The unreported rough and tumble in Jerusalem

Some years ago, I was on holiday in London, and happened to catch an item on the news about Israel. I felt that I was watching Jerusalem going up in flames. Overseas TV cameras happened to be conveniently recording, just as some school kids were spontaneously (?) rushed down a flight of steps following to a violent incident. Yelps from frightened children.

A few minutes later, a friend phoned me for an explanation. I responded by describing my incredulity. I did not believe that Jerusalem had been erased from the face of the map, just because of some clever camera work.

Now jump forward to July 2011. The international media is focussing on ultra orthodox Jews combatting the police or Jewish-Arab protests towards the eastern side of the city. And yes, these are serious issues. However, if that is what is occupying the lives of barely 7,000 protesters and police together, what are the other 700,000 up to?

Sheila Raviv writes a lively weekly blog about life in Jerusalem. Yesterday she described how:

Every summer something exceptional happens in Jerusalem on a Monday and Thursday. Shouk Mahane Yehuda becomes a giant nightclub!!! Jill, Irit and I went for supper on the pavement of Jaffa Street …… We sat watching to world go by – religious Jews, Arab Moslems, Arab Christians, secular Jews …… providing us with a constant floor show!

No, not just flowery words. My teenage daughter is spending much of this summer, watching live street concerts in the Holy City. For her, the key event will be the performance of Ziggy Marley on the 21st July. (No doubt, she will come home before midnight at least one evening this summer holiday!)

Move over to the commercial side of things. A local community group, Eden, has brought together other non-affiliated bodies to encourage financial rejuvenation for small businesses and shops in the main retail areas. These firms have suffered heavily in recent years from the Intifada and some poor central planning. For example, the new light railway is way beyond the original launch date.

As a result of the initiative, 200 city-based enterprises have already signed up for a heavily subsidised mentoring programmes. They will also be provided with improved social media facilities, enabling them to hook up with the growing tourist market.

What’s the good of all this great unreported news, if there are still major social and political troubles?

True, but there again, I learned this week that 800 ultra-orthodox women have finished their training as software engineers. This will encourage them to seek employment in an unfamiliar social environment and some will have to deal with non-religious people. If that is what helps bring people together in this very special and beautiful city, I am all for it.

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