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Hebrew University
[Hebrew University, Religions & Classics] David Shulman and Amiel Vardi in support of Palestinians against Israelis in "Christmas in Sheikh Jarrah"

Below also Vardi's call for action and thank you letter in Hebrew to the local Palesinians and Israeli fellow-activists for supporting him while in Jail. 

The Department of Comparative Religion at the Hebrew University: David Shulman, Renee Lang Professor of Humanistic Studies. Room 6319, Faculty of Humanities. Phone: 972-2-5883678. E-mail: shulman@prism.as.huji.ac.il. Office hours: Mon 11:00-12:00. http://religions.huji.ac.il/faculty/shulman.html  

Amiel Vardi, The Institute of Arts and Letters, Faculty of Humanities. Email addresses: avardi@mscc.huji.ac.il, Amiel.Vardi@huji.ac.ilavardi@huji.ac.il. Telephone: 025883913. Latin Poetry, its Reception and Hellenistic Sources. Website: http://pluto.huji.ac.il/~donna/classics_doc_rtf.html

Christmas in Sheikh Jarrah

Christmas in Sheikh Jarrah By David Shulman

This time I was sure they’d arrest me—I’d somehow eluded them, without trying to do so, the last three times I was here for the Friday demonstration—but once again it didn’t happen. Maybe I’m too old? Last week they clearly went after the young people. Gabi was standing next to his son, Boaz, who was arrested (though he had done nothing to deserve the honor); Gabi asked the policemen to take him, too, but they refused and pushed him rudely away. It’s almost insulting. We had 27 arrestees who spent the Shabbat as guests of the police in the appalling detention cells in the Russian Compound.

Anyway, I came prepared, with the Phaedrus in my pocket. “That’s some dialogue,” Amiel says to me, “but I’m not sure you’ll be reading it under optimal conditions.” He’s worried: the police have cordoned off Sheikh Jarrah, and they’re also making unpleasant noises about our march through town, even though this demonstration is completely legal, permit and all. Many policemen stand watching us as we gather on King George Street and start handing out the large placards inscribed in Hebrew, Arabic, and English. Bernie gets an Arabic one: “Stop the settlement in Sheikh Jarrah!” It’s a considerable improvement, he says, on the sign he made for himself at his first political demonstration, as President of Hillel, in the 60’s in Montreal. That one read: “Cultural Imperialism Retards the Dialectic.” Hm. Times have changed. Not sure I could march to the barricades under that banner. I’m given a small red plastic horn, purchased in south Hebron, and told to blow it in time with the drums.

Today’s march through town is mostly easy. Last week people threw rotten eggs, and there were some slaps and punches, too. I get soaked by a sudden deluge from a window on the second floor of one of the houses en route. It’s actually almost welcome in the afternoon sun; I look up and see the man who drenched me gloating, happy that he’s found a target. The atmosphere, as in earlier weeks, is carnivalesque. Of course we’re here, as everyone knows, on serious business—getting more serious every week; there are, we are told, another 25 Palestinian families slated for expulsion from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah. But the protest is taking off, and every week there are more demonstrators: some 250 today right at the start, with more joining us as we approach the site of eviction. The police have clearly fanned the flames, probably doubled the crowd, by their all-too-predictable attempts to quell the protest by force. I suppose no one ever really learns from experience.

We stand at the edge of the somber street in Sheikh Jarrah, almost in sight of the stolen houses; and as we chant our cries and slogans, the arrests begin, this time from deep inside the crowd. Plainclothes Shabak (Israel Security Agency—Secret Service) agents, milling among us, grab the activists who spent last weekend, or the one before, in jail. As it happens, in court this week the judge cancelled the police ruling banning these volunteers from Sheikh Jarrah for thirty days. Apparently, the police didn’t get the message; or maybe they didn’t want to get it. Maybe someone higher up gave them an order to disregard the court’s ruling. Or maybe they’re just angry at being mocked, or even—a happy thought—a little jealous. Perhaps they’d prefer to join the protest party;

I’m sure it’s much more fun that what they’re up to. Still, there’s something terrifying about an arrest that happens like that, when a stranger, anonymous, unmarked, suddenly turns against you and starts beating you in fury as he pushes you through the crowd toward the waiting patrol cars. First Amiel is captured, then Koby, then another six; Sarah waves a copy of the judgment in the face of the Shabaknik who is trying to arrest her, but he is utterly uninterested in this document; miraculously, she escapes his clutches and disappears. Leah, our lawyer, is with us, and for once she is reassuring—the police can’t hold them in jail for disobeying an order that has been rescinded. I hope she’s right.

I think something new is happening in Jerusalem. I see it in the young people who bear the brunt of this demonstration, who organize it and lead it and cheerfully face the Border Police and the blue police and, much worse, the clandestine Shabak operators week after week. Once again, many of my students are here. They, I am sure, are our future, and I trust them to see it through. They are clearly feeling the bizarre happiness that so often floods you at such moments—the happiness that naturally flows from saying “no” to self-evident evil.

Hence the drummers and the clowns and, specially for today, the Santa Clauses in brilliant red and even one masquerading demonstrator dressed in an Israeli Army uniform painted totally white, his face and hair also white—the soldiers and the police seem particularly troubled and angered by him and, not unexpectedly, try to arrest him, but I think he manages to get away. As before, the police head for the drummers. As Natasha says to me—she grew up in Communist Czechoslovakia—it’s like in totalitarian regimes; they’re always afraid of drummers, of festive resistance, of the disorder and freedom of masquerade. So, naturally, last week in Sheikh Jarrah they arrested the clowns; you can see an eloquent picture by going here

In a way the whole deep foolishness and wrong are present in that moment. It’s one thing to arrest peace activists like our Ta’ayush veterans, or even to swoop down at random on non-violent demonstrators, many of them young students, many young women, and drag them off to the police vans. But to attack and arrest a clown? Probably from the beginning of human civilization, clowns play out the essence of our freedom and embody, as no one else, the very possibility of speaking truth. They’re also given to a volatile playfulness and an irreducible, insouciant innocence, the true enemies of earnest repression. There is simply no witness like a clown, no one better equipped to plumb the depths of our sadness. Now look closely at the two grim policemen firmly grasping their prey: could anyone look more ridiculous than they? Think of the immense daring, the superhuman courage one needs to arrest a clown. Only a country, or a city, intent upon a great crime would send its soldiers to do battle with clowns. And since, despite my early morning gloom, I’m in an ever-so-slightly optimistic frame of mind after today’s demonstration, after the drums and the masque and the sweet shared moments of defiance, let me follow this hopeful thought as far as it takes me, a Christmas gift for those among us who celebrate this day. Deadly earnestness, for all the vast and brutal machinery that underpins it, is ultimately a disease with a rather poor prognosis. In the end, the clowns—we, that is—will win.

This entry was posted on Saturday, December 26th, 2009






----- Forwarded Message ----
From: Amiel Vardi
To: Taayush Jerusalem ; Taayush general list ; hacampus-lo-shotek
Sent: Wed, 23 December, 2009 12:34:42
Subject: [Hacampus-lo-shotek] Fw: הפגנה שבועית בשייח ג'ראח


English follows Hebrew

צעדת מחאה שבועית מרחבת המשביר לשייח ג'ראח
הצעדה ממערב למזרח ירושלים, במחאה על העוולות הנעשות לציבור הפלסטיני במזרח העיר. הצעדה תסתיים בשייח ג'ראח בהפגנה נגד מפעל ההתנחלות בשכונה, ונגד דיכוי המחאה הפלסטינית.

נצעד ביום שישי בשעה 13:30
מרחבת המשביר ברחוב קינג ג'ורג' פינת בן יהודה
להפגנה בשכונת שייח ג'ראח שתתחיל ב - 15:00

 בשבועות האחרונים מתקיימת מדי יום שישי הפגנה נגד גירוש תושבי שייח ג'ראח מבתיהם. בשבועיים האחרונים ניסתה המשטרה לפזר באלימות את ההפגנות ועצרה 50 אנשים. המחאה מתעצמת ומשבוע לשבוע מצטרפים אנשים רבים לצעדה ולהפגנה שכונה. תקיפות המתנחלים בשכונה נמשכות והופכות לעניין שבשגרה. אל לנו לעמוד מנגד לאלימות המתנחלים ולדיכוי המחאה ההכרחית של הפלסטינים!

 לפרטים- justjerusalem@ gmail.com מאיה 0547423044 או גלי 0544679756
להרשמה להסעות מתל אביב- יעקב מנור 0505733276,
manor12@zahav. net.il

Weekly Protest March from the Mashbir plaza to Sheikh Jarrah
Join a march from West to East Jerusalem in protest of the injustice committed against the Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem. The march will end in Sheikh Jarrah with a protest against the settler enterprise in the neighborhood and the suppression of the Palestinian opposition
The march will start Friday at 13:30
from the Mashbir plaza, on the corner of King George and Ben Yehudah
To a demonstration in Sheikh Jarrah that will begin at 15:00

Every Friday for the past few weeks, there has been a march to Sheikh Jarrah to protest the eviction of Palestinian residents from their homes. During the last two weeks, the police attempted to violently disperse the demonstrations and arrested 50. The protest is growing and every week many more join the march and demonstration in the neighborhood. The settler attacks in the neighborhood are continuing and are becoming common occurrences. We must not remain silent in the face of settler violence and the suppression of the Palestinian protest!

For further information- justjerusalem@ gmail.com , Maya 0547423044 or Gali 0544679756
For transportation from Tel Aviv – Yaakov Manor
0505733276 manor12@zahav. net.il



Thank you letter to the local Palesinians and Israeli fellow-activists for their support while in Jail:

----- Forwarded Message ----
From: Amiel Vardi
To: hacampus-lo-shotek ; Taayush Jerusalem ; Taayush general list
Sent: Mon, 14 December, 2009 11:55:11
Subject: [Hacampus-lo-shotek] thanks for your support throughout this weekend


דברים שצריך הייתי לאמר לכולכן עוד אתמול לפנות בוקר כששוחררנו מהמעצר, ובלהט הרגע, ההתרגשות והעייפות שהצטברה, שכחתי לאמר.
לכל אחת ואחד מאיתנו, העצורות והעצורים, היו רגעים קשים יותר ופחות במהלך המעצר "ל-24 שעות" שהתארכו ל-36, וקשה לתאר במילים את העידוד שהעניקה לנו התמיכה של כולכם מבחוץ והידיעה שיש שם, בחוץ, עוד אנשות רבות כל כך שדואגות גם לנו וגם להמשך המאבק.
איני בטוח שלמילה הקטנה " תודה" היכולת להעביר את מה שאני חש כלפיכם, אך זו היחידה שיש לי.
אז תודה הכי גדולה שאפשר  לכולם,
לפעילות ולתושבי שיח' ג'ראח שתמכו בנו ביום שישי מחוץ לתחנת המשטרה, ודאגו שלא נרעב ולא נקפא מקור, והודיעו למשפחות ועזרו להן בפתרון בעיות קטנות שנוצרו כתוצאה ממעצרנו.
לרבות  עוד יותר שהיגיעו מכל הארץ ועמדו במוצאי שבת שמונה וחצי שעות בקור הירושלמי מחוץ לבית המשפט ולא חדלו לקרוא קריאות תמיכה ששמענו היטב בפנים .
לשתי מסעדות שדאגו לחמם את ביטנם של המפגינים במשך השעות הארוכות הללו.
לתושבי שיח' ג'ראח שהצטרפו לתומכים בנו גם ביום שישי וגם בשבת.
לקבוצת עורכי הדין שליוו אותנו לאורך כל השעות הללו, הצליחו בסופו של דבר גם למנוע את גירוש הפעילים הבינלאומיים,  ונתנו לנו את ההרגשה שאנחנו בידיים הטובות ביותר שאפשר
ולבסוף לשוטרים, מג"ב, סוהרים, אנשי יחידת נחשון, וקלגסי יחידת עוז שהיטיבו כל כך להמחיש את מצב זכויות האדם בישראל דווקא בעצם היום בו התקיימה ההפגנה המרכזית לציון יום זכויות האדם בישראל.
ותודה מיוחדת למשטרת ישראל שבאלימותה ובנחישותה למנוע בכל מחיר את זכות המחאה מפלסטינים ומכל מי  שאינו יכול להישאר אדיש למצבם, סייעה לנו להביא את המאבק על שיח' ג'ראח למרכז ההתעניינות הציבורית בארץ ובעולם.
אנא שריינו את יום שישי הקרוב להפגנה עוד יותר גדולה והמשך המחאה בשיח' ג'ראח.


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