Monday, January 5, 2009
I know I've been bad about keeping up with this thing, but it's the holidays and my print shop has been busy, and I should thank God for that.
Speaking of God, I've been thinking a lot about religious pluralism lately. My mother was an Armenian from Palestine (RIP). She was born in the Old City several years before the 1948 war, lived in what was then called Transjordan (aka East Jerusalem) after the war, and moved to the states before 1967. I still have family in the Old City and the West Bank, in Bethlehem. Every Christmas, Palm Sunday, and Easter she would whip out the family album- photos of from the 30's to the 50's of the Old City- and tell me about what life was like as a child before the city was split in half, before the mass murders, riots, firebombs, and the abject racism took hold of the landscape forever. She would tell me every feast day of the processions to Bethlehem, the services at the Church of the Nativity where both Muslims and Christians would worship the virgin birth together (yes, that's right, Muslims AND Christians). She'd tell me of the Passover preparations in her mixed neighborhood, about the processions on Palm Sunday, and about the general atmosphere of a tolerant city. Isn't that nuts? I'll say that again: she called JERUSALEM- the tinderbox of Mideast conflict- a "tolerant" city. She also told me that deep down everyone: Mizrahim, Sephardim, Armenian, Greek or Arab was pretty sectarian, but that it was kept under wraps because people had to live together, and work together, and, in the case of my grandfather, make money together. She also told me when I started dating not to date Arabs or Greeks, but that's another story.
Obviously, times have changed. Religious tolerance is a joke, as evidenced by the "Separation Wall" or "Barrier Wall" (whatever pleasant euphemism for caged in misery the Israeli's want to tack on that thing) that cuts through a 900 year old cemetery where my some of my ancestors are buried. Yes, I do take that wall personally. The Armenian and Greek monks at the Holy Sepulchre and the Church of the Nativity have taken to bludgeoning one another with broomsticks over square centimeters of encroachment in their shared pavillions, again and again. And again. That goes for Copts too).
Hasidim in Jerusalem have beaten women for "immodest dress" and have threatened to kill an openly gay city councilman (And you thought your job was bad, huh Beto?).
The West Bank and Gaza have been turned into two pseudo-independent "states" thanks to the fight between the wholly corrupt Fatah Party and the Islamist Militant Hamas Party. Hey guys, what ever happened to Pan Arabism?
Tomorrow, while Gazan's are being massacred and a few dipshits who got a hold of some outdated Soviet technology try to deflect the might of Israel's US funded armaments further antagonizing an already hostile neighbor, I will be spending Theophany with a Sunni Muslim from Tyre. We will eat balawa, drink aqui and we will mourn for the Graveyard that Gaza has turned into. We will mourn for the Holy Land, we will mourn for peace, with the thought that one day, maybe we can visit our families again. Later that night, I will visit my ailing aunt Sona, one of my last living immediate relatives, and we will talk about what an asshole Ehud Olmert is and wonder what ever happened to our family's reparation checks, and then I will go home and call my children's Godmother- an Ashkenazi Jew- and we'll have a good cry. I'll remember that day 2009 years ago when a Persian an Ethiopian and an Arab called a Jewish baby King and Son of God, and I'll pray for the babies of Gaza and Israel who, much like the ones massacred by Herod, suffered and died needlessly thanks to the egos and prejudice of adults.
On this the eve of Theophany, I'm thinking of Fairuz, and I'm thinking of tolerance and unity, and this song goes out to the refugees of this world.
Performed by Fairuz
Lyrics & music: Rahbani Brothers
Cartoon by: Mr. Fish
Videos via: BBC News, You Tube