Wednesday, July 7, 2010

"Writing Jerusalem" at the Goethe Institute Jerusalem


Pizza and orange juice were served. Furthermore, wine and coke.

The day before yesterday, July 5 at 8pm, the German Goethe Institute together with its volunteer, the journalist Ann - Kathrin Seidel had invited the crime story author Matt Beynon Rees, the Middle East journalist Gil Yaron and me (religious blogger) for a dialogue about Jerusalem. Why do thousands of people keep on writing about Jerusalem when everything must have been said already.

To my English readers:
In my German blogs, I refer to Jerusalem much more than here in Shearim. For instance I write about social matters in Jerusalem mixed with a few political views.

I had met Gil Yaron more than half a year ago in Tel Aviv when he asked me for information on haredi society. Matt Rees I didn't know until Monday and I found it quite interesting that someone from Wales living in Jerusalem writes crime stories about a Palestinian detective from Bethlehem.

I took a friend with me. A Canadian and I had warned her that the event is German. Not in German and in English but the institution is German. However, this was not the reason why she recorded the entire discussion with her little gadget. "Just in case, she said. You never know what people might claim afterwards".

So here we were and about fifty people had shown up for the event. Mostly Germans I suppose. Shortly before I had found this really orange (Gush Katif) t - shirt at the Machane Yehudah Market and the saying on it was the best: "I used to be schizophrenic but we are okay now". The right thing to wear in Jerusalem. Everybody should wear this as a local uniform.

Maybe the shirt was the reason why I didn't want to sit on that couch on the stage. I chose a chair and Matt laid down on the couch. After a brief German introduction Ann - Kathrin started asking her question why we write about Jerusalem. Everyone talked and talked and I kept my answer short. I hope I succeeded.

Matt has a special Jerusalem connection due to his family history. Gil was born in the country but I am different: To me Jerusalem mainly means something connected to Judaism. A haredi ghetto with lots of Yetzer Harah around the corner.

It was impressive to hear that Gil and Matt know Arabic. This is a great advantage when you write about the region. I was invited mostly because of my German Jerusalem blog and I stressed that it is important letting other people all over the world know how people actually live in Jerusalem. It is not at all like coming out of the palin and being blown into pieces, as you may see on TV. What kind of social problems do the Jerusalemites have and how do they deal with them ? The daily life of Mr. John Doe, so to speak.

I have been living in Israel for fourteen years and thus I consider myself as someone with a little knowledge. Whoever writes about Jerusalem needs a great portion of passion. Otherwise it doesn't work. You need to be in society, deal with people and have this special insane Jerusalem feeling. The worst has to look normal to you. It is important to be Jewish and you should have lived in Jerusalem for quite a couple of years. Then your readers show interest. In case you are just a tourist and still a stranger in the city, people are not too interested in your writings. At least I wouldn't.

We were placed on the stage in the front and the lights on the side of the listeners were turned off. This caused a huge black hole to my eyes. I only saw the stage and spoke into a black hole. When I usually speak I do see the people around and I also love walking. As soon as I sit, I cannot think to much.

Ann - Kathrin asked me whether my German Jerusalem blog doesn't sound too right - wing. Or is there a desire to provoke ?
Surely there is provocation but I probably sound strange to the average German. They are used to listen to Shimon Peres, Amoz Oz or Uri Avinery. All those lefties spooking around in Europe and giving lectures. I am more with the Knesset member Aryeh Eldad who says that Arabs may live in Israel but under Jewish rule because this is a Jewish state. Despite I am not with Kahane or Baruch Marzel, many Germans think that I must be an extremist.

My biggest advantage of being a blogger is that I don't have an editor and no one is telling me how and what to write. I am not a prostitute asking what the "customer - reader" wants but rather express my own opinion. Gil and Matt wanted to sell their books and, in a way, they had to be "politically correct" in order not to scare off their potential readers.

I received a few offers writing for German online sites but had turned them down. Once I agreed and this was enough to scare me away because site owners have interests and I don't always go along with them. Instead, I prefer being my own boss.

Why I began with my blogs ?
Because I din't really find any thing to read what I wanted to read. The usual news and some tourist reports but not much creative. Especially not in German. This reminds of a story from the past: A woman once asked me in Germany if I don't want to participate in a tour to Jerusalem led by a German Gentile tourist who had just started reading about Jerusalem. He had never been to Israel but wanted to tell me what Jerusalem is about although I had lived in the city for some years.

I mostly read English blogs and hardly anything German. There are some good German Jewish soap blogs though.

"Political Correctness ?"
The death of every article, said Matt Rees. As a matter of fact, Gil and Matt had to be correct in a way, as they wanted to sell their books. I, on the other hand, was free and able to do whatever I like. Having a cup of red wine, for instance.

The listeners were too quiet and sometimes I had the feeling that not too many people had a clue when I spoke about Haredim. Ann - Kathrin did a good job but she should have limited each person's time talking. Matt Rees was not funny enough for an Englishman, Gil was slighty too German. And where was I ? Dealing with the black hole trauma !

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