The street that leads down from the Mount of Olives in East Jerusalem to the Jericho Road is steep, narrow and twisty. There’s barely room for one vehicle at a time even without the odd collection of cars parked every which way lining every fraction of a shoulder on either side. It’s a street that must be negotiated at slow speed with close attention to the danger posed by clueless pedestrians and aggressive drivers who might spring from any of the multitude of walkways and driveways hidden like booby traps all along the path down.
I’ve driven that road a number of times now and I don’t exaggerate when I say that each time I reach the bottom in one piece I’m amazed I’ve beat the odds again and escaped with life, limb and rental car intact.
Not long ago, I was in Israel doing some last-minute research on “The Butane Gospel,” which will be coming out in March. Ask me about it sometime and I’ll give you an earful. Anyway, the rental car company won’t let you drive their vehicle into the West Bank, so I hired a Palestinian cab driver to haul me to Bethlehem. He hit that Mount of Olives road like a snow boarder on acid. Even under ideal conditions, I’m not a good passenger. But put me in a speeding cab on a treacherous road carelessly steered by a driver more interested in making a point than watching the dangerous road ahead and you’re apt to see my breakfast on the back seat.
All the way to and from Bethlehem, the driver — let’s call him Adham — loudly bemoaned the injustices suffered by the Palestinian people. They were voiceless pawns at the mercy of the major powers who appropriated their lands to create the nation of Israel. The world turns a deaf ear to their cries when Israel targets the innocent who suffer and die right along with the guilty when Israel attacks.
He points to Jewish settlements being built on the east slope of the Mount of Olives and elsewhere in Palestinian territory. Why is there not more of a worldwide outcry when Israel does this in defiance of numerous U.N. resolutions? Where is the outrage in America when Israel defies President Obama’s call for a halt to the building of Jewish settlements in the West Bank?
Just as I’m starting to see the merits of some of his near hysterical arguments, he insists that current world events can best be described as a widespread conspiracy against the Palestinians where Osama bin Laden serves as an agent of the CIA. What other reason could there be for the fact that he hasn’t been captured yet? I’m lost at that point.
The truth is, this mixture of passion, rational argument, hysteria, reverence, devotion, outrage and insanity seems as natural here as the tortuous road down from the Mount of Olives. After all, they call this the Holy Land; where fresh-looking, nonchalant Israeli youths sit in trendy bistros eating burgers with automatic weapons draped over their shoulders, where some Arab women are forbidden to appear in public without their hair and arms covered and where no women are allowed to come near the “Wailing Wall” — it’s too holy for them — where huge obscenely ornate structures completely overwhelm sites associated with events profound in their message of humility, where nearly hysterical pilgrims push, shove and shoulder each other aside as they scramble to touch and kiss stones where most impartial scholars say nothing happened.
They call this the Holy City. It’s generated more hatred, bloodshed, pain, sorrow, deceit, envy and strife of all types than any place on earth I ever heard of. And based on what I’ve read, seen and heard recently, there’s danger that more will come.
A few years ago, Rabin and Arafat shook hands and took a giant step toward restoring true holiness to Israel and Jerusalem. Rabin was assassinated by a religious extremist and Arafat died under siege. Unless the parties can produce and support the efforts of some true statesmen (or stateswomen), there will be no passable roads to peace and sanity there.
Today, Nov. 27, is the 914th anniversary of the day Pope Urban II launched the first Crusade where “Christian” knights were encouraged to kill as many Muslims as they could find, as it was no sin to slay an infidel. If you believe in prayer, pray that this type of craziness comes to an end — on all sides. Otherwise this treacherous road may wreck us all.
I’m Hink and I’ll see ya.
Wed, November 25, 2009
by Michael Hinkle