First day in Jerusalem : sad reality - Pierre Dumoulin

Article published on Aug. 31, 2007
community published
Article published on Aug. 31, 2007
Hi everybody. I arrived on Saturday at 6 am in Jerusalem after a quick visit through the airport of Tel Aviv… Since I have arrived, what I have seen make me feel in a big rage… From my first step in Jerusalem which was completely desert, I saw two young boys around twenty (in my ages). Usually, I would have talked to them, or at least said them hello.
But here, these young who could be my colleagues or my brothers, were armed. It is the first time I see people of my age wandering in a city wearing their gun and talky at the belt… It is even the first time I have seen a gun…

I walked around Jerusalem everyday, it is a very picturesque city… I understand why tourists come to visit this city… It has so rich an history and the streets are so pretty…

All these streets and monuments convey a charm which makes me feel happy. It is the change it makes in my head. In fact, I had never left Europe before, and seeing such different a city than European cities (at least those I could visit) is so rewarding…

But (I was told about that before) I noticed very quickly that people with their uniforms of brutality are really present in the city, armed with their M16 (I think it is the way they are called). When I think that a French tourist who I talked to last week told me that Jerusalem was the city of peace, and that it was magic to see all these religions cohabiting this way… But I can understand : if information is not conveyed, you can’t really know what is happening in this city… Above all if you read « Le Petit Futé » that I took with me. « Le Petit Futé » can’t be denied the main purpose why I bought it. In fact, I used it at the airport. Take a guide with you if you can. Besides I wish you all the possible courage for your visit.

So, this French tourist couldn’t notice that the city was colonized and that Israelis took for them Palestinian goods. I would even not have noticed myself if I had wandered on my own in that city without the information that I was given, more objective about real facts… Yes, this colonization goes unnoticed : settlers (Israelis) and the colonized (Palestinians) walk side by side in the city. But no, they do no cohabit. These are not happy days in Jerusalem, as they would like us to believe. The city is occupied, brothers. A French man who was in the city three or four years ago told me that the ultra-orthodox I see at any time in Palestinian side streets were not here before. They walk around the streets to appropriate the place. But their permanent presence implies permanent presence of soldiers to protect them. Where is peace in that ? Anyway, I have been here for less than 6 hours and in my head I feel that I begin to hallucinate : I have never seen so many guns, even in war films. Nothing to do with that, it is worse than a war film. It makes more serious headaches… above all when your feet are on the ground and not on a sofa…

I nearly did not sleep in the plane, and I don’t want to go to bed at the hotel, I keep on walking. I see Israeli flags at every window. I wonder which side I am. I am told I am in Palestinian side. I raise my head and I am told this house was Palestinian before 1967 but now, the settlers have settled. I wonder what I would do if I was taken the house where I live. I can’t answer that question and I tell myself it is a stupid question because I can’t even imagine one second what the occupation of a city is… And I have been here for less than half a day.

I imagine myself in the shoes of that young Palestinians in my ages sat on a step as a ultra-orthodox passes. But I can’t imagine myself in his shoes nor in those of the Israeli with his gun at the belt. I am not from here and I can’t say what I would do in their positions. And even not feel one second one millionth of what that Palestinian guy can feel as being stared at by a settler passing and whispering words I don’t understand.

Well, it is my first day in Jerusalem. I forgot things, I am sure. Anyway, I am happy to be here for the project. But I feel that my French head is shaken. I have to talk about that with my colleagues… with all those I know in France. I already have the rage but it is still not gone, and it must not go. I will have to talk about that to the maximum of people. I knew what was happening by documentaries or newspapers but it is not the same… I am here in Jerusalem. I have seen… I can’t say anymore I did not know.

Apart from that, the group is nice and I think it is to be great for the next 15 days. Where we live in Jerusalem, it is extraordinary. I had never slept in such magic a place before… this hotel is more than 400 years old…


Pierre Dumoulin

Translated from French by: Hélène