing the New Jew. Something else I learned is that the national symbol for the state of Israel is the menorah. I had no idea states had symbols and it really put a lot of things together for me. I always wondered why their were menorahs everywhere, for example, we saw them all over the supreme court when we went to visit and I remember thinking to myself, of all the things to put on the wall why a menorah, why not a Jewish star or an Israeli flag.

Our second stop was an amazing view point. More than just a view, the lookout also was a point of controversy. According to American officials, this land was technically an illegal settlement on Palestinian territory. We learned that during the 67 war, the feeling in Israel was that there was a common fear amongst Israelis in which they had to worry about being “eliminated” We discussed more about the six day war (the ’67 war), and we learned that Israel did in fact shoot the first bullet. We continued to learn that in three hours, the Israelis destroyed the entire Egyptian Air Force on the ground. This really got people changing the way they view Israel and its citizens. People shifted their views from seeing Israelis as weak and frail to powerful. All of a sudden, we were no longer closed by barbed wire, but rather, we became an empire. One would think that all of this success would be a good thing for the Israelis, however, it was as if too much gain is actually a loss for the Israelis. Rather than rejoicing in success, Israelis began to think that although they were successful, they were going to have to give back most of the territories. The most important thing for them was that they would never have to give back the old city and to keep Jerusalem united. As of June 26, there were new boundaries that included everything pre 1967 (west Jerusalem), east Jerusalem and more areas that were considered the new Jerusalem. Many Palestinians were displaced but were offered Israeli citizenship. However, they declined citizenship, which I can understand because they would become citizens of a state that did not necessarily feel like it belonged to them. This left many Palestinians without citizenship anywhere, and this is still an issue in present day. This makes things very complicated for Palestinians from the West Bank because they can’t come into Jerusalem without a permit, which people don’t really receive unless its for work.

The 3rd spot we visited had a clear view of where Ariel Sharon built a fence to divide the West Bank from East Jerusalem. We could see the wall and how the wall extended into a fence. We learned that there was a dilemma of where the fence would go. How would it divide Jerusalem? East and West? It was hard to imagine that we would have to re-divide Jerusalem. We concluded by learning that Ariel Sharon decided to reinstate the ‘67 divisions which ended up dividing Palestinians from Palestinians. The juxtaposition of the amazing land that is Jerusalem, with all its struggle and conflict, really left me longing to learn more, so that some day, I can do something to influence the way people see Israel, and especially Jerusalem, in order to bring Jerusalem to its initial goal, a land for everyone to share and enjoy.

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