July 29, 2005, Jerusalem -- In the center of town, on Ben Yehuda street, there is a festival going on: a trapeze team is doing acrobatics in the air; a tightrope walker is balancing his act; two jugglers are passing knives back and forth; a magic show for children has just come to applause; and all along the “Midrachov” (main pedestrian street), the street venders, from nuts to hot dogs, vend their goods.
A mother smiles at her child; a couple dances to the jazz band playing on the stairs in front of Bank Hapoalim; a man exhales, releasing streams of content cigarette smoke; a stooped man will take your picture for five shekel; the beggars will give you a red string in return for your generosity; two mimes walk by, their faces masked white; the fireworks explode, lighting the sky in colorful rain. It is summer in Jerusalem.
Still, is this mood the reality? The events of the past few weeks seem to say that it is not.
I wander over to a cotton candy stand, and ask a man how he balances this regular summer eve with the irregular current events. “Just because I’m having a good time doesn’t mean that I don’t know what’s going on.” What is going on? I ask. “Israel is about to embark on a civil war,” he replies in reference to the nation’s split on whether or not the planned evacuation from Gaza will explode in Israel’s face. “So”, I question, “what are you doing about it?” “Me? What should I do?”
That seems to be the question, “What should I do?” Of course, being Israeli, there are those that have it all figured out. They say the government should do this and Prime Minister Sharon should do that; the soldiers should disobey orders to pull people from their homes in Gaza, or that soldiers should be severely penalized if they dare disobey orders. But, when asked, “What are you going to do?” most Israelis, uncharacteristically, have nothing to say. Even the cab drivers, notorious for their opinions, are mute when confronted with this question.
There are those tens of thousands that are active in their opposing of the disengagement plan, but the majority is not. The ironic thing is, besides for a few orange t-shirts and bracelets, life in mostly anti-disengagement Jerusalem goes on with virtually no change, not unlike life in mostly pro-disengagement Tel Aviv. So, what real difference is there between those who see the backing out of Gaza as a problem and those who see it as a solution?
All the responses given seem to imitate that of the man by the cotton candy stand: they just plain and simply do not know what to do. There seems to be a lack of leadership – not only in orange Jerusalem but in blue Tel Aviv as well.
“We will take it from there,” is a woman’s response to what will be after the disengagement. “But, do you think,” I ask, “it is worth the risk, pulling out and not really knowing the consequences? After all, the terrorist groups have declared that Israel's disengagement is a clear demonstration that terror prevails”?
“These are desperate times and they call for desperate measures,” she says.
“So, is this lack of leadership, both in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, the only thing they have in common?” I ask a person sitting near me on an Egged bus.
“No,” he says. “We are all Jews – and that is part of the problem. We are too Jewish.”
Or, maybe it’ll be the solution.