Bethlehem- Stream of Consciousness
My personal diary entry for November 24, 2016.
(This post has not been edited on purpose)
I met my colleague (and after today, my friend) in Gush Etzion. It is a lovely community as are all of the developed settlements.
The bus driver played Michael Jackson the entire way there.
Unsaid friend (If I mention their name it will put them at risk) first showed me Bet Jala
Who the fuck writes this text as historic tourist attraction material?
This is in area C. I felt safe and the energy was chill, it was good.
Jews patronize the restaurants and it feels normal.
Then we went to Bethlehem.
The energy was different.
Even though it has a strong Xtian community (Lies work both ways, social media says the PA kicked the Xtains out- I was there, it’s not true.) Duh, the Xtians are the privileged ones in Pali society. They create all the tourism dollars. It looked like a massive Xmas fest. (Xmas is in a few weeks)
The graffiti is in all PA territories. Each one tells the story of a terrorist/martyr.
There are mosques, but they are empty. If 17,000 people are in one section of the city and there are 3 mosques in a 1 km radius, and only 1,000 people- say 300 attend each mosque, then the number of observant Muslims is staggeringly low.
Bethlehem thus is rather secular. I saw tons of women without hijabs. Easily as many with…
There is business, commerce, dinning, shopping. Although I saw no cafes, hmm?
No parks, no green space, only one museum and it was Xtian.
On one hand you have UNRWA refugee camps and on another you have people living in grand houses. The Palis who earn a handsome income do so because they have work permits for Jlem. The cost of living is a fraction of what it costs in Bethlehem. Essentially, the person who has the luxury of earning an Israeli salary yet has the low cost of living as a benefit of being Pali- is experiencing personal gain.
There is no “normalization” in this scenario. However, such a privileged person would not want to upset either side because they require a perfect balance in order for their economic advantage to work.
So many Europeans own land and real estate in Bethlehem. The Italians, the Germans, it was unreal. And when the UN and UNRWA hire for positions, many are European- not Pali. So who is the real occupier? I say Europe based on my observation. The conflict is an ATM for everyone. Everyone except the Palis.
They are the losers in this game of chess. They are the ultimate pawns that will never be made the queen.
I noticed a change in the energy in Bethlehem. It felt different than Beit Jala.
Since BJ is in area C it is under the PA – but with IDF oversight and Israel controls construction, permits, etc. It is very secure and Jews and Arabs interact freely.
Yet in Bethlehem, there is not one Jew. Interesting that I didn’t see the traditional graffiti of hate propaganda in BJ, but of course Bethlehem is a notorious and deeply PA place.
I suddenly felt out of place- even though Bethlehem is a very Xtian city. The celebration of painted murals of terrorists is inescapable. There is not one square inch of concrete not dedicate to the hate against us Jews.
It was illegal for me to be there as an Israeli citizen.
I know I was taking a risk, but justified that I had minimized it since I was with a Pali who was a resident and citizen of Bethlehem.
When we went to the restaurant, the server not only didn’t look at me, but also never acknowledged me or asked me a question. My friend ordered for us and of course spoke entirely in Arabic- even though English is everyone’s second language. There is no use of Hebrew at all there…
When I returned to Jerusalem last night, I felt the energy change. I felt like I was home. I felt like I had just spent 10 hours somewhere else in the Middle East, far, far away… I love how I am treated in Israel.
The Middle East is an inherently sexist place. Israel has its own version of it though and it is unique only to Israel.
In Bethlehem, I felt like I was beneath everyone (not because I am Jewish or even Israeli, but because of my gender).
In Israel the sexism is posited differently. I am treated well as a woman, I am treated like royalty. Men will stop what they are doing to help me, assist me with anything even when I am too proud to ask.
They want to take care of us. At first I didn’t like it – I am only accustom to asserting MY will. Then my girlfriend once said –
“This is a sexist country and you are going to love it.”
She knows I am a post-modern, Camille Paglia feminist.
Yet much to my surprise, she was right.
I am happy to be around real men.
Hyper masculinity has been merged with the sensitivity of the Jewish soul.
The years of military, the years of the international community hating on us has somehow bred an interesting species of the Jewish male here.
They have this inherent sense of responsibility for us.
I am every man’s sister or daughter.
Accept for when I’m not…
There is a directness that has zero nuances, which I find refreshing.
Women might be put off or even hurt by this, but it saves much time.
I suppose my Americaness is well suited for the aggression Israeli men possess- in fact my Americaness can harness their energy and feed my own sense of who I am as a woman.
I do what I want.
I say what I want.
I think what I want.
This is permissible here- but you have to own it.
A woman’s dignity commands respect. Nothing else does.
You will earn this respect if you conduct yourself accordingly.
I am surrounded by women whose faces are literally painted on.
The amount of liquid eyeliner and false eyelashes is so numbing.
I am surrounded by a copy, of a copy, of a copy, of a copy.
I will stick with my nude look; my face, my skin doesn’t need to be plastered and suffocated. My eyes should be seen and not camouflaged.
Tinted moisturizer has and always will be my best friend.
A coat of lip gloss and I’m good to go.
Three to four inch spiked heels surround me.
I laugh to myself. I remember my days at Saks Fifth Avenue as a resident artist.
Standing on the marble floor for 8 hours each day and looking like I came out of a can… processed and perfect.
Today I am not relying on any crutch. A man can see my soul through my eyes now.
I don’t have to hide, manipulate or become. I can just be.
I smile now- it is new for me, yet I do not recall making this a conscious choice- it happens all the time without me being aware.
They can see my heart every time I smile.
Every man in Israel is my brother and my father.
I respect them and they respect me.
I do not need a man.
Israel was never about that.
I belong to all of them and they belong to me.
Not in a sexual context, but something much deeper.
Jewish women need to talk about these things.
I am here.