Yesterday? Yesterday was meetings. More meetings. Sorry, I’d love to write a glorious narrative of Explorations in the Holy Land, but the real narrative here is “We talked with a bunch of people. Then we talked with each other about talking with people. Then we ate. Then we talked some more. Then it was late, and we fell asleep.” I mean, the talking was great, and the eating was too, but neither really make for a page-turner.
And to make it harder to write, we’re under the TPW version of Chatham House rules, so I can’t really talk about who we talked with. But we’re certainly getting an earful from folks who have been living in the fabric of this crazy quilt of cultures and conflicts. Journalists, politicians, activists, all giving us their views on their context, and what mechanisms they’re using to try to have a positive effect. For their particular definition of “positive effect”, of course. I have to be honest – as I’m madly scribbling notes and trying to keep up with the questions and counterpoints, there’s this high-level binary indicator that keeps flipping in my head: Hope!Doom!Hope!Doom!Hope!Doom! Yeah, it turns over about that fast.
And there are so many combinations of context too, which – it turns out – is both a blessing and a curse. Anyone you sit down with, you’re going to find deep, inseparable common bonds. And, of course, deep, inescapable, intractable differences. You just need to find enough of the former to keep you going before you stumble over the latter.
Last night Devon and I wandered down the street to the contested neighborhood of Sheihk Jarrah for dinner on Shimon haTzadik Street – a.k.a. Uthman Ibn ‘Afan Street, depending on which side of the Green Line you’re from. Stayed out until past our bedtime eating tasty mezzes with Simon, a Palestinian Christian with a London accent and a Californian wife. Playing context roulette, we discovered that our overlap in theological and political views was larger than you’d expect (this is Israel – in contravention of the old Southern dictum, of course you talk about religion and politics). We discovered a common fondness for antique artifacts. Devon and I ooh’ed and ahh’ed over the phone-cam photo of a gorgeous Athenian coin Simon gave to his wife, and I searched (futily) for pictures on my phone – aka “the pocket singularity” – for pictures of my favorite treasures.
Today? More meetings.