Thursday, November 09, 2006

Destroying the City in Order to Save It

I was in the northern part of Jerusalem this evening, and what I saw there appalled me.

So the Haredim are utterly set against the Gay Pride Parade? Fine—they have a right to their opinion, and I have no problem with their protesting in legal ways. But to destroy parts of the very city whose sanctity they claim to want to preserve, while endangering and inconveniencing large segments of the population, including children, is another thing entirely.

I felt as though I were walking through a war zone. There were trash fires all throughout one of the main streets, with crowds of young boys gathered around them. Although the atmosphere was tense, I got up my courage and took some photographs of the damage. No one commented except some children who asked that I not photograph them. (I did as they asked.) As I was photographing a trash fire that didn’t have a crowd around it, one young man told me as he passed by: “This is nothing. Wait until you see the fires we’ll build later tonight!”

(It made me want to reply: “It sounds like you’re really into this. Tell me, are you really protesting, or are you just out to have some fun?” But I decided that in such an atmosphere, and with a camera on my person, keeping my mouth shut was the better part of wisdom.)

Here is the bus stop where I had been hoping to catch a bus home. I ended up having to walk back into the center of town because, after this behavior, the buses in this part of the city had stopped running. It was a long, mostly uphill walk in smoky air, not at all pleasant.

Destroyed bus stop

Next to the bus stop was a destroyed lottery-ticket stand. It looks like someone isn’t going to be able to go to work and earn their living tomorrow.

Most of the fires I saw seemed to be magnets for small boys, with parents nowhere in sight. I told one boy who got too close to one of the fires: “That’s dangerous! Besides, you’re polluting the air of the Holy City. Don’t you care about that?”

His reply: “And you don’t think that what they’re trying to do is wrong?”

I tried to explain to him that even if he thinks it is wrong, that doesn’t make this particular response right. When he left, he had a thoughtful expression on his face. Maybe I got through to him at least a little, maybe not. I guess I’ll never know.

Finally, a trash bin near the bus stop where no buses came:

Trash bin fire

Also, as if we didn’t have enough problems on the roads here, the traffic lights in a main intersection were out, and the cars and pedestrians there were on their own.

How disturbing, and how frightening. I guess there really are people out there who believe that you have to destroy the city in order to save it.

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