I really like my neighborhood. It is in the city limits. There are two bus lines; one going to the industrial area/one of the malls and one going through the center of town on to the main bus station on the complete other side of the city. We are close enough to everything anyone would need but far enough away to have that quiet suburb feel. There aren’t loud parties or the hustle and bustle you get in the center of town. Even the bank or grocery store never seem too backed up (until you get inside – but that is an Israeli thing in general).
We also have some of the best views around. There is a large berm/elongated hill across the street that, once on top, you can see clear over to Jordan and large parts of the desert valley between here and there. Then there is the neighborhood promenade. Truly one of the best in any major city I have ever been to. It is known for its views of the old city – if you picture Jerusalem from outside the old city, chances are your image is a picture that was taken at this park. The park itself though is amazing. Long and winding, it is perfect for a lovers stroll or running track that isn’t repetitive or dull. Its many trails seamlessly traverse up and down the valley it is situated on. The occasional horse or Segway tour passing over the traditional Jerusalem limestone pavers. The carefully placed benches or small amphitheatres offering views of the sunrise, the sunset, the old city, the neighborhood of Silwan down in the vally, or the sprawling pine trees. The pathway lighting is just right to provide the sense of safety at night while still allowing the lovers a sense of cover to steal a kiss at the end of the evening stroll.
When it isn’t too cold, I love to either walk to work or home from work through this park. Instead of 30 minutes on the roads that steadily get busier and busier as I get into town, I get 25 minutes of nature and fresh air before popping out a short 2 blocks from work. This place is a refuge from the city life that drives people crazy. I’m not the only one here for sure. Another aspect of the park I like is that it is one of the few mixed spaces in Jerusalem. Arab families enjoying the green grasses to play soccer. Jewish couples strolling around. The occasional community picnic. You just don’t see the two communities side by side like that in many parts of the city.
But this park, the Armon Hanatziv Promenade was soiled a few days ago. A man from the neighborhood next to mine was driving out of his neighborhood toward the city when he saw a group of soldiers getting off a tour bus.
Aside: the total amount of space that the promenade is accessible to the road is really quiet small. Most of the boundary between the two has been separated with trees, shrubbery or a retaining wall providing a level pathway along the hundreds of meters where the promenade starts. There is one small parking lot and only a few spots on the road next to the parking lot where buses can park on that are actually in eye shot of the promenade, the rest of the bus parking is obscured from the park.
Back to the story: this bus had just let off a class of IDF officer cadets. They were probably being given background information about where they were (this neighborhood was a no-mans-land controlled by the UN between 1948 and 1967). At just that moment, the man from Jabel Mukaber was passing by and took the rare occasion to slam his construction truck through the young cadets. Having plowed straight through their formation without disabling his truck, he then turned around to try at another pass before being shot by the guide and two of the cadets.
It is unfortunately a new common choice for terrorism, this plowing through crowds in large trucks. That surely isn’t what shocked me. But the fact that it was in this park, just 5 minutes walk from my apartment. That it was in the park I take to work or to clear my head. That it was in my neighborhood – you just don’t expect that.
This event happened around mid day. I was still getting over a cold so I was sleeping in my bed. That night, I was scheduled to work the night shift. For a split second, I thought about walking to work but decided not to – I didn’t want to be a gawker. But as fate would have it, I left just at the right time to see my bus driving past my stop 5 minutes earlier than it should have. Since the bus route goes through the neighborhood, I can cut through another park and then on to the bus stop at the promenade to catch it if I walk quick. So without thinking that is where I started heading. When I got to the road that the promenade is on, I saw an unusually large number of cars parked on both sides of the road. “Oh… that’s right. Well, it is much to cold to wait for the next bus in twenty minutes. Just walk by it and be done with it.” I was amazed that less than 12 hours later, everything but a few fallen lines of police tape and a few mounds of grass that had been uprooted were all that was left. This was the spot where 4 people died and something like 15 others were hurt. I guess Bibi doesn’t play around when he says we should continue on with our lives.
When I moved to Eilat 2.5 years ago, the war was going on. My first night in my first own Israeli apartment, Hamas decided to send over three rockets. The alarms sounded, and I woke up and groggily tried to find the shelter. One of the rockets landed 150 meters away from my building. But my building was on literally the last road in town. There was nothing but desert mountains on the other side of the street where the rocket landed. I never did go hiking over there and had no connection. Once that night was over, it was more of just a story to be recalled than anything else.
But this is a park I’m in a few times a week. Southern trees have their strange fruit; I suppose it is just another type that grows here too. (points to you if you know the reference!)