Published Dec. 15, 2017
The Ties That Bind Jerusalem
Different religions have their own holy sites in Jerusalem, the city where I’ve spent my entire adult life. The place I believe to be among the most important, however, is a grubby swath of garages, welding shops and furniture stores known as the Talpiot industrial zone. The zone is sacred to no one and unknown to tourists or foreign correspondents. It’s a short walk from my street, so I spend a lot of time there – the industrial zone is where you can find the best hardware store, the cheapest supermarkets, my barber and stores selling balloons for birthday parties, model airplanes or anything else you could ever need.
When President Donald Trump announced on Dec. 6 that the United States would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move its embassy here, Arab leaders called for “days of rage” and a chorus of Western observers predicted an explosion. The predictions were predictable; Jerusalem is always said to be on the brink of catastrophe, and headlines are always reporting “tensions.”
The city is certainly volatile, considering: the proximity of sites holy to Muslims, Christians and Jews, all under Israeli control; the fact that more than one-third of the city’s residents are Palestinians, mostly Muslims, who aren’t Israeli citizens and tend to see Israeli rule as illegitimate; and the city’s existence in a region engulfed in a religious war. But what is truly interesting about Jerusalem is not the proximity of the brink, but the way the city’s residents often refuse to play their part in the script by stepping off.
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