“We feel like we finally live a normal life in a normal country,” marvelled a popular radio host. Normalcy – this rare appreciation by Israelis of the privilege to indulge in small talk about the stormy weather that’s wreaked the whole region – is so abnormal here.
It came like a bolt from the blue on this serene city perched in the hills of Galilee. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared on Israel’s Channel Two television earlier this month, “I want to see Safed! It’s my right to see it, but not to live there.”
Ali Shuruf turns on the lights, that shine into a gaudy living room. Beyond the window, the dominant colour is uniformly grey: the house stands literally against a wall. Not just any wall – the infamous eight-metre cement wall separates Palestinians from Israelis.
The Democratic National Convention erupted in controversy this week over the removal of a clause in the party platform stating that Jerusalem should remain Israel’s undivided capital and only grew worse when the wording was hastily re-inserted.
“This is King David’s palace!” proclaims the Israeli tour guide with much fanfare, ignoring the cautionary “King David’s Palace?” legend on the sign. Opportunely opening the Bible, he reads from 2 Samuel 6:16, “As the Ark of the Lord came to the City of David…”
“A prayer knocks till the door opens,” a songster from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre sings from outside the door.
Kosher, in spoken English, might mean ‘proper’, ‘acceptable’, ‘legitimate’. Yet, sourced in the Bible, the Hebrew word incontrovertibly finds its way in Jewish cuisine. Food is kosher when suitable for consumption – that is, according to a set of religious dietary laws or kashrut.
The imposing stronghold is almost transparent, barely noticeable, in the pitch-black desert. On top of the stands, with a thousand kilowatts at his finger’s tip, Avi Yona Bueno turns the night into lights, revealing sets, sites, and sounds. “I’m god,” smiles the lighting designer. “I’m god to my children.”
A group of Palestinian Jerusalemites steps down from a crowded bus to let two Israeli soldiers climb aboard to check identity cards, below the aluminum roof of this newly operational checkpoint terminal.