How Does an Israeli Walk in Israel?

It is Yom Yerushalaim (Jerusalem day) today, 43 years since the liberation of eastern Jerusalem during the six-day war. Many Israelis flock to the city on this day to celebrate.

A group of Jews marching in the city today were pelted with stones after taking a wrong turn and entering an Arab neighbourhood. Here is the story in Hebrew, and in English. This seemingly objective news report hides an absurdness that many fail to notice, as this absurdness has become a routine part of life in Israel. Hint: think about the words “took a wrong turn”.

You see, there is a difference in how Israelis walks about in Israel. When an Israeli Jew walks, even in his capital city, he needs to make sure he doesn’t “take a wrong turn”, lest he finds himself pelted with stones (in the best case) or lynched (in the worst case). A Jew cannot simply walk the streets of Jerusalem without taking special care not to cross the very real imaginary line that divides east from west.

But when an Israeli Arab walks in Israel – anywhere in Israel, mind you – he doesn’t need to worry about “taking a wrong turn”. Wherever he may find himself wandering, he can be sure no harm will come to him. (This may not be the case in certain West Bank settlements, but that’s not really Israel, is it?). An Arab can walk anywhere in Jerusalem, on Yom Yerushalaim or on any other day, without a care in his heart.

By the way, note that this rule applies only to Israelis walking in Israel. Abroad, both Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs can “take a wrong turn” anywhere, just like everyone else …

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