Since coming back to the states, people have been curious about my home in Israel. They always ask, “what is it like?”
Yerushalaim (Jerusalem), is a very multicultural place. Everyone comes to Jerusalem to visit. Atheists come. Muslims come. Agnostics come. Yehudi and Yehudiya (Jews) come. Christians come. And crazy people come. They are the ones who usually stay, to the chagrin of the Israeli government. They often arrive without money, family or friends, and stay beyond the allotted time given on their visas and yet, many organizations are here just to help them – the help mostly consists of getting them back to their own countries. I hadn’t been living in the ‘Holy City’ very long – maybe a week or so, when this young Hispanic guy, that claimed he was Hungarian, crazy as a loon, came by to visit i.e. conned us into letting him use my computer to ‘skype’ his family’ until we figured out he was trying to extort money from this old lady in Bolivia or Argentina, or somewhere… Fun times.
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem! You kill the prophets and stone the messengers God has sent you! How many times I wanted to put my arms around all your people, just as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you would not let me!
Being a multicultural city, I met visitors from almost every country in the world as well as a few people from remote places that I had never heard of. With all these visitors, Jerusalem is a very busy, noisy, crazy place. People hurry about; running here and there. People visiting everywhere. Every day is a surprise. You never know what you are going to see. You may be driving home one day and the Prime Minister in his motorcade passes you by. The next day at sunrise, the streets may be closed for a 27-mile marathon as Ethiopian and Kenyan runners fly by doing 4 minute miles. If you like excitement and like to live on the crazy side of life, Jerusalem is the city for you.
I lived on the outskirts of town in a Palestinian village called Beit Safafa (literally in Hebrew, house of the narrow benches). I wonder if the ancient people who lived there were rather slim and when visitors, obviously who were not, stopped by, they coined the name in protest of the seating arrangements. Anyway, isn’t that the coolest name, ever? Beit Safafa is about 4 miles from the Old City with a population of about 6,500 people. It is an old village with a rich history.
“During the Crusader era, the village was known as Bethafava or Bethsaphase.Baldwin I granted the village as a fief to the Knights Hospitallers sometime before September 1110. A tower in the village is dated to the Crusader period.
Several wine-presses have been found in Beit Safafa, which have been dated back to the Iron Age. Moreover, in a salvage dig,… archaeologists discovered fifty Second Temple era graves, of which 41 were excavated. The village was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire in 1517 with all of Palestine, and in 1596 it appeared in the tax registers as being in the Nahiya of Quds of the Liwa of Quds. It had a population of 41 households and paid taxes on wheat, barley, olives, grapes or fruit trees, and goats or beehives. French explorer Victor Guérin visited the village in 1863, and described it as a village with some thirty houses, some solidly built and very old. In the 1883, the Palestine Exploration Fund‘s “Survey of Western Palestine”, the village was described as “a small village in flat open ground, with a well to the north”.”
I lived on a hill by this ancient well. And as a matter of fact, my apartment was on the street called Bir Abu Khashaby, which literally translated means well or cistern of the cross-follower. Again, very cool name and place.
“In the wake of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the village was divided in two. The southern part was in the Jordanian West Bank, while the northern part, originally in no man’s land, was transferred to Israel with the signing of 1949 Armistice Agreements, and was later unilaterally annexed to Jerusalem by Israel.
After the war, a section of the Jaffa-Jerusalem railway remained under Jordanian control. Following the 1949 Armistice Agreements, it was agreed that Jordan would transfer control of this section of the track to Israel, in order to enable Israel Railways to restart rail service to Jerusalem. As a result, the area south of the railway line was part of the Jordanian-controlled West Bank and the railway line itself and the area to the north, was part of Israeli-controlled Jerusalem. Service on the line resumed on August 7, 1949. During the period when the neighborhood was divided, a two-foot high barbed wire fence was erected down the middle of the main street with Arab Legionnaires and Israeli soldiers guarding on each side.
In 1967, after Israel‘s victory in the Six-Day War, the fence was taken down and the neighborhood was reunited. Residents of the Israeli side had Israeli citizenship while those on the south side were given, like East Jerusalem residents, Jerusalem ID cards and residency, while retaining Jordanian citizenship. Also following the 1967 war, Palestinian Christians with Israeli citizenship from Nazareth, Jaffa, and Jerusalem moved to Beit Safafa, expanding the small community, and several Jewish families moved in as well. “
Beit Safafa is a beautiful village and I hope you will pray for all the Jewish, Arab, and Christian people who live there. A few village residents Follow Jesus, but many including our previous landlord do not.