*This post reflects the personal opinion of the author, and does not reflect the views of Kids4Peace*
For many living in Jerusalem, there is a simple history. A simple narrative. A simple story and simple set of opinions, things are relatively calm. For those of us at Kids4Peace, and the countless others choosing to live in complexity, struggling daily for a better world, nothing here is simple. There is no simple history, certainly no simple narrative, and very little calm. One thing that is shared, though, among Kids4Peace and many others here, is a love and deep connection to Jerusalem. The city of stone. The city of history, of stories, of God.
For so many in the world, Jerusalem is an idea. A hope and a dream. Jerusalem represents the possibility of peace and freedom. “When Jerusalem finally knows peace, the world will know peace,” people whisper, their eyes locked on the ancient stone they see in pictures, the holy golden dome, the crumpled paper they see pushed into the crevices of the ancient Jerusalem stone.
On Sunday, some of the Kids4Peace staff gathered, to talk about the complicated week we were entering, to feel community, to feel connection when most of the week would feel alienating and isolating. Especially for Palestinians, but also for Israelis and Jews who might not connect with running through the streets with flags flying, breathing too easily, smiling too broadly, forgetting that our (the Jewish peoples’) freedom creates another peoples’ suffering and lack thereof.
Adnan, the 8th grade youth coordinator, told his childhood story of constant displacement. Of moving from house to house, trying to avoid eviction and trying to stay in Jerusalem, in order to maintain freedom and rights, in order to stay home. Adnan spoke of the importance of staying in Jerusalem for his children, of making sure they kept their freedom of movement and national and local identity. Jill spoke of moving to Jerusalem 35 years ago, of the feeling that rather than living in a place of shared hope that she felt when first moving here, we were living in a place of shared struggle. Suma spoke of growing up in Sheikh Jarrah, of her father refusing to leave despite the threat of demolition and eviction. Meredith spoke of buying a home in Jerusalem this month, of choosing to live here and be a part of Kids4Peace in order to create the Jerusalem that she moved here dreaming about. Reeham spoke of Jerusalem and especially her neighborhood of Beit Safafa, as the only home she has ever known, the only one she would ever want to know. Guy said that Jerusalem is the only place he could ever live with his family, that it would always be either Jerusalem or abroad. Ismat said that each time he returns to Jerusalem after being elsewhere, he rolls down the windows and breathes in the air and says, “ahh, Jerusalem. ahh, Al Quds.”
Story after story of seeking home, of fighting for home, of histories full of struggle and challenge, Jerusalem was the final piece of the puzzle. The reason we were all sitting together in a circle, crying and laughing, feeling at peace in our community, and at peace with the air, while fearing the week to come and wishing that more people could share laughter and tears the way we do. That more people in Jerusalem could connect on human levels, on shared love and hope for Jerusalem, for our children, for the future.
As we hold our breath during these days, many will be out marching, not with the flag-bearers storming the Muslim Quarter, but with the peace-bearers, marching together as Israelis, Palestinians and Internationals, as Jews, Muslims and Christians, showing the world and each other that there is another way. We continue. Onwards.
Watch a video produced by Mekudeshet, showing the Jerusalem we at Kids4Peace know: the complex, breathtaking, peace-building place we call home. Jerusalem, 50 Years