From: xiaoyu zhangDear Hillel,
This is Zhang from China Radio. Hope you still remember me: I’m planning a report about the new trail [train] in Jerusalem and would like to invite you for a ride and hear some of your comments. Would you do me the favor? I’m especially interested in opinions of Palestinians in
east Jerusalem but don’t speak their language, and most of the time they hide from foreign media of what really is in their minds.
Are you available anytime tomorrow? Or Thursday afternoon, if it’s better for you. We can meet at somewhere along the route, like Zion Square, or at the New Gate of the Old City. … Thanks a lot and looking forward to seeing you.
China Radio International
|Xiaoyu Zhang phones Beijing|
|Photos by H. Schenker|
So, we ended up meeting at the Damascus Gate station on the new Light Rail line, and made the trip together from there to the end of the line in Pisgat Ze’ev. It was fascinating, heading from the walls of the Old City, past Meah Sha’arim on the left, Wadi Joz and Sheikh Jarrah on the right, then on via the middle class Palestinian neighborhoods of Shoafat and Beit Hanina, till the current end of the line at Pisgat Ze’ev.
Palestinian and Haredi families were clearly treating the free ride like a summer camp excursion. Of course Xiaoyu used my “linguistic skills” to ask the locals their opinions of the phenomenon.
One Palestinian said that he was taking the ride every day since it opened from Shoafat to his place of work, leaving his car at home. Where does he work? At the Al-Aksa Mosque on Haram Al-Sharif/The Temple Mount. He admits there still seem to be some kinks in the works, since by car it would “take three minutes”, while the Light Rail ride takes 15.
A teenager from French Hill was taking his racing bicycle (he hopes, if they let him), to the controversial Kalatrava Bridge at the entrance of Jerusalem, hoping to head out from there to Beit Shemesh. Uriel, a Haredi from the Caucasian Mountains who lives in Pisgat Ze’ev, said it was the first time he had ever been in Shoafat and Beit Hanina. When asked if he had any security concerns, he responded “we live in a land of miracles, and will be protected.”
Among other things, I said that while I personally would prefer that Tel Aviv be the capital of Israel and Ramallah be the capital of a future Palestinian state, clearly the overwhelming majority of Israelis and Palestinians feel otherwise. Thus, anyone who thinks it is possible to find a solution to the conflict which is not based on West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine is deluding themselves.