My last post described my joining the enormous protests that take place in Jerusalem against the Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu. A few people emailed me wondering how, with only 10 days of quarantine behind me, I could go to a major protest in the center of town. I have no excuses; I should have been more vigilant. At the end of the evening, when we got home, it suddenly dawned on me and I turned to my brother: “OMG, I should never have gone there!”
At the same time, to provide some context, I had no idea what this would turn out to be. I’d seen the demonstration during the day when I’d take my regular walk, consisting of far fewer people, enabling me to easily maintain distance even as I peered at the sleeping bags on the pavement and the people loitering about.
That’s what I thought we were going to do Saturday night. We could see people in black shirts and Israeli blue-and-white flags wrapped in black streaming towards the center, with police blocking entry in various corners; all that time it was easy to maintain distance.
That was the time I should have turned back. Instead, suddenly we were in the central area, comprising big blocks that the police had cordoned off for the protest, and before you knew it you were part of many thousands of people waving their black-wrapped flags and wearing black masks, yelling, drumming, singing, shouting through megaphones, with enormous messages flashing on adjoining buildings and a sea of signs. By then it was too late.
And once there, I was transfixed by the energy, by the people fighting for change, by the understanding pervading everywhere that the world has to change, including their part of the world. That sick people have to be cared for, that the young need education, that the gap between the monied and the poor needs to shrink. Everywhere around me were signs: JOBS, EDUCATION, MEDICINE FOR EVERYONE. Not just for the rich, who could run away to second homes and lie low, but for everyone.
Put me in the middle of a scene like that, and I’m hooked. Put me in a scene like that in Uzbekistan, Mogadishu, or Hong Kong, and I’m hooked. Put me in a scene like that in the US of A, and I’m hooked.
The Zen Peacemakers, coming out of a paradigm that we’re all One Body, work to realize this oneness and bring it to other people’s consciousness as well. That is why I was so moved by the small group of meditators in the middle of that animated crowd, and how the crowd made room for them, appreciating that there was something in that silence and immobility that was a crucial part of all this change, the radical recognition that the very people you’re yelling against are all this One Body, too.
Which doesn’t mean you don’t struggle against corruption, fraud, and dictatorship, but it’s like the fighting you do in your family, seeing your brothers’ and sisters’ history and still recognizing the harm, still working against it.
Today my sister took me to the Old City to shop. One of my feet swelled and I found myself walking on the outer edge of my right foot as I went to one of my favorite stores in the Christian Quarter, Jerusalem Pottery, where they do hand-painted pottery in the old Armenian style.
Suddenly, I had the inspiration to buy small crucifixes made out of the wood of olive trees in Bethlehem for the immigrant families we’ve been supporting. They’re all Latino and most of them go to local churches. A pilgrimage to the Holy Land, walking on the Via Dolorosa towards the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where Jesus is believed to have been buried, is a dream beyond their wildest fantasies.
We help over 90 families with food cards, but given the price, I limited myself to some 27 small wooden crucifixes, my gift to them. I will put one in each envelope containing a food card and practice my Spanish explaining that the cross is made out of the trees that dot the landscape of Bethlehem.
I probably could have negotiated a cheaper price, but first, I’m a lousy bargainer, and secondly, I was all too aware of the many stores that were shut down, shuttered stands where I used to buy large glasses of cold pomegranate juice, closed stores that once showed gorgeous rugs and carpets, the few people walking down those ancient cobbled streets as opposed to the mobs you usually encounter in August. The virus had tentacled its way into the homes of Palestinians and Jews; as the sign in the meditation circle said on Saturday night, they were in it together.
“No tourists,” explained the shopkeeper, searching frenziedly for the credit card machine. His young son found it and the father turned to me: “No tourists, so I forget where I put it.”
Even here, in Jerusalem, I am clear that I have to continue to support immigrant families with food cards. This virus isn’t going anywhere quickly. Before I left I left some $2,200 with Jimena Pareja for that purpose. Please join me by using the Donate button below and writing in the Notes: For food cards. Or else send a check to me, Eve Marko, POB 174, Montague, MA 01351 and write on the memo line: food cards. Thank you for your kindness.