Jerusalem Occupied

febbraio 12, 2014 in Palestina, Traduzioni da Anna Zorzi

Written by Sonia Trovato, translated by Anna Zorzi  Bandierina-Italiana

IMG_0170Before your visit to Palestine, Jerusalem was to you simply the title of a poem, not even one of your favourite, which was always juxtaposed to the other one, born from the light, irreverent pen of Ludovico Ariosto, much closer to your disposition and literature liking. The idea you got  from the neurotic, serious pages of Torquato Tasso of the Holy City was that of a den of religious fanaticism, militarism and war fury. 400 years after the publishing of Tasso’s work, the idea you get from visiting the town is not changed, but for different reasons. Jerusalem is breathtakingly beautiful: it looks at the same time both exotic and familiar with your ancient Italian towns. The aromas of spices, falafel and incense invade the narrow alleys crowded with tourists, street vendors and hungry cats hunting for leftovers.

However, unlike most of your fellow travellers, you don’t feel enraptured by all this and, in the long run, you can’t stand it at all. It may be because of your militant secularism, or of your aversion to showing off the profession of faith in a town which sells souvenirs like rosaries, mugs with the star of David printed on them, miniaturized Domes of the Rock.

On  the threshold of  the Church of the Holy Sepulchre you disapprovingly observe a woman praying on her knees, and kissing the ground and invoking a saint in Spanish. You hurry out of  the church and you find yourself in the middle of a large group of Italians busy to evoke a sort of Way of the Cross while following a lean old man bent under the weight of  a huge cross on her back. After panicking at the idea of being carried away back  into that crowded, oppressive church,  you manage to free yourself from the herd of pilgrims and rush off into an alley.

IMG_0265You are alone, at last, and you realize that the  true reason why you feel so irritated at a religiosity which is shown off in such a vulgar way are the millions of tourists who come to Jerusalem every year and yet who can’t see. You would like to take them, one by one, and force them to look, to look carefully. I would like them to open their eyes , as you did before with Mike, to the arrogance of the Israelis , who illegally occupied the city in 1967 and claimed it their own capital town ten years later, disregarding UNO decisions and international laws. Dear tourists – you would like to say to them – did you manage to  notice how the Arabs are allowed to live in Jerusalem? Do you know that they can’t move freely as they are given a special ID which risks to be invalidated  as soon as they leave their country? Do you know that they can’t build houses as they need a planning permission by the Israeli Civil Administration, which never grants it, forcing this way the Arabs to build illegally? Do you know that before the military service, young Israelis spend a period of  ‘apprenticeship’ in Jerusalem, during which they settle in Arab neighbourhoods and spread  fear and terror among their inhabitants?  IMG_0296Do you know that the Temple Mount, which is a sacred place for the Arabs and also their only piece of land where they feel safe in a scenery of violence and usurpation, is surrounded by illegal settlements protected by the large flags with the star of David? Do you know that a Jew often happens to enter this area under military escort provokingly, as Ariel Sharon did in 2002 , causing the outbreak of the second Intifada? Did you notice the  two parts this town is divided into: the west side, polished, embalmed, made impersonal by the attempt to look like any European metropolis, and the east side, the Arab one ( even though occupied), which is squalid, dirty, but colourful, lively and real? Aren’t you shocked at the sight of young soldiers with menacing rifles in their arms (women soldiers carry a rifle and their handbags too!)The Dome of the Rock, shining from the Mount of Olives, can soothe your anger  a bit. From the mountaintop  the Holy City below you  looks in peace, like an enchanted town, basking in the crepuscular light which mingles with the golden dome.  Seen from there and surrounded by its spectral silence, Jerusalem could be really like  Jerusalem  Delivered , a Jerusalem redeemed from hatred, racism and intolerance. But you climb down from there and you immediately get disillusioned, because you see a Jerusalem occupied, the Jerusalem occupied which Torquato Tasso describes in his poem, but with something different: those who he considered to be the oppressors are now the occupied and the humiliated. And no Godfrey of Bouillon is there to fight in their defence for a happy ending.

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