FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Encounter in Jerusalem

by MATS SVENSSON

Jerusalem.

It is early evening in Ram, a neighborhood in the outskirts of Jerusalem. The workers are on their way home to their families. The queue is long. I am sitting in my Audi, in the diplomats’ queue. I am alone, there’s no queue, but I’m waiting.

She stands twenty meters in front of me. Military clothing, with an AK4 over her shoulder. I watch her. Her movements, her face, her youth. A year or so older than my youngest daughter. I see her but she does not see me. She does not see the workers. She only sees her colleague, a boy in the same age as her. The boy is dressed in military clothes and an AK4 hanging nonchalantly over his shoulder.

A boy and a girl by a gate. But nobody gives them a coin for their troubles. No beautiful words, no looks of praise.

A boy and a girl about to become adults. They were just teenagers. Now they are playing power games. A boy and a girl who for a while forget where they are. Forget that they are at a checkpoint. Forget that they are maintaining apartheid, that they are separating Palestinians from Palestinians.

Instead they begin to flirt. Touch each other, nudge each other and turn their backs to reality. Point towards the queue of workers, say something, laugh. Meanwhile, the queue becomes longer and longer.

I don’t know what they are saying. See that the Palestinian workers are becoming annoyed. It is Thursday evening. After a long work week they want to return home for the weekend. They have nothing to do standing in this queue.

The workers see how the checkpoint for a while becomes a meeting point between a girl and a boy. Two young people with their origin in Ethiopia. We see how the young people play theater. The theater of reality. A theater without a script, with Palestinian workers as extras. I get to be the audience. I watch the blending of war and peace, love and fear. The opposite of love is not hate, it’s fear.

I open my car window. I hear Eric Clapton’s music from a small radio on a cement bloc. ”I don’t want to be lonely tonight?”

After a bit over a half hour, the girl with the AK4 approaches my car. Laughing. The last thing he said must have been funny, maybe something beautiful.

I ask her how she is doing. She freezes and asks me why I’m asking her that. I smile confidently as I say that I’m just asking how she is doing.

She repeats why I am posing such a strange question.

”Well,” I say, ”I actually wanted to ask you if you are happy or sad. It is as if I know you. It is as if I’ve seen you before. I have lived in Ethiopia, in Addis Ababa. Have been sitting here and watching you for a long time. I am wondering who you are?”

”Why do you ask that?” she wonders.

”Maybe because we are both strangers here,” I say. ”I am from Sweden, have lived in Ethiopia but do not speak Amharic or Arabic and you are from Ethiopia but haven’t learnt how to speak Hebrew. We are two strangers who meet at a loathsome checkpoint a bit outside Jerusalem. I am just wondering how you are doing.”

Mats Svensson, a former Swedish diplomat working on the staff of SIDA, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, is presently following the ongoing occupation of Palestine.  He can be reached at isbjorn2001@hotmail.com.

 

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

April 26, 2017
Richard Moser
Empire Abroad, Empire At Home
Stan Cox
For Climate Justice, It’s the 33 Percent Who’ll Have to Pick Up the Tab
Paul Craig Roberts
The Looting Machine Called Capitalism
Lawrence Davidson
The Dilemma for Intelligence Agencies
Christy Rodgers
Remaining Animal
Joseph Natoli
Facts, Opinions, Tweets, Words
Mel Gurtov
No Exit? The NY Times and North Korea
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Women on the Move: Can Three Women and a Truck Quell the Tide of Sexual Violence and Domestic Abuse?
Michael J. Sainato
Trump’s Wikileaks Flip-Flop
Manuel E. Yepe
North Korea’s Antidote to the US
Kim C. Domenico
‘Courting Failure:’ the Key to Resistance is Ending Animacide
Barbara Nimri Aziz
The Legacy of Lynne Stewart, the People’s Lawyer
Andrew Stewart
The People vs. Bernie Sanders
Daniel Warner
“Vive La France, Vive La République” vs. “God Bless America”
April 25, 2017
Russell Mokhiber
It’s Impossible to Support Single-Payer and Defend Obamacare
Nozomi Hayase
Prosecution of Assange is Persecution of Free Speech
Robert Fisk
The Madder Trump Gets, the More Seriously the World Takes Him
Giles Longley-Cook
Trump the Gardener
Bill Quigley
Major Challenges of New Orleans Charter Schools Exposed at NAACP Hearing
Jack Random
Little Fingers and Big Egos
Stanley L. Cohen
Dissent on the Lower East Side: the Post-Political Condition
Stephen Cooper
Conscientious Justice-Loving Alabamians, Speak Up!
Michael J. Sainato
Did the NRA Play a Role in the Forcing the Resignation of Surgeon General?
David Swanson
The F-35 and the Incinerating Ski Slope
Binoy Kampmark
Mike Pence in Oz
Peter Paul Catterall
Green Nationalism? How the Far Right Could Learn to Love the Environment
George Wuerthner
Range Riders: Making Tom Sawyer Proud
Clancy Sigal
It’s the Pits: the Miner’s Blues
Robert K. Tan
Abe is Taking Japan Back to the Bad Old Fascism
April 24, 2017
Mike Whitney
Is Mad Dog Planning to Invade East Syria?    
John Steppling
Puritan Jackals
Robert Hunziker
America’s Tale of Two Cities, Redux
David Jaffe
The Republican Party and the ‘Lunatic Right’
John Davis
No Tomorrow or Fashion-Forward
Patrick Cockburn
Treating Mental Health Patients as Criminals
Jack Dresser
An Accelerating Palestine Rights Movement Faces Uncertain Direction
George Wuerthner
Diet for a Warming Planet
Lawrence Wittner
Why Is There So Little Popular Protest Against Today’s Threats of Nuclear War?
Colin Todhunter
From Earth Day to the Monsanto Tribunal, Capitalism on Trial
Paul Bentley
Teacher’s Out in Front
Franklin Lamb
A Post-Christian Middle East With or Without ISIS?
Kevin Martin
We Just Paid our Taxes — are They Making the U.S. and the World Safer?
Erik Mears
Education Reformers Lowered Teachers’ Salaries, While Promising to Raise Them
Binoy Kampmark
Fleeing the Ratpac: James Packer, Gambling and Hollywood
Weekend Edition
April 21, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Diana Johnstone
The Main Issue in the French Presidential Election: National Sovereignty
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail