We don’t have a parking permit for Musrara, the area where we live. So we park our car in Palestinian East Jerusalem. It’s not that far away, but it’s the other side of the world.
Before we left the Netherlands, a Jewish friend of ours jokingly said it it doesn’t smell that good in East, while in the Jewish West side of Jerusalem, it smells like roses.
And it turned out to be true that the Eastern side is often a whole lot messier than the Western side of town. Walking to the parking lot, we hurry over dusty roads, messy alleys and heaps of garbage. But it is also a colorful area, with many wonderful shops. It is an area where we have encountered helpfulness and kindness over and over again. It might be disorganized, but is friendly.
On our walk to the parking lot today, the smell of East gradually became worse. And then, unbearable. At first I thought we were passing a garbage container with the remains of deceased animals in it. But we never seemed to really pass that container. Street after street people hurried to where they had to go. Covering their noses. The friendliness vanished into stinky air.
The shop owner of the favorite shop of the girls was holding a fragrant herb under his nose. He offered us a whiff. Until now his long and awkward beard had taken me aback a bit. Now the stench was so awful that we gratefully accepted his offer. All seven of us. The shop full of tiaras, perfumes and glittery shoes seemed to be breathing out the foul smell when we continued to the car.
The dust on cars had little spots on it, as if it had rained just a bit. But it hadn’t. Most of the cars in the parking lot, just like all the street we had just passed, had been sprayed. Sprayed with what I learned later was one of the innovative weapons of the Israeli Defense Forces.
Sprayed with Skunk.
Skunk. That’s right. Like the animal that sprays a foul smelling odor on you when you threaten it. Apparently the IDF was scared enough last Thursday to spray Skunk on many streets, shops and undoubtedly people in East Jerusalem. Streets and shops and people that will not get rid of the smell easily. The nauseating, horrible smell of an allegedly harmless liquid developed for crowd control.
Developed to scare people away. Resulting in empty restaurants, empty markets, empty shops. For who can eat or think about food when you smell something so putrid? And who would want to go fun shopping when all you want to do is leave?
I am a newbie to riots and clashes and crowd control. What do I know about how to tame the masses when they turn against you? But I do know that making life barely possible for days after the clash is humiliating and hurtful. It is as if I would put a child on a naughty chair for days in a row after the child has done something just once. I couldn’t help but wondering what was wrong with the good old water canon, the smoke bomb or maybe even tear gas.
The Jasmin bush in our street is blooming. Even just passing it the smell is lovely. Before we went back to East this afternoon, we all picked a couple of flowers to take along. And one extra. For the bearded shop owner.