East Jerusalem – The Wall and the tails of two schools, but the same story

Jerusalem is an unequally divided city – West and East. The West is controlled by the Israeli authorities – it is historical, prosperous, full of amenities, but tense. The East is neither under Israeli or Palestinian authority; it is effectively left to rot. Rather it is controlled by the Israeli army – restricting entry and exit, populated by Palestinians. For most it is an open prison dominated by The Wall, which snakes across the landscape.

We first see The Wall walking down the East Jerusalem suburb of Bethany’s main street which has been renamed by locals as ‘The Road to Nowhere’. So called because it cuts across it, stopping traffic and trade. Now a detour of 50 minutes (dependant on favourable check point conditions) for a journey that use to take 2 minutes. It separates families, communities and lives. It stops access to shops, hospitals, education, clubs, religious sites, cinemas and culture.

We took the opportunity by the wall to make our mark of dissent using the artistic tool of the weak – the spray can. The Wall and The Circus Many thousands will use this huge canvas to vent their anger until it will eventually fall. It was very eerie to hear street life coming through the cracks of the walls.

The Wall is omnipresent in East Jerusalem – it is visible from our host Suzana I. Zorko’s house A view of The Wall (her organisation is called Children of Bethany). As is land which has been cleared of houses to make way for the monstrous progress of The Wall. Suzana and her family have been fantastic to us – welcoming us into their home with such kindness and warmth. I for one will be sad to leave. Suzana has been arranging shows and workshops for us this week and we hope to work with her again before we leave.

Our first ever show was on the 15th Jan at an all boys school. It was a poor school with only limited facilities and resources. As we pulled up in the van a hoard of excited boys greated us with whoops and cheers. Our copious luggage was carried by many small hands. As the boys lined up on one side of the playground and we prepared on the other we realised it would be a tough audience.

Afterwards the boys crowed round and we showed them some tricks and they, in return, showed us theirs. One boy walked on his hands for 20 seconds. The boys obviously enjoyed the show, as it is uncommon for them to see strangers – let alone strange strangers doing magic, juggling and comedy. It is difficult to comprehend how disadvantaged these boys our by being limited to their ghetto home.

The next day we visited a girl’s othordox Russian school. They were a much more receptive audiece and the rough edges of our show had been smoothed. It was a good school with high fees, but despite their relative affluence the disadvantages of lack of opportunities and opportunities are the same. The girls see little more than their school and home; even the rough streets of their Bethany are off limits. We are a breath of fresh air and some fun to lift the stress of their daily lives.

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