“He had discovered a great law of human action, without knowing it – namely, that in order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to attain.” Adventures of Tom Sawyer
So we’ve been having the heat wave of the century here. It’s oppressively disgustingly hot. And there’s rarely relief here, buildings don’t usually have AC, and the breeze just blows more hot air around. Classes are tough, without any AC, and I’m now used to standing up with wet pant legs from all the sweat.
Needless to say, we got outta Dodge and went to Jerusalem. I had an appointment with the American consulate there on Friday morning, but we went on Thursday night, not only to get out of the heat in Ramallah (not like there’s no heat in Jerusalem, it only being 10 km south, but there are more places with AC!), but also because of Friday morning traffic between Ramallah and Jerusalem. It’s not just rush hour traffic. Because it’s Ramadan, a lot of Muslims want to attend Friday prayers in the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City in Jerusalem. Al-Aqsa Mosque is the second oldest mosque in Islam after the Qa’aba in Mecca (Saudi Arabia) and is third in holiness and importance after the mosques in Mecca and Medina (also in Saudi Arabia). Al-Aqsa holds up to 400,000 worshipers at a time. During Ramadan, the area is filled to virtual capacity.
And yet. This year, Israeli police “will restrict the entrance of Palestinian worshipers to the prayer session at the Temple Mount compound.” Men aged 45-50 can enter only with a special permit; men over the age of 50 can enter freely. Women aged 30-45 can enter only with a special permit; women over the age of 45 can enter freely, as can worshipers with Israeli (blue) identity cards. In fact, Israel closed the Qalandia checkpoint (the checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem) last Friday morning, not allowing cars to pass from early morning until late afternoon, and it was expected that the same would happen yesterday (haven’t heard from anyone yet on this). So transportation is ground to a halt between Jerusalem and Ramallah on Friday mornings.
So we were lucky enough to have a place to stay in Jerusalem for the night and went down Thursday early evening. We arrived right at the call to prayer to break the fast, and got the most delicious shwarma from a vender right in front of the Damascus Gate.
On Friday morning, bright and early, I headed over to the American consulate. It was my first time, visiting my consulate or embassy in a foreign country. A very interesting experience to say the least! There was security all over the entire street in front of the walled compound, and only a veryyy small door with a little sign over the top saying “American Consulate.” [Side note: most countries do not recognize Israel’s claim to Jerusalem as the capital of their country, to not legitimate territorial expansion by military conquest. The UN Security Council has declared the Israeli annexation of greater Jerusalem as “null and void.” So most countries have their embassies in Tel Aviv, and then some have consulates in Jerusalem to deal with citizens in the West Bank.] There were black SUVs all on the sidewalk in front of the compound (really, not too different from the rest of the cities in this area – everyone just parks on the sidewalks), but the amount of polo-wearing, muscled guys with sunglasses was amusing. They wouldn’t let me in until the person I was meeting came down to escort me through security, but inside the walls was just a beautiful oasis, really. Everyone was really friendly and it was nice to be around professional Americans again!
Yesterday was kind of a wasted day, after that, however. My local phone stopped working and then the battery died, so I had to walk around around in the disgusting heat trying to find a place where I had enough signal to call, thank goodness I was in the Israeli part of town where I could at least drink water in public! I was going to head to Bethlehem today, but decided it was just too hot, and I hadn’t been home since Thursday evening. Maybe I’ll do some studying…
- Israel steps up Jerusalem security at start of Ramadan (cnn.com)
- Restrictions for First Friday of Ramadan in Jerusalem (israelnationalnews.com)
- U.S. Policy toward Jerusalem (fpif.org)