Why Stay In Jerusalem? Activism! / Michael Solsberry

During the sixties, in the USA, groups of whites went down to Mississippi to be part of the struggle against institutional racism. They were beaten and arrested, society mocked them and called them naïve, they were considered traitors because they fought side by side with blacks. But with hindsight we find that they were in fact part of a massive civil rights movement that bequeathed us concepts of justice and changed history. 

I remember all that when I pick my way through teargas launchers in Silwan, when I’m beaten and arrested in Sheikh Jarrah and when I’m witness to more home demolitions in Issawiyah. Like Mississippi at the time, Jerusalem is a city that does not belong to a third of its residents. Palestinian residents of Jerusalem do not benefit from the same health, education, employment or housing services that are available to the city’s Jewish residents. Laws of a racial nature permit the eviction of these people from their homes.

But Jerusalem, precisely due these conditions, affords unique potential for common struggle based on equal rights. It invites us to find deeper meaning in the fact that we are here – deeper than “Big Brother” and empty individualism and deeper than religious dogma that has lost its original meaning. It permits us by way of the Palestinian community’s physical proximity to be part of a historical process that will, like Martin Luther King’s movement, influence the future of all of us. 

The Solidarity movement, of which I am a member, gives an opportunity to all who have thrown up their hands over the city’s future, all who want to change and to influence in more ways than passively casting a vote at the ballot box, all who are in despair over the harsh realities of eternal war to participate and become part of the struggle for a different Jerusalem. Mississippi is calling us.

Solidarity demonstration, Jerusalem, September 2010. Photo: Oren Ziv, Activestills.

 

This article was originally published in Time Out, in Hebrew.