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My First Trip to East Jerusalem

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 19/10/2015 Michael Rosenblum

2015-10-19-1445289576-5309106-AlbrightFrontIllustrationReal2_1024x1024.jpg © Provided by The Huffington Post 2015-10-19-1445289576-5309106-AlbrightFrontIllustrationReal2_1024x1024.jpg The Albright Institute for Archaeology, East Jerusalem
In 1977, I made my first trip to Israel.
Like most young American Jews, it was a kind of pilgrimage. I had a backpack. I did all the things I was expected to do: I picked grapefruit on a kibbutz, I visited Masada, I went to the Dead Sea. And of course, I visited the Old City, it having just been liberated from Jordanian rule a mere ten years earlier.
Walking through the Old City, I came out on the east side, at the Damascus Gate. I left the Old City and found myself in East Jerusalem, the Arab part of town. But I was a kid with a backpack, and so I continued to wander. The streets ultimately led me down Salah ah Din Street, the main thoroughfare in East Jerusalem, and, continuing my wanderings, I came upon a beautiful old building, unlike all the other architecture in East or West Jerusalem (or most of it), surrounded by black wrought iron gates and a lush green garden with great old trees.
This was, so the sign told me, The FW Albright Institute for Archaeology.
It was a remnant, one of the last remnants of the British Mandate and occupation, neither Israeli or Arab. Intrigued, and uninvited, I wandered inside.
The door was unlocked and there was no one there, but the place will filled with glass cases with archaeological finds.
As I was exploring my new discovery, a rather annoyed woman came upon me. What did I think I was doing?
She cleared her throat: "Can I help you?" she asked.
I said that I was just looking around.
"Are you an archeologist?" she asked, with that kind of contempt that indicated that clearly I was NOT an archaeologist.
"No," I said, "I'm a photographer".
Well, I had a camera and it was better than , "No, I am bum with a backpack, which would have been more honest."
Suddenly, her demeanor changed.
"A photographer!", she said. "I am running an excavation and my photographer has just quit. Would you like to work for me?"
And so began an 8 year stint as an archeological photographer on digs in Israel and Cyprus.
(You never know what is coming).
But that is not the point of this story. I was, at that time, a resident, if that is the word, of the local youth hostel. But now that I was to be a dig photographer, I could take a room at the Albright Institute, 26 Salah ah Din Street, East Jerusalem.
I did.
I embraced my new career with a passion, and soon I was accompanying Dr. Herbert, the dig director, on her various trips to buy all the necessary equipment of the dig and the coming season. We frequented pretty much all of the major shops in East Jerusalem, and they were all run by Palestinians. It was, and it remains, a Palestinian town, at least the East part. To this day there are Israeli taxi drivers you will not take me to East Jerusalem. "Too dangerous!"
One day we were shopping in a small store in East Jerusalem, buying stuff for the dig when a couple of Israelis came into the store.
They immediately started screaming at the poor shopkeeper. "Get me this. Get me that! Not that.. that!!" So arrogant. So abusive. The 'conquerors' and the 'conquered'.
The man was befuddled and the more he messed up, the more they berated him.
It was painful to watch.
To this day, (and we are nearly 40 years after the fact), it still pains me to think if it.
Dr. Herbert turned to me and said, "one day they are going to pay a price for treating these people like this."
One day.
This is only small story. My own small personal memory. It may mean nothing.
But as I watch what is happening today in Jerusalem, I cannot help but remember.

V676048 © Getty V676048

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