I has been four years since I last visited Jerusalem. This city combines world religion, an ever present conflict, bad local beer until sunrise, soothing lemonade at Jerusalem hotel and people of many cultures getting on with their everyday lives. When you think of it you could easily choose a more practical destination, like the beaches of Greece, the surf of Sri Lanka or the nightlife of Berlin. But Jerusalem has this magnetic attraction. Everyday I tell myself ”Come on Carl, don’t make it another one of those 04 a.m. nights…” And I fail.
Like last time I am traveling together with my good friend Terje Carlsson. Terje has spent the last 10 years of his life roaming back and forth to this part of the world sometimes seeking refuge from the boring swedish lifestyle, sometimes fleeing back to the same detestable, safe and comfortable ground of the patria. The filth in the street, the hard headed religious people, the need for a liver change, the political status quo… I can line up many arguments for staying at home. I can also line up a longer list for buying a plane ticket with the holy city as destination. Let’s try, follow me for a few lines and pictures.
This is Noam. He is a bipolar saxophone player, one of the creatures of the night that come out when the scorching heat of the day has passed. Jewish, muslim, christian? In Jerusalem most young people don’t care, or at least they don’t express it. When a regular day offers you military patrols with automatic rifles and orthodox jews passing you by while the impressing Al Aksa mosque towers up over the Old City. The streets are paved by stone laid down by the crusaders… or was it the ancient Egyptians? The Assyrians? The Persians? The Romans, Byzantines, soldiers of the Arabic caliphate? …Ottomans? (I’ll spare you the rest of the list)
During it’s 5000 year old history the city has been destroyed twice, besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, and captured and recaptured 44 times. Apparently I’m not the only one finding the city magnetic and appealing. Situated on high ground the warm breeze from the surrounding desert finds its’ way through the narrow streets. I get up round noon, again having failed to stay out of the waterholes of midnight.
Jerusalem offers something for everybody. Tagging anarchists, partying christian Russians, the local Israeli pot smokers and acid heads, fat couch surfers, upset journalists… We all have a purpose, and we don’t mention the war. Not any of them. We save it for our articles, photo jobs and radio recordings.
A few days ago I played a dj set @ a local radio station, The Voice of Free Jerusalem. I had a blast, pumping out Swedish and international reggae straight into the airwawes of Israel. Many laughs, beers, maybe the odd cigarette. Rootsy vibes. In Jerusalem, the Do-It-Yourself-Culture is strong. This non-commercial radio station makes its’ revenue via the bar downstairs. Keep it rocking people, impossible is nothing.
Yesterday we were invited to Ronny Pearlman, an impressive lady fighting for human rights. Originally from the Czech Republic her family suffered the oppression of the nazis. Today she fights for better human treatment of the Palestinians crossing into Jerusalem from Ramallah. By standing at the Qalandia check point (close to where three plaestinians were shot dead last week -Aug 2013-), Ronny acts as a witness and reports to the UN if soldiers violate the rights of Palestinians.
Invited to Ronny’s colorful home we cooked her a traditional meal of fish, potatoes and spinach stew. (pretty cute in that apron hu?)
Ronny is 68 years old. I admire her spirit, her unwillingness to accept the policies imposed on her and the people she does not know but supports. When the last lights of day dimmed outside we gathered in her living room along with some of her friends. We discussed the current situation in Syria, news on the occupation of Palestine and life in general. We listened, we discussed and we laughed. Ronny gives me hope. We need more ladies of this sort.
On my way to one of my favorite places, Versavee café, I walked behind a jewish family on the way to prayer. The wall on the left is the wall surrounding the old city. The slope leads down to Jaffa Gate where Versavee is located in a small alley. It’s one of the few places in Jerusalem selling Chimay and other Belgian classics. The coffee is great, the setting is even better.
The stone pillar in the middle of the inner court is a remain from the Roman empire. Dated to 70 AD it is one in the great ancient networks of milestones erected by the Romans all the way to Rome. Today it is used as a flowerpot stand. Works fine. Jerusalem, full of people, injustices, love, passion, religion, evening breeze, an odd place full of history. See you here next time.