I wandered into a political rally. For the religious right.
Prima Kings Hotel in the background, Conservative center to my left (outside of the picture)
The day after my unsettling bus experience, it seems that my fate was not to ride a bus all the way to Emek Refaim. At first, I stood waiting patiently for an acceptable bus after I got to King George Street. After about 15 minutes, though, I looked at a (handwritten) sign that I'd originally taken as a roommate ad or something, and picked out of the 20 or so words 2 that I knew -- "Not Travel" and "Autobus". The sign also listed all of the buses that went to (or near) Emek Refaim.
I sighed, and figured with an Iced Aroma (I've given in to the smoothie coffee movement in Israel), I could make the trek. I started walking, and noticing things. The police blockade of the road. The lack of any cars or buses at all on the street worried me for a few minutes, until I noticed the hordes of dati (Orthodox) teens dashing down the street all around me. Easily identifiable in their strata of religiousity, they sport hooded sweatshirts with Hebrew writing, and either baggy pants or jeans with tzitzit hanging out or knee-length denim skirts, and big Jansport-ish backpacks bouncing on their backs. They carry cell phones and key chains, hang in large groups, and many have orange ribbons hanging from their backpacks, an artifact from the disengagement from two years ago.
I heard a dull roar as I walked with these kids, that eventually turned into a loud array of sound. I thought I was walking to a parade, or a street fair at the Great Synagogue, and only as I approached the main stage did I realize I had stumbled on a political rally. Thankfully, I ran into a classmate from Hebrew U named Itay, who took me under his wing and explained to me the ideas behind this rally. I welcomed his (Austrailian) English interpretation, as my Hebrew is still spotty at best.
This rally was by and for the religious right parties in the government. They are opposed to Annapolis and refuse the idea of a two-state solution. Their slogans include (paraphrased and some translated from Hebrew):
* We don't discuss Jerusalem. We don't divide Jerusalem. We don't give up Jerusalem.
* Ehud Olmert ran from the police to Annapolis (it rhymes in Hebrew, too).
* Condaleeza Rice, we don't want to be the next Iraq.
* Leave Israel Alone, God Takes Care of Us.
Itay explained to me what was going on, and translated a few of the speeches from different settlement (Israelis live in areas the West Bank and other highly Palestinian places in Israel) leaders and politicians. We talked to a few girls who explained what they don't believe in (giving up land), but had a hard time telling us what they do believe in (your guess is as good as theirs).
I think that it was good I attended the rally. I wasn't so much a participant as a sociologist, but there's really nothing like this. I can take pictures and "blob" about my experiences, show pictures and teach constructively, but when push comes to shove, my learners are never going to truly understand the circumstances of the rally, and what it felt like to see it and be a part of it. Thanks to Itay, though, I'm starting to think I can begin to discuss the complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As I bid him a "g'day mate," in traditional Austrailian fashion (Just kidding. I'm not that cheesy. But I did thank him profusely, and think to myself, "I want him to be MY teacher!"), by the gas station where our streets diverge, I walked home and really thought about the people at the rally.
The makeup of the rally (about 30,000 people, and right in front of the Conservative Center in Jerusalem) was mostly 15-20 year-old Orthodox youth who have already started, or will soon start, their Army or National service. There were few "children" and few "adults". The adolescents ruled the scene, and reveled in their freedom at the one youth event where they can mingle openly with boys. There was an area of males-only and females-only, but that was optional -- and these kids enjoyed their freedom.
Maybe one day everybody in this region will observe the freedom they deserve - freedom from injustice and freedom from terror.
A settlement leader or Knesset (former?) member speaks on a beautifully Israeli stage. (Sorry, I don't know names.)
Picture of one of the main slogans. Sorry my camera didn't adapt to the nighttime hullaballoo.