Something strikes me as rather interesting concerning the topic of Israel. Living here for a couple of weeks now, taking all types of public transportation, walking, buying groceries at the shuk, and asking directions so I don’t get lost in a part of town I don’t know. I realized the exceptional diversity of Jerusalem earlier today on my morning run. I ran the light rail track, which is an above ground city transport rail line that runs for the most part the entire expanse of Jerusalem.
What is interesting to me is that as I was running, I ran past bakers, clothing sellers, and synagogues. I also ran by churches, mosques, a Christian information center, the Armenian quarter of the Old City, orthodox Jewish men who averted their eyes from my scantily clad running outfit, a Muslim woman walking unaccompanied down Yaffo in full burka attire, and a few Japanese tourists that stopped and asked me for directions. To my left was a coffee shop, next to that a Nike store selling exceptionally overpriced sneakers, next to that a photography store that specialized in wedding photos. To my right was the light rail that held every type of person one could expect to see on a Manhattan subway- Jews, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, and people of all religions and backgrounds.
Then this question that tends to bubble up in my head pretty much every day hit me: where is the segregation? As someone who engages in a pro-Israel dialogue I think it is very important to consider at all times the pejorative and inflammatory words used to describe Israel: racist, Nazi, apartheid. Did anyone ever stop to consider that those are just plain incorrect? They are incorrect because I see what this city is with my own eyes.
Why isn’t anyone publicizing the fact that the Ethiopian fruit salesman next to me in the early morning was selling avocados to an Israeli Jew, a German tourist, and a Muslim mother watching her three kids? Or that every day when I walk to work I see everything from hijabs to tattoos of the Star of David to tie dyed hair? Or that the restaurant I stopped at for coffee had a conservative Muslim family, a couple of 18-year-old Jewish girls in army uniforms, and some Christian revivalists who were talking about redemption over a couple of bagels?
It’s striking how inaccurately the international community portrays Israel as if they spend time here. It’s striking because of how excruciatingly detrimental it is to both the Israeli and Palestinian residents in the region. Why? It’s because when people neglect the facts of living here, as I am, and as I see things like BDS spring up. BDS has been proven time and time again to be harmful to the welfare of the Palestinian people. Apartheid? Really? A vast majority of Israeli Arabs said that if a Palestinian state were created they would voluntarily leave their homes to move to places within the legal borders of Israel.
These are all such integral things to consider when looking at Israel from the outside. The city of Jerusalem is as diverse as the open sea and as precious as the most invaluable gem. I have hope that the more people come to visit here, the more they will see that and the more everyone can work towards an agreeable solution for peace.
This piece was originally published in the blog Tikun Olam, Hummus and Ahava by Tatiana Becker. Read her piece My Life Has Taken an Interesting Turn about her experiences at the CAMERA Student Leadership and Advocacy Conference.