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55. Preponderance of the small

Updated: Nov 26, 2020


Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. I do not care what is written in papers or legal documents or websites—and I do not care what politicians say. I do not really care whether Jerusalem is recognised as the capital of Israel or not. I am not of Israel. I do know, however, that Jerusalem is the real capital. I know because I have compared it to Tel Aviv. I went there and left my clothes on the beach, even my wallet, and nobody touched them. Honest Israelis, honest Jews and honest Arabs. I looked at the Tel Aviv skyline and saw the 1930s. Oh, modern city! This was the Art Deco hope of the future, and, a little further along the front, I saw a mural dedicated to struggle. A mural dedicated to MLK and other saints so commonly worshipped in England. Outpost of modernity in Arabia (I do not think it can last).

This is a razor blade country. It is very narrow and sharp, so many people have cut themselves on it. Why do you care, English socialists? Why do you care, Muslim Brothers in Malaysia? Why do you care, philosophers in New Hampshire? There is no oil here. You are not rational! You proclaim your secular credentials, but you still know a Holy Land—the Holy Land—when you see it. So you have opinions: Jews, they have twenty or thirty opinions on this matter; Muslims, one or two views; gentiles, around five or six. None of these views are about Tel Aviv. This city cannot last. It is too modern, it is a provincial intrusion. The gay pride marches and holidaymakers from Denmark mingle and it is just Las Vegas all over again. I sit in my bunk and listen to the Russian above speak about the girl he is chasing. He has come here from Tatarstan—land of tooth decay—to find a girl he knew at high school. His wife understands and so does his child; he shows me a picture on his phone. This is his quest in the Holy Land, a most profane task! “My wife understands…”; somehow, I think not. Somehow, I see disaster for this project.

Ah, it is a bus trip from modernity to the real capital. The suburbs have arrived, a contrivance of nationalism. The hospital has arrived and I paused to watch a column of ants, a stream, falling down the hill. The chemists and tattoo parlours have arrived and so have the girls with rifles slung on their backs. They pause for a picture: this is essential propaganda, it plays well in the Midwest; the smiling blonde with a rifle, exiled Polish stock, versus the suicide bomber shrouded in asexual robes.

“It’s apartheid! The Arabs have one bus station and the Jews another!” Indeed, I have visited both—oh lucky man of English blood—and seen that, as they say, the Jews have modern complex, filled with tchotchkes, and the Arabs have what looks like a petrol station forecourt. End the discrimination! Oh yes, indeed, end the discrimination and you will see Jew and Arab blood will become one, it will mix together in the streets and the mothers will cry equally well from air conditioned apartment blocks.

These are relics of nationalism, merely young dinosaurs. The real city is a solid cube nested within modernity. The walls are high and there is a banner commemorating the Kaiser’s last visit, sometime before the first war. Germany still casts a shadow in the Holy Land. The cube itself, the maze, is divided and segregated; among the ancient corridors I bump into an ATM, plugged into some crusader’s doorway. Yes, here Sharon had an apartment; he is occupying this territory. It is claimed block by block and flat by flat; the holy city is conquered one door at a time. The holy microcosm, within a Jewish state an Arab city and above a Jewish wall an Arab temple—well, not quite a temple.

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