Thursday, June 14, 2012

On the last day of the feast of the Lights - Jerusalem

On the last day of the feast of the Light-Jerusalem "Dancing queen" or what!? at the corner of the street, Direction Blue to the Holy Sepulcher via the Coptic houses from Jaffa Gate; here alone, she came to be surrounded by crowds of all possible Israelis and visitors. The last picture of the Feast of the Light; next week, i.e. on Sunday, new events will start in different places. I took the picture as the sadran/סדרן - steward and security man asked me to which Church I belong. He firstly though of the Copts. I told him always to look at the hats: they make the difference as usually explain to which denomination we belong. The conversation was very free as we together also guided the visitors. He was from Jerusalem and his co-worker was obviously from the Soviet Union. We turned to Russian and he told me that he was from Nikolaiev, near Odessa down on the Black Sea; we were "zemliaki-земляки/of the same earth and city, compatriots"! It evolved into Ukrainian and some Yiddish and we noted the changes that had happened in the course of the years for the feast. Undoubtedly, lots of Jews and Arabs came together and could share and speak. A sort of short encounter that only shows they know they have to live together, volens nolens. This is why it is so catching to get into the groups and the people were nice this year. The natural arrogance or chutzpah was on air, of course, but so many people were glad to ask people they never meet in their daily life. Frankly, in the Old City, the Christians do not meet with anybody except the same tribes they perfectly know. The natives - Arab Christians do cope with the Israelis outside of the Old City bec. they work outside, esp. the women but also men who love to go and frequent the new "Jewish" areas, not only Mamilla, but outside Jerusalem till Tel Aviv, Eilat, Haifa. People are on the move and we could feel it clearly this year during the feast of the Light that is totally secular. People come, get a program but still no explanations. They do not know the history of the places they walk through. The Arabs who came to visit - just as the Jews from the whole of the country - were more back-laid and did not speak that much in general. Muslim families, happy to buy ice-creams or other accessories. This year the Israeli visitors loved to connect. I spent some time talking about the history of a place, a building, a street and for the first time in years the discussion directly started in Hebrew or in Russian. Surprisingly many young "Russian" couples did speak Hebrew together and had switched to the language without some exceptions, usually about food or special matters. There were some clashes, but few. Some shops closed down, true, but they usually close rather early in the area. Protest? Lack of interest; this is more probable because when the locals want to close down, they just close, period! They are often asked or commanded to close quickly by the Muslim organizations... In some shops and areas, it is striking to see how the datiim/pious Jews, now always Orthodox Jews but still, freely pass through the streets and spontaneously discuss with the Arab shop-keepers. There is a sort of "installed" familiarity and habit to get together. It does not mean that the problems and "alienation/estrangement" does not exist, nor some aggressivity. Basically this go ahead. It also depends on how we all behave and apprehend such "exceptional annual cross roads".
The absence of the Church members as such and the Christians as such is a matter that will be interesting to be followed-up in the coming years. Nonetheless, many Catholic sisters/nuns were crossing here and there. More the Western ones; the Easterners are not that likely to mix with all these visitors. But is keeping away a good and "clever" way. Maybe a reluctance that is so difficult to overcome... it may also destroy. While life is marching in... av aleksandr (Winogradsky Frenkel