Two astronomers. Separated by only 22 degrees, 58 minutes of latitude, 33 degrees, 29 minutes of longitude, yet seemingly worlds apart. Their common goal: figure out the very nature of the Universe and its womenfolk.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Too many stones

There is a strech of road that the bus I ride every morning to university goes through. Its a street with 4 or 5 yeshivas (torah schools) on them and the streets' pedestrians are usually orthodox yeshiva-bouchers (rabbi students). On today's journey, I realized the street was slightly more dense than usual. As the bus continued along its route the number of young orthodox men increased and increased as did the shouting. It soon became obvious to me that something was happening. Everyone was looking in a particular direction, yelling, and people were running back and forth. As the bus got to the intersection of Herzl Boulevard (near the entry to Mt Herzl, the military cemetary were all of israel's war dead are burried), it became clear that this position was the centre of action. In this nexus, the orthodox men were screaming at fever pitch. A skip was burning out of control. A policeman, under fire from rocks was quickly dashing for his car. A man standing next to the bus right outside my window seat, picked up a large stone and hurled it straight at the windshield of the police car, which smashed seconds after the cop got in. That alone would have shocked me if it werent for the fact that no less than 3 errant projectiles slammed into the bus itself. Luckily, the bus windows didnt shatter. In fact as these orthodox demonstrators were protesting against the state, it is well possible that instead of being errant, these missiles were directed against the bus (which had no more than 5 people on it) as a symbol of the municipality. The cop in his smashed car made a quick withdrawl, and as the bus sped away, I heard sirens approching. Although I thought my brush with a religious riot was over, by the time we got close to the university, it became clear to me that another demonstration (not riot) was well underway, this time filled with arab protestors as well. The university compound was under high security (probably due to its proximity to the Prime Minister's Offices), and horses, soldiers, cops and firefighters were all over the place.

So what were these protests all about? The one issue that can unequivocally unite arabs and jews: gay pride. After much demonstrating and counter demonstrating, Jerusalem finally issued permits for a Pride March this friday (to be protected by 12,000 policemen). Bear in mind that last year during pride, a demonstrator was stabbed. In response, a few weeks ago a Tel-Aviv synagogue was vandalized by gay "militants" who broke windows and graffittied "if we cant march in jerusalem, you cant pray in Tel Aviv". In the upside down world of the middle east, I finally had my first taste of tension. Well, at least I know what I am going to do next friday.


Blogger Rob said...

Gotta love studying in Durham.

3:19 PM

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