By Hanan Rubin
Sirens always make me pause. I fall silent and count one off, praying there won’t be another, because two sirens are not women in labor.
Distant memories from the Second Intifada segue into those of summer last. Somehow, the rise of conflict in Jerusalem always comes with the rising temperatures. But after the emergency meetings, the touring politicians, the dramatic headlines comes the first rain, and everything calms down. Then the countdown begins for next summer.
Some, though, aren’t content with counting the days.
Jeremy made aliyah six years ago. A reserve paratroop officer, he rides his bike to work, each time reassuring his mother, thousands of miles away, that he wasn’t anywhere near the most recent attack. He recently joined a crowd of 5,000 to watch Matisyahu perform beneath the Old City walls. “ ‘Jerusalem If I Forget You’ gets a whole new meaning these days,” he tweeted.
Michal is a mother of four. In recent few nights, after putting her children to bed, she has gone downtown, where she volunteers for a group seeking dialogue with angst-filled youths bent on revenge. To her ever-concerned sister, she vows never to leave Jerusalem, with its crisp, cool air and low crime rates.
Her husband drops off the kids at school, where they are taught about the complexities of living in a mixed city where you have to defend yourself with one hand and reach out to your would-be enemies with the other.
Ibrahim is a Hebrew University law student and a resident of Ras el-Amud, a Palestinian suburb shaken by recent events. Intimidating glares by Hamas supporters notwithstanding, he goes online every day, trying to persuade people to stop the cycle of violence.
Despite the long-standing advice of friends to relocate to Ramallah or the States, he clings to his naïve faith that hope remains in this conflict. Meanwhile, he alerts the authorities to suspicious happenings, and a few days back confiscated a knife off a 15-year-old brainwashed neighbor.
Batia is an ultra-Orthodox woman. Every day she walks to work at City Hall. Despite having recently bought a canister of tear gas as a precaution, she prefers to put her faith in G-d and in the ubiquitous policemen. Just before Shabbat, she went up to them to deliver portions of fish, meat and chicken to make their shift a little more pleasant.
Jerusalem keeps going not through pompous statements, but through the hard work and devotion of its people — some elected officials, some social entrepreneurs and some ordinary citizens — united by relentless optimism and a profound love for their city.
When things started getting bad, I put out a call for an emergency meeting of Jerusalem civil society organizations. Within three hours, representatives from 33 organizations sat around a conference table at City Hall. It came as no surprise; even during normal times, the number of people willing to sign up for civilian reserve duty is astounding.
There are teenagers handing out Israeli flags, elderly people handing out small gifts to security personnel, psychologists supporting youths in distress and activists helping out businesses, as well as a string of independent online campaigns.
These ordinary citizens allow Jerusalem to keep on living its life: thousands of students going back to school; the basketball team fighting to retain its championship title; and Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the moon, joining 2,000 people at the International Astronautical Congress.
This energy, this drive to take responsibility and think outside the box, is what is needed to resolve the complexity of current events. We have to crack down on violence while empowering moderate leaders, fight incitement on both sides, defend the freedom of worship of every man and woman, and make sure East and West Jerusalem get their fair shares of infrastructure investments.
It’s time for this fresh perspective to rise from the bottom. We are tired of instant solutions, quickly denounced by this side or the other. We are tired of those who take turns making political gains out of our hardship. Jerusalem is a different place and requires a different point of view. The one we young people of Jerusalem discovered 10 years ago when everyone else said the city was lost.
From this point of view, there is a lot of good to see. And even more to do.
Hanan Rubin is a Jerusalem City Council member and co-founder of Wake Up Jerusalem, which focuses on quality-of-life issues for all Jerusalem residents.