The Ghosts of the Old City
The landscape of Palestine is disfigured by concrete slab walls, high military towers, barriers and gates cutting off Palestinian communities from settler-only roads, and settlements that loom over Palestinian villages and land.
Occasionally the apparatus of dispossession is more tastefully displayed to spare the sensibilities of tourists.
Such is the case outside the imposing Damascus Gate, the main entrance to the Muslim Quarter old Jerusalem’s Old City. There, Israeli soldiers with their weapons and high tech equipment are now clustered in two unobtrusive stone encampments and one discreet mini tower erected during this past year. They attract little attention from tourists who pose and take their selfies with the Damascus Gate as a backdrop.
The plaza is nearly empty, giving no sign that this now sanitized place was only a few years ago teeming with life, as market women selling their garden produce enlivened the entrance to the Old City.
That was before the Apartheid Wall sealed off East Jerusalem from nearby villages and fields, depriving farmers of the ability to access what used to be their economic beating heart.
Now those market women can be counted among the city’s ghosts, joining the ranks of the nearly 15,000 Palestinians who have since 1967, on a variety of pretexts, had their legal status to live in Jerusalem revoked.
Among the ghosts are families that have lived there for generations, forced out after their houses have been destroyed for being built without the permits that Israel refuses to give. They are left with their memories of life in a once-vibrant city they can no longer enter, and a huge bill to cover the costs of the destruction of their homes.