Two Jerusalems

Today we visited the city of Jerusalem once more. Instead of exploring the Old City, today we saw West Jerusalem, a bastion of Orthodox Judaism and Israeli nationalism. We started the day at the tombs of Israeli Prime Ministers at Mount Herzl and Yad Vashem, Jerusalem’s holocaust museum, a moving and grim experience to say the least.

From Yad Vashem we proceeded to the Jerusalem City Hall at Safra Square. At the City Hall we met a city councilwoman from Meretz, the most leftwing party in Israel with the exception of the Arab and Communist Joint List. With her we discussed the political situation of Jerusalem which is dominated by its large orthodox community through a combination of high turnout rates in that community and a running boycott of the municipal elections by the Palestinian permanent residents (not citizens) of East Jerusalem. (the Palestinians comprise approximately forty percent of the city and do not vote so as not to legitimize Israeli rule of the city)

After speaking with the councilwoman we proceeded to walk through relatively affluent West Jerusalem including our third marketplace this week. After eating and spending some time in the market, we left the city. On our way out, however, we stopped to view a Palestinian refugee camp that has existed for fifty years. The camp was cut off from the city by the separation wall, and we discussed how the camp, and several adjacent neighborhoods had essentially become slums which are provided next to no services by the municipal government. Garbage disposal, security, education, and most other services are not provided by the government of Jerusalem forcing the residents to improvise or go without. Likewise, power and water in the area are not always available to residents.

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