Looking for Peace in Jerusalem

Old City from the Mount of the OlivesSo in a week I’m sixty five, my God how did that happen? And I’m here a bald OAP living in a hostel in a Jerusalem souk looking for women. Jings it wasn’t like this in the plan.

I’m looking for three women, one young, one a nurse and one a millionaire with an obsession in self-insemination. Maybe I should have stuck with teaching. I’d be retired now, with Grandkids. Not in a bed with nylon sheets in an upstairs bunk with a fat American snoring underneath me.

First challenge. Getting through immigration. My Mother told me never to lie. But somehow the line about looking for women seemed an error. So say you are a tourist. They won’t believe me. Not for four days. A journalist? That’s a lie. I tell them I’m a story teller. They laugh and let me in. Story-tellers are idiots. It always works. It gets tricky when they google your stories. That’s when they find out that I don’t write stories about mermaids or daft wifies who turn into seals but Israelis who send shells into primary schools in Gaza that explode into liquid plastic that sticks to skin and forces teachers to knock out their children to stop them screaming, or people I have seen here running down streets and shitting as they ran, being too scared to stop and crouch, or groups of students desperately wanting to take my scholarships to camp on Iona but unable to ever leave their country as they have no papers.

If they read those stories they put you in a room for hours and come and look at you as if you were a criminal. So you tell them that your Mother told you not to tell lies. And they all have Mothers so they let you go. After a bit.

They say that Israeli’s biggest export is fear and those wee rooms are part of their cottage industry.

Anyhow. Women.

It’s terribly embarrassing talking about women when you are nearly sixty-five. My sister tells me not to do it. says it makes me sound like a dirty old man. She’s right of course. As usual. The trouble is there are so many of them and they are far more interesting than men. Take the first one. Lets call her Heather, because she lies all over the place. She’s the one who has the money. I met her on a flight into Jerusalem and swapped a bed for giving her a hand with her thirteen parcels. I didn’t like her but not nearly as much as she didn’t like me.

I like staying with Jews though. It reminds me that they too are frightened, they too are under the cosh, they too worry that their kids wont come home from school. Though less about the sticky plastic. Heather has twins. She went to America and bought sperm from a bank. They promised her that it came from a Jewish medical student. When I last met her six years ago she told me she was thinking of suing the agency as the girls were so noisy. True I promise you. I would really like to find Heather again. I grew to rather like her. She’s a tryer.

Last night I stayed with an ex-Israeli soldier. He said he gave up the soldiering as they didn’t like the fact that he liked Arabs. Never seen so much dope for years. Now he plays the guitar, and the fool. I asked him what they thought of Trump and he said that he would only be able to tell me if he ever knocked on his door and dropped round for a smoke. Fair dos.

Woman two? That’s the youngster. Twenty eight now. I last met her seven years ago when I promised her $400 if she painted me a picture of Jesus Laughing for an exhibition I was running. I said that I would only give her the money if she made Jesus laugh. She refused. Said Jesus didn’t laugh in Bethlehem any more. She was stone-broke and painted me this wonderful picture of Jesus with a straight lip. I said I would give her the money if she made the lip curl into a laugh. She refused. I gave her the money. Lets call her Dr. Because she’s now doing a Phd. I met her in the street in Bethlehem yesterday. She bought me a coffee and gave me a hug. Thank God I gave up teaching. That moment was worth a pension. If I had ever had a daughter I would like it to have been her.

Woman three? A nurse who contacted me as she wants to go to Scotland to learn how to heal people. I said I would help. The trouble is that she wont be able to get a visa until a few days before she travels. Don’t even ask. Its a typical situation for any Palestinian. I once met a Palestinian Doctor who had married a Jew. He needed a driving license, badly for his work.

Tonight, day two I’m going to the Wailing Wall. I love it there. Trouble is that I love the Jews. wish I didn’t, love being with them. If I have a political stance it is the one that James Cameron, one of the greatest journalists of his era, once said. That he loved the Israelis more than any other nation and hated what they did more than he hated any other nation.

I don’t believe in God but tonight I am going to lean my head against that wall and pray, just as I do ever night when I am in Jerusalem. I will shut my eyes and pray that America is able to stop the sociopath Trump from putting the heat under the frozen peace that hold this wonderful city, and us all, in suspension.

Yes I shall shut my eyes, try and stop the tears, and pray for the Peace of Jerusalem.

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  1. Jeff says:

    This mirrors my experience (lived there. Visted twice thereafter ) almost totally in all but the fine detail. I could smell the cardamom just reading your tale … and remembered the UDF girl who fell asleep on my shoulder travelling to Jericho … I can still see straight down the barrel of her M16 as it slipped from her hand. I cry for Palestine and it’s people still. Well done Bella and author for one of the best pieces I’ve read on the subject of Israel.

  2. Jac Gallacher says:

    “If I had ever had a daughter I would like it to have been her.” – what a lovely compliment.

    I loved Jerusalem and also felt for the Palestinian people when I travelled in Israel. For a few nights I stayed with an Israeli policeman and his wife and kids. They were lovely but, like you say, terrified.He told me to stay away from Palestinians. I didn’t. I went on to stay in a hostel run by a Palestinian man and his English wife. I saw how difficult their life was compared to the Israelis.

  3. Gordon McShean says:

    That was wonderful! I’m a bit older than Maxwell (recently turned 80), and often during this long life I’ve wondered if my experiences with Jewish folks indicated I suffered from some strange form of daftness. His tale has helped me (belatedly). As a wee boy in Glasgow during the war, where four Jewish refugees from Russia (Mum and Dad and two teenagers) were in a three- room flat across the landing from ours, where our five-member family (Mum, Dad, me and my wee sisters) were crammed. When the sirens sounded and the bombs were dropping on Dubsies, the tank-making factory across the road, we’d all troop downstairs to take shelter, hoping the already shaky building would survive – and we’d share ‘treats’ that the two Mums always kept somewhere hidden for just such events. At the war’s end there were more refugees than Scots (mainly Jews from Poland) at my school – Queen’s Park Senior Secondary, Class 2FH (the FH indicated we had language options of French or Hebrew). When I went to my French class I missed my refugee friends – and was most upset when I couldn’t interest neighbour lads or classmates in a talk about my view of the need the need to obtain political independence for Scotland. Strangely, my first significant employment in Glasgow was at Clydesdale Supply Company, where (despite the large number of employees) our Jewish director took a great interest in me and things I achieved – even presenting me with surprise “incentive awards” and encouraging my interest in people and places not only in Scotland, but also abroad.

    As a teenager, hitchhiking in Europe in my kilt, I developed a new vision of Jewishness when two young guys from New York gave me a lift in a Citroen CV2 from Holland into Germany. They were great company, and took an interest when they learned that I’d done a radio interview in Paris about my Scottish independence actions at RadiodiffusionTelevisionFrancaise. However, It turned out that their major concern involved a terrible fear of what Germans might do to them. They asked me to stay with them through the border crossing and into the German heartland (I could see the relief on their faces whenever my kilted posterior took Germans’ interest away from them).

    I traveled with them into the British Occupation Zone (where – as an active Scottish nationalist – it was my turn to feel a wee bit scared). In the American Zone we were all able to relax. I asked an American representative about getting work – and got an interview (where an army sergeant asked me how come I spoke such good English)! This got me an offer of employment, and two years later enabled me to emigrate to the US.

    In Maine (where employment was scarce) in 1958, I bought an old car for $95, and advertised for companions to accompany me on a trip to California via Route 66. The only serious response I got was from an elderly gentleman resident in a Jewish old folks home in Portland. Over about 3 weeks I made my arrangements and managed to fit in numerous visits to the old man, becoming fascinated with his many stories of his years in America as a successful businessman (and his ambitions to start again – like me – on the West Coast). He was curious too about what I’d done and what I hoped to achieve. But in the end his frailty became apparent to me. It was one of the most depressing decisions I’d ever had to make when I needed to tell him he couldn’t make the trip with me.

    My first years in California were dynamic. I was fighting long term health conditions that had originated in my boyhood tenement existence in Glasgow, fighting to overcome the inadequate Scottish education that had resulted, and eventually being able to gain access to American academic programs. I married, and my wife (now dead) a wonderful Japanese American helped things financially by giving up her academic ambitions. But we eventually had to take on a position jointly managing a 20-unit rental property owned by an elderly Los Angeles matron who was most helpful to us. Imagine my surprise when we discovered her Jewish background!

    But my disabilities – originating as a boy in Glasgow – had now become life threatening. I was advised that immediate heart surgery was required – but that California might not be the best place for it. Emergency success was subsequently achieved by doctors at Green Lane Hospital in Auckland, New Zealand. The treatment took many months, but eventually I returned to work in California, starting a career in American libraries that had a gratifying response (my memoir RUNNING MESSAGE PARLOR tells of that). Another memoir, OPERATION NEW ZEALAND (or BUM TICKER in the US ) told the story of my medical adventures. Included in the NZ narrative was a reference to another heart patient at Green Lane who became a friend of great value. His name was Dick Ellis; he was a little older than I, and he lived in Auckland. We shared information about medical matters and discussed everything from circumstances prompting amusement to concerns about our families and the problems of the world. I accepted that he was Jewish – and found our friendship became deeper as we realized that – as our lives advanced we’d both need supplemental treatment. I had to return to New Zealand a number of times from the US for supplementary life-saving surgery – and he was always there to see that everything was all right. But then, in California, when I was starting to arrange to move permanently to New Zealand, a surprise parcel arrived for me. It contained the signed copy of OPERATION NEW ZEALAND I’d sent to Dick on its publication in London in 1970. I was surprised to note it was being returned to me by The Dorie Chong Institute for Advanced Buddhist Studies of Auckland, an organization that had received it with other gifts when he died!

    I’ve had another book published more recently, taking an overview of my life (2010), RETIRED TERRORIST, emphasizing my life long interest in seeing Scotland obtain independence. I regret I didn’t make comments about Israel’s achievement of independence. So many people in this world attempting to achieve political responsibility! I look at the evidence of all the wonderful Jewish people I’ve had the good fortune to know during my life … and then look in the media and see the reports of actions of mindless, fundamentalist Jews who will never accede to grant Palestinian human rights…. Ain’t people funny!

  4. maxwell macleod says:

    I am sixty five tomorrow. Good God. looking back on a wasted life the only thing that gives me comfort is that I may have enabled a few folk to tell their stories without feeling they were being ridiculous and Mr Macshean’s is a gem. So give me a birthday present people. I need no cards or e mails or words of compassion ( spare me those please) just the thought that out there some people are telling their children how they remember being children and how awful it sometimes was, others that they really do love their partners a little more each day, and that their children not only drive them insane but keep them sane, others confessing lies, paying debts that had supposedly been forgotten , or that they are scared of death or failure. Or even success.
    If you cant manage that hard cash or strong drink is always
    welcome.
    Oh and the thought that you too are aware that one day, surprisingly soon you will be sixty five. And looking in the mirror. And asking yourself ; ” Jings was that it?”

    1. Paul Carline says:

      65? Ah yes, that was when I got married (actually on my birthday) to someone 40 years younger than me … nearly 8 years ago now …
      A new start in some ways … but in others a continuation of my passionate pursuit of the truth which in our age of “universal deceit” deserves to be taken very seriously … and far beyond a trivialising facetiousness.

  5. Jean Thomson says:

    I am 87, a Scot living in London. As a child I lived in Arab Palestine, under the British Mandate. The British then handed Palestine to the Zionists, who celebrated ‘Independence’ in 1948, while the Palestinians mourned the NACKBA, their catastrophe, their dispossession and eviction from their country.
    However nice one’s Jewish friends may be, nothing can forgive either British or Jews for taaking the country away from the Arabs, in a way that has removed all sense of justice and equal rights. Unfortunately, Israel seems to be unable to forget its sense of persecution no matter how prosperous and powerful it is.
    It is regrettable that another ex-patriot Scot, with a clan name, Macleod, can write such a facetious piece about Jerusalem.

    1. maxwell macleod says:

      Thank you for your interesting response. I fully accept your accusation that my piece is facetious and indeed much of your argument, but the harsh reality is that if you are to engage in inspiring debate , or even interest, in the hideous agony of what is going on in the area there is little point in re-hashing the ancient arguments and you have to attract attention, even derision, by writing things that are readable and allow those from both sides to engage in exchanges. It’s the story tellers technique. It’s what I do.
      The reality of what is currently happening in Israel , Donald Trumps comments last week and the current Iranian conference are creating a dynamic that may threaten world peace. There is little point in putting your head under the duvet and cursing Balfour, we are where we are, tell me what you think we should do. And you can be as facetious as you like, indeed I would encourage it. It’s really the best option.

    2. MBC says:

      My recollection of history is that the British mandate in Palestine was not given to the Jews it was given to the United Nations to decide. The British were fed up after the war getting it from both sides; remember the Stern gang and their atrocities. They referred it to the UN. The UN sent commissioners but the Arabs wouldn’t speak to them. They were still under the influence of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Amin Al Husseini in exile in Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood. The narrative was that the UN was a crusader plot, don’t trust them, don’t co-operate. There will be an Arab revolt against the crusaders and we will win. So the UN commissioners only had the Jews to speak to, secular Jews who were active in building up a modern country whilst the Arabs were technologically backward, resistant to modernity, and unwilling to talk. The UN commissioners came to the conclusion that the secular Jews had the best chance of building a viable state and economy. Many Arabs fled to Jordan and surrounding areas after the announcement of the creation of the state of Israel, fearful that there would be a bloodbath that never came. Others stayed put, hopeful of an Arab invasion that never came either. Those Arabs who remained and their descendants are Israeli citizens. They are the freest Arabs in the Middle East. The big problem is of course not with them (of which we hear very little because there is little problematic to report) but with the Arabs on the West Bank seized after 1967 during the Six Day War when the much threatened Arab invasion eventually materialised and was roundly defeated. The humiliation was bitter, and that bitterness continues to be toxic.

    3. Paul Carline says:

      I fully agree. Nothing can justify being anything less than appalled and disgusted at the crimes of this illegitimate state (legitimate only de facto, not de jure; Israel has no constitution because it refuses to define its borders, still intent on expansion, now eyeing southern Syria – to add to its illegal occupation of the Golan – with the ultimate aim being the Oded Yinon plan of a “Greater Israel”). Of course it’s not just criminal in its treatment of the Palestinians, but equally in its global role in facilitating the myth of large-scale Islamic terrorism.

      A more appropriate response to Israel’s actions can be seen in the writings of Miko Peled.

  6. George says:

    Thank you. A great blog. I canny imagine what the aftermath of President Trump will look like. I can only hope it comes sooner than later.

  7. Justin Kenrick says:

    this man maxwell makes me mad with laughter
    this mad manwell laughters to the max
    this makar maks a mighty mouse roar
    for peace for peace for peace

    in amongst the pain
    where ferocious is disguised as facetious
    a path sneaks through the minefield of platitudes and blame

    1. maxwell macleod says:

      Jings Justine, physician heal thyself! Yeah it was a bit crazy, but it was written at speed in a rat infested hostel that seemed to have been hewn out of a thousand year wall, and probably was, in the Jerusalem souk. ( Its called the new Swedish hostel, if that’s the new one I dread to think what the old one was like). However I make no apologies, last week Jerusalem , and indeed the whole of the Middle East was in a sort of suspension of anticipation as The Donald postured for Israel in the States and sixty supporters of Palestine forgathered in Iran and I was trying to reflect that mood of chaotic rejection of the crystal ball. I understand that a restaurant in London has recently erected a sign, All Americans must be accompanied by an adult. Ye maun laugh when ye darenae cry.

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