THE MOUNT OF OLIVES
What I loved about the Mount of Olives was that it was literally ‘across the street’ from the Old City.
The Old City is situated on a high place. Where it ends, the land slopes dramatically down to the east, into the valley of Kidron, then abruptly up again, to be the Mount of Olives.
In between the two is a highway, where all the traffic must be funneled that wants to get from one side of town to the other.
It would not be possible in an American town for something as rural as the Mount of Olives to exist right across the street from the congestion of the Old City.
There it is quiet. There are olive groves, and rubble, and children riding burros. An old Jewish cemetary, behind ancient stone walls. It is really from a different century.
The walk up the mount is very steep; it is along a path so old that the steps have disintegrated. The steepness of the climb reminded me of Ferryville.
At the top are Palestinian apartments; the sounds of children; the chirp of pet birds from the apartments: canaries, or perhaps parakeets. Wash hanging on the line. The stray cats are plentiful, though puny. They are mostly white with black spots, although there are also some vivid calicos. None are tame enough to approach.
At the top of the Mount are also churches and other things. Then, going a few blocks beyond, suddenly it is Palestinian territory, in very poor repair. Remarkable beautiful old structures gutted and abandoned; garbage in all the gullies; and yet also apartments, modest but well-kept, with more laundry hanging on the line, and children playing outside. If the U.S.A. gives to Israel $1000-dollars-a-year–per-person, where is that money going? It is certainly not going here, much. That was obvious.
But it was beautiful! What was inhabited, was simple and pretty. And you can’t go wrong with a spot like that, so steep, so many places for multi-level living. Such vistas! So many hills and valleys, all bunched up together!
The children are beautiful, of course. And friendly! Very willing to smile hello. A little boy no more than 3 came out to the end of his sidewalk and waved to me, ‘Hello! Hello! Hello!’ I said the same thing back to him. We repeated this several times as I went down the street.
But what have the children been forced them to learn, between the ages of three and eight? The older boys, say 8 – 10, pretended to shoot me. Right at my chest they would point, ‘Bang bang!’ When they would do this, I would pull a sad face and say, ‘no, no bang bang.’ I crossed my hands over my chest.
Probably they are just playing their own version of Cowboys and Indians, namely Jews and Arabs. Probably having the guns removed from their lives would help them to find other things to play with, and other antagonists to fight.
What is also visible here is the Wall that Israel is building. From the east side of the Mount of Olives, you can see it on two different hills, snaking its way through two different areas of the east side. The logic behind the particular paths was perfectly incomprehensible to the naked eye. I thought to myself sadly, in this city of many walls, here are more, and worse, of the same. How long until these Walls come down?
But there was another, much better surprise: high mountains, off in the distance to the east! They were dim in the haze of the day, but clearly there. Like in a fairytale. What a magnificent addition to the horizon! These are not visible from the other side of the Mount.