With the Women in Black

"What occupation are you protesting?" I asked.

Ted Belman,

Ted Belman
Ted Belman

Friday in Jerusalem is like Saturday in America, only ten times better. In America, Saturday is a day unto itself. In Jerusalem, Friday is a prelude to the Shabbat. And most people here honour the Shabbat.

Shabbat is not just a day of worship like Sunday used to be in America, it is a day that is much anticipated and
Shabbat is not just a day of worship like Sunday used to be in America.
much prepared for. Food must be bought and cooked prior to Shabbat, a bottle of wine must be bought for saying kiddush, flowers must be bought to grace the home, and the children and their clothes must be scrubbed in preparation. All this so that the families can welcome in the Shabbat, considered a bride, at sundown.

On Friday, I usually travel to the Jewish market, also known as the shuk, to buy everything I need for Shabbat. Wow, what an experience that is. The place is jam-packed with thousands getting ready for Shabbat. Nobody is casual; everyone is rushing to get everything done on time. The vendors are capitalizing on this business by working as fast as they can to take your money and give you your change. They are also hocking their wares with the loudest voices I have ever heard. I guess there is an art to it.

Sure, I could buy my stuff elsewhere, but I would miss the atmosphere and the fruits that are straight from the farms, much better than what can be bought elsewhere. And everything is cheaper. Fruit, of all kinds, sell for about $1.00 a pound. Then there are fresh dates, figs and nuts in great abundance. And did I mention the halva? Delicious.

On the way home on my bike, I came upon Women in Black who were protesting the "occupation". About twenty men and women in all, Jews and Gentiles. Most of them were retired; all spoke excellent English. Then there was a beautiful Arab woman of about thirty years old and a beautiful American girl of about twenty. I went over to talk with all of them.

"What occupation are you protesting?" I asked.

They knew it was rhetorical. The Arab woman said that we were occupying Palestinian land. What makes it "Palestinian land"? "My grandfather has a deed to land and you built on it."

"Why didn't you go to the courts?"

"We did and they turned us down."

"There must have been a good legal reason."

"Jewish courts are biased."

"Yeah, tell me about it." But we weren't talking about the same bias.

I said that anyone with a deed is entitled to own the land, but I asked about all the rest of the land: "What makes that Arab?"

"Palestinians are the indigenous people. We lived there before Jews came. In fact, Palestinians lived there since 70 AD." She was careful to make the case for "Palestinians", rather than "Arabs". You can imagine what I had to say about that whopper. But she wasn't buying.

I kept pressing the issue of what makes it their land and many said that the United Nations in 1948 divided the land. I pointed out that the relevant resolution was contrary to the legal rights the Jews had since 1922 and had no legal basis. Most had no idea what I was talking about.

Finally, one person said that "it was only a letter", referring, I am sure, to the Balfour Declaration. "The Mandate, what's that?" The Arab woman added that the Mandate gave the Jews the right to immigrate to Palestine, but that it also gave the Arabs that right. I pointed out the truth about it. She would have none of it.

"You are building all these settlements and surrounding the Arab villages."

"On the contrary, it is the Arab villages that are surrounding the Jewish settlements."

"Israel provides water to all the settlements, but not to the Arab villages."

"Who told you?"
They were all basking in their self-righteousness.

"What are you doing here?"

"I made Aliyah. I am participating in the Jewish National Liberation Movement."

"What?" That got them going.

They couldn't resist attacking Israel as the worst of the worst, in sound bite fashion, without any depth. You see, they were all basking in their self-righteousness. The worse Israelis are, the more self-righteous they are for standing up to them. But the American woman seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say.

Finally, a young policewoman who had been attempting to get me to move along got insistent. I am not sure why she didn't want such a discussion to take place. It was very civil, though at times heated. I decided not to give her a hard time, although it would have been interesting to see if I could be arrested for exercising my freedom of speech or not obeying.

Besides, I had to hurry home to welcome in the Shabbat.