Jerusalem in Darkness
In this land where no-one sees the other, Palestinians are separated from Israelis and only see them as oppressors. Whilst Israelis don’t want to see Palestinians at all and so they don’t.
The tawdry ‘Light in Jerusalem’ festival thankfully concluded last night. Staged for a domestic audience its publicity states that it ‘joins a short and prestigious list of Light Festivals in the world.’ It promises the potential visitor: ‘an extraordinary sensorial experience will be discovered by those visiting the Old City of Jerusalem and the blend of cutting edge technology with light illuminations, plastic arts, music, movement and performances will create unforgettable magical moments.’
Plastic lanterns and neon lights adorned the outer city wall, street lamps were covered in coloured cloth inside the city wall to mark the ‘four trails’ that visitors could follow. God forbid anyone should take a stroll on their own. There were thousands upon thousands of Jewish Jerusalemites frantically rushing to see the plastic lights, lamps and ‘light sculptures’ hanging from walls and buildings.
This is significant because it is the only time Jews will visit the non-Jewish areas of the city. They will only come in their thousands, or with the army or military police. It was like a ‘reclaiming the night ‘ dressed up as entertainment. No Palestinians were to be seen, in the ‘festival areas.’ A heavy military presence ensured they stayed in their homes. As the publicity for the light festival refers to the ‘reunification’ of Jerusalem there would be no need to invite the non-Jewish residents of the Old City to participate, because the Jerusalem Municipality who co-sponsored the festival, automatically assume what they do represents all interests.
If it was a genuine Old City festival, all the different groups: Armenian, Christian and Muslim would have put on their own cultural activities. Instead it was a Jewish imposition. It wasn’t necessarily a conscious act of defiance by many of the visitors. It was meant to be a night out enjoyed by observant and secular alike. The unifying element was that they were Jews walking through areas they were normally too frightened, or had no desire, to walk through.
This supposedly ‘artistic’ festival, with Jewish-only artists, was a nationalistic show of Jewish strength. Instead of calling it a festival of light it could have been called a Festival of Jewish Non-Seeing, as they were literally going to experience the absence of Arabs for an evening. This was the real entertainment.
What also struck me is that apparently the Jerusalem establishment are dissatisfied with the appearance of one of the, if not the, most historically important cities in the world. Is there a translation of ‘gilding the lily’ in Hebrew? Going against all current archaeological and preservation trends to say nothing of aesthetic sensibility, the municipal authorities thought the Old City could be improved by red and yellow plastic lights on the outside of the city walls. What do they think it’s only old stones that could be improved with a bit of colour? It is the colour of the stone that makes Jerusalem universally famous and historically has brought travellers to see it. But this show was not for tourists.
Israelis seem afraid that the history evidenced in the Old City will show Arabic influence. They are incapable of integrating this into a rich and inclusive Jewish history and want to eradicate anything pertaining to a synthesis of cultural influences, including the population. This is why they have to tear down and then artificially adorn the remaining authentic beauty of Jerusalem; it tells a story they don’t want to be told: Israel is part of the Middle East and Jerusalem was and still is an Arab city.