At the beginning of this week, the Hurva (literally ‘ruin’) synagogue in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City was rebuilt. This synagogue has a long history of being destroyed and rebuilt, and this particular re-dedication was seen as a symbol of Jewish strength and the Jewish presence in Jerusalem.
And, of course, with the feeling of a Jewish strength comes the feeling of an opposing presence in Jerusalem – the belief that the Jewish presence is not the correct one. For this dedication, 3000 police were deployed across Jerusalem, correctly anticipating it would cause a big reaction. And it did. Hamas declared a “day of rage” and riots and protests occurred across the city. About 80 people were arrested, some were shot, others injured… but I think it sounds worse than it was.
Our dorms are located right on the border of East Jerusalem and we live surrounded by Arab villages. Yet I don’t feel scared. I feel like this is part of my life, living amongst Jews and Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians. From our classrooms, we saw riot police guarding our school. From our cafeteria, we heard the sounds of firecrackers and gun shots (often shot in the air to scare people, not to actually murder). A Jewish policeman who was shot was taken to the hospital right next to us, Hadassah hospital. Yet our lives continued as normal, as this day of rage passed. The only difference was that I didn’t go into the Old City that day, as our school warned us that it actually was dangerous, and I’ve stopped walking alone at night.
I think I understand how people live in this country and don’t feel scared all the time. Yes, you’re probably surrounded by more enemies than your average day in Canada, but this is the life you choose for yourself. You choose to fight and to learn which fight is the right fight. We chose to come here. I didn’t choose to pick a side, I chose to come and learn. Learn how to see both sides, learn how to appreciate the delicate situation we are in. So I don’t feel rage. I feel proud this synagogue was rebuilt because it is a signal of the preservation of Jewish life in Israel for centuries. And I understand why others are upset – because they want to have a signal of the preservation of Arab life in Israel for centuries. I just don’t think I need to protest and riot to show that.
So the day of rage has passed, and we’re left under this ‘calm.’ The question remains: will this calm ever last? or are we merely waiting for the next day of rage to occur?