This is the second part of a three-post series. Read the first part posted last week.
I might start writing letters from the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem, for every day, there is a new story of fear, agency, and of questioning the physics of power, and today's story requires a serious look at the way our silence, our fears, our worries are affecting the future generation. In my academic/activism work, and mainly in the past 5-6 years I write and work on the political economy of fear, on education, on trauma, and the industry of fear, as I define it. The economies of power, and the trauma of the day to day experience of my people, children, elderly, friends ... makes me wonder, how can we turn a blind eye to such ordeals, how would all this affect our life, and our future?
Yesterday for example, as we were having our family dinner, my mother in law, a woman who is over 90 years of age, and is one of the survivors of the Armenian Genocide, was looking from my window to see Jewish and Armenian kids fighting. She started calling: "Nadera, Nadera come see what is going on." I looked from the window, and saw a group of young Jewish boys (maybe 8 or 9) standing on one side of the street, while Armenian girls and boys (maybe 9 or 10) standing close to the wall of my building, on the side walk. I talked to the young Jewish kids in Hebrew from my window and asked them what happened. One of them replied fast, "We want to hit the small arabs" (Rotzeem le harbeetz la aravim ha ktaneem). I decided to leave my family, and go down talk to both groups.
I went down, and started talking to the Armenian kids; they were telling me that Jewish kids were spitting at them, and cursing them. I asked them to calm down, and told them that I will go to the other side and talk to the Jewish kids. I started asking the other group (the picture taken is from my window while I was talking to the Jewish kids) why they are fighting. I told them that this is an Armenian building, and neighbours should live in peace with each other. I further explained that we are all neighbours, and showed them were I live, and told them that it would be really sad to see one of them hurt. The youngest child, a short, very handsome and sharp kid replied, "Don't worry, we won't be hurt, we always hurt them".
I explained that in such quarrels anyone could be hurt, and plus we are all neighbours, so why don't we find a better way of solving the problem. Then one other kid told me that the other group is spitting on them, while they are playing in the street. I told him that this is not right, and that I will right away go talk to the other group, and their parents (all parents were already in the street watching me talking to the kids in Hebrew [a very small number of my neighbours could converse in Hebrew]). I then asked whether we could try to keep the peace in our area, when another one replied, "See, we have our playing area, and football court, it is right there (pointing to the area behind us); we just do not want the Arabs (meaning the Armenian children) to come play in our play ground, and if they come we will hit them."
I tried to explain, that we should share the area, mainly because this is very small space, and it is the old city, but I did not make sense to the kids, so I went back to my argument that we are neighbours and we should live in peace. I told them that I will speak to the other group, and want to ask both sides not to fight and keep the neighbourhood peaceful. When one of them said, "Ok, with us Jews, you could speak, but with the Arab kids, use your hands". I then explained that this is not Jewish behavior, and that Jews lives all over the world and they do not fight with others, and gave them the example of Jewish American. Such an explanation convinced some kids, and made the eldest call them all to leave the area. They left while one told me, "We have a big football yard, we will go play there, and they can't come even close".
I crossed the street and went back to request peace from the Armenian kids, when one of them said, "I do not want peace with them, they keep on hitting us, look at the sticks in their hands." I explained again that we are neighbours, and we must feel safe with each other, and fighting won't do us good, when another girl said, "So why did they steal our parking?" (Armenians were kicked out of the parking lot 8 months ago, now it allows only Jews to park their cars, while we are deprived from doing so - although it is right opposite to our building as you could see from the picture attached)...."why can they park their cars and you and my father need to suffer......I don't care, I want to spit at them every time they come close to our building...they have their spaces, this is my area, and I won't let them step in".
It took me a long time, and with the help of the parents, we managed to explained to the kids that it is always better not to fight, when the same girl said, "But I want to fight with them"; so I told her, if you want to fight use your brain, be good to your friends, study well, be an educated woman, take care of your family, this is a better way of fighting back...then when you grow up, you could tell the world your story. She asked me, "And then my father will be able to park his car in our parking?? the parking is not for Jews alone...it is our parking, we live here."
Coming back home, my sister in law said that all parents were listening to me, and that it was good to speak to the kids, when my mother in law interrupted her by saying: "What are you talking about, they will come back and hit the kids, in today's world El Haq Ma'a3 el Awwi - Justice is with the powerful. It is might, not right."
And now, while I am looking from my window, I could see two members of yesterdays Jewish group back, waiting with their sticks in their hands on the other side of the street.
Nadera Shalhoub Kervorkian is an advisor with the Global Fund for Women and board member of Mada al-Carmel: Arab center for Applied Social Research, a grantee partner. Nadera lives in the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem.