Today I had some errands to run in the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Baka.

I saw beautiful stone buildings surrounded by small gardens, filled with grape vines and fruit trees. Baka's Jewish residents - a mixture of elderly Mizrahim and wealthy young yuppies - are quite proud of their splendid Arab houses. Their quarter is an oasis of peace and tranquillity in the heart of a troubled city. I tried to enjoy a quiet stroll in the winter sun.

The neighbourhood's ghosts however, make an awful racket. They speak about life before 1948, about the refugee camps of Lebanon and Gaza, and about the way things might have been. They don't give you a moment's peace, lurking as they do in every doorway and under every tree.

Later in the day, I had some shopping to do on Rehov Strauss, between Zichron Moshe and Mea She'arim. From the main road, I could see the minaret of an old mosque in a park. I hadn't been to that park in years, and couldn't remember whether the mosque was still standing or whether only the minaret had survived. I went to investigate, and found the mosque all bricked up and padlocked. On the walls were graffiti in Hebrew: "Arabs out", and "blow up the mosques". A few metres from the mosque was a small domed structure in a state of disrepair. I peeked inside, and saw four graves, side by side. It's a pretty little park, albeit a little neglected, and I tried once again to find some peace of mind, but those damned ghosts were back, buzzing and chattering about Ramadan prayers, about the school that used to be in the building next door, and other such things.

I spoke very nicely to the ghosts, politely asking them to leave me alone. I said: "I wasn't even born in 1948, and besides, the house I live in was built in 1961." It was no use. They followed me home, each ghost insisting on telling me his or her story. So I decided to listen.

Shmuel Gertel


Shmuel Gertel di origine canadese. Vive a Gerusalemme con sua moglie Simona e la loro bambina Shaked. Lavora "free-lance" per giornali italiani ed israeliani.

Gli stato chiesto di presentarsi: "Chi sono io? Sono un ebreo israeliano (traduttore di mestiere) che abita a Gerusalemme, e che vuole vivere in un Paese laico e democratico dove tutti - ebrei, mussulmani, cristiani, ecc. ecc. - sono uguali, con gli stessi diritti. L'alternativa - uno Stato dove un gruppo (anche se questo gruppo quello di cui faccio parte io stesso) ha pi diritti degli altri - per me razzismo."

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