If you come to Jerusalem, I strongly encourage you to take a tour of the City of David archeological site with the group Emek Shaveh. They offer a tour with a professional archeologist called “Archeology in the shadow of the conflict.” The site is in the middle of a poor Palestinian neighborhood called Silwan. One could imagine a way of handling this dig and its presentation with dignity and fairness. The interpretation could be more qualified, less certain that a “big building in 10th – 8TH Century BCE ancient Jerusalem” equals “David’s palace.” The progress of the site could be regularly shared with the residents of Silwan. Benefits like parking and concessions could also be shared with the neighborhood. The decision to dig on more land could go through a neutral committee and residents could be recompensed. The funding and control of the park could remain completely in the hands of the parks department, and not private groups with other agendas (the group Elad that runs the site in a public/private partnership is also involved in encouraging Israeli Jews to move to Palestinian neighborhoods, a process call “Judaization.”)
Unfortunately, none of these steps are currently being taken. It is emotionally jarring to go from West Jerusalem to East Jerusalem. In West Jerusalem I love the peace of Shabbat, hearing the shofar in this month before Rosh Hashanah, and seeing people reading religious commentary on the bus. I love the many playgrounds (often given by Americans), the friendliness towards children, and the café culture.I appreciate the concern for the elderly, seeing a soldier pop out of her seat for someone with a cane – though I also appreciate that if you are just old, and not infirm, it is absolutely every person for him or herself.
I loved seeing the enthusiasm of the Tzofim (scouts) as they built their climbing structures in the park – did you know that the Tzofim was the “first egalitarian Scouting movement in the world, where boys and girls participate together on an equal basis”? I love so much about Israeli culture and the Jewish identity – it is painful to watch what the government is doing and to try to reconcile these two faces of Israel.