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Sunday, February 25, 2018

Jerusalem: The city we love most and visit least

Taking the twelve disciples aside, Jesus said, "Listen, we're going up to Jerusalem, where all the predictions of the prophets concerning the Son of Man will come true." Then Jesus had his disciples bring him a colt, and they threw their cloaks over it for him to ride. The news of his arrival rippled through the city, and crowds poured out onto the road to see him.

By Rifat Odeh Kassis

For me -- as for most Palestinians, both Muslims and Christians -- Jerusalem is the city we love most and visit least. 

As a little boy, I remember traveling to Jerusalem with my late father along the old road -- a trip that took many hours due to the "no-man's zone" that forbade us from directly accessing the divided city. 

Despite the obstacles that existed even then, I remember going to Jerusalem as a deeply happy event. It meant eating the sweets we couldn't find in our village, and visiting the holy places we'd only heard about in school and church. Or else it meant going to the doctor, since most doctors were based in Jerusalem at that time. In any case, my sentimental relationship with the city is strong.

When the First Intifada broke out in 1987, Jerusalem was sealed off to those of us who lived in the so-called West Bank, and we had to obtain special permits in order to enter the city. Legally, visiting Jerusalem became impossible for me; because I was a past political prisoner, I was put on some kind of state blacklist, and so the Israeli authorities wouldn't grant me a permit. 

Since 2002, I have not returned to Jerusalem. My 29-year-old son, Dafer, has never visited it at all, although he has probably traveled around half the world. Being barred from Jerusalem is a great emotional and psychological loss to me and to my family.

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