The pope’s place at Jerusalem might seem an unlikely venue for a barbecue, but on Thursday night it was the site of an illuminating dinner conversation between a group of 12 Germans, 12 Israelis, and one American.
The occasion was the first night of the second half of the Bertelsmann Foundation’s German-Israeli Young Leaders Exchange, which I was invited to as something of an international observer. In a session in Germany in July, the group had covered the ground of the Holocaust and German abandonment of Israel. This week and last week serve as the time for a pilgrimage to the land of terror.
The fourth-floor terrace of the Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center, directly owned by the Vatican and recently host to Pope John Paul II on the occasion of his jubilee, looked out over the Old City. I write on a bus to Nazareth from Jerusalem and on the condition of vagueness, to protect participants, if not anonymity.
It did not take long over appetizers of humus, olives, and pita bread for the topic to turn to terrorism. A German radio correspondent, who had arrived a day earlier, described his dilemma the night before. “I had drinks with a friend from Tel Aviv, but I wanted to make it quick, just one drink,” German Radio said. “But then they made the second drink free.”
“You do something I would not do,” an Israeli television anchor, a great big ham of a man who lives in Tel Aviv, said.
“So, you do not go out?” asked a female Ha’aretz reporter who also lives in Tel Aviv.
“I’m already married and have a little girl,” Israeli Television said.
“So, what, you’re saying is, my life is cheap?” Ha’aretz shot back, mostly kidding.
“It is my wife, she keeps me home,” Israeli Television joked. “It’s the Intifada in my living room. Hamas just gives me an excuse.”
Despite the laughter, there was despair around the table — on the Israeli side at least.
“There cannot be peace in my lifetime,” Ha’aretz said. “There is so much hatred on both sides.”
The Germans were more hopeful, but the feeling seemed to fade with every breath of the warm Jerusalem night air.
The buses? How does anyone take a bus here? So asked a German newspaperman of Iraqi-Jewish extraction. And if you must take the buses, how come there cannot be better security on them?
“If they can’t blow up a bus, they’ll blow up a movie theater. And if not that, a restaurant. And if not that, something else,” Israeli Television said.
The Germans asked the Israelis what they thought of the fence, or the wall — or, well, what should they call it?
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H/T to National Review Online