Jerusalem: unified city, divided views
Forty years after the city was unified, it remains split into Arab and Jewish enclaves.
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Though it costs him much more, he says, it's worth it. He worries about the lure of the prosperity his children see in Israel. He's proud that he's not among those who walk up the hill every day to work in Ramat Rachel – at the hotel restaurant, the cleaning crew, or the laundry.Skip to next paragraph
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"The reality is that our people need jobs, so they do what they have to. The problem is that when people meet and merge, they lose their roots," he says. While work is one thing, he says, he's not interested in sending his kids to a school where they'll be asked to read Israeli literature, or play sports with the Jewish kids up the hill.
"Maybe they're right there," he says, "but we're quite distant from each other." .
Katz's view of the city
For a city with only 720,000 residents, the extent to which people do not know each other is astounding. Atoon calls a Ramat Rachel a "settlement," although it isn't; it was founded in 1926 and is inside the Green Line, though it was destroyed three times through history. Katz didn't know that Sur Baher is actually part of Jerusalem, but sees it as just another Arab village hostile to Israel's existence.
Katz met her future husband in high school on the other side of Jerusalem. He had been born on the kibbutz.
"The state didn't give us much either. They worked hard, there was no electricity, and our people were like cannon fodder along the front lines," says Katz, sitting outside a mobile classroom that she has turned into a studio for courses in holistic techniques. Next door are the kibbutz archives she's run for the past decade, and where she's had to add a few new pictures of fallen sons of the kibbutz.
"This was right up against the border and people were afraid to come here," she recalls. But she became the first teacher after families stopped sending their children away to study in safer locales. This was largely a pastoral existence, where the traces of farming life can be found in the signs pointing to organic cherry orchards.
The only real connection with the neighbors, she says, is that Palestinians working in West Jerusalem often take the same bus, but then get off at the stop outside the kibbutz gate and walk home.
"We don't have friendly relations between us," she says. "Right now, the only connection is that some of them, from specific clans, come here to work."
'I can't come and go'
It irks her that Palestinians can come to her kibbutz to work or walk anywhere in Jerusalem, but that it isn't safe for her to go into their neighborhoods. In more than 30 years, she's never gone down to Sur Baher. "I have nothing to look for from them," she says. "I know people who used to go looking for a pair of inexpensive jeans on a Saturday and come back with their cars damaged from the stones."
She says an expanding city is "swallowing up" Ramat Rachel. As Israel has built new Jerusalem neighborhoods – or settlements, depending on one's point of view – Ramat Rachel is becoming part of the city. Today, its name is synonymous with its pool, fitness center, and hotel.
The Arab neighborhoods of the city are like another country. She wouldn't want to partition Jerusalem or cede part to a Palestinian capital, but neither would she want her children to go to school with the Arab kids down the hill.
"I don't feel a part of them," she shrugs. "We live our lives and they live theirs. I don't have any faith in them, I'm sad to say. It's one city now, and let it stay that way."