MICKEY IN JERUSALEM
Oct. 19, 1999
MICKEY IN JERUSALEM
By Dianne Roe
"It's not Mickey's fault," I explained to nine year old Rawan last week in
the middle of a discussion about the Israeli sponsored Jerusalem exhibition
at Disney World. "It's the fault of Abu Mickey (Mickey's father)" I said in
the best way I knew to explain the Disney Corporation.
Two weeks earlier Rawan, who lives in Abu Dis, close to one of the Jerusalem
military checkpoints, attached a plastic Mickey Mouse to my backpack. It
had drawn immediate recognition from children in the Hebron district where I
work with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT). Indeed many of the
back-to-school children that I met were also sporting Mickey on their
But last Sunday as I prepared for a return visit to Rawan's house, I bought
a newspaper. On the front page an article about a boycott against Disney
Corporation described Disney's Jerusalem exhibit as "marginalizing Muslims
and Christians." So as Rawan's older brother explained the newspaper
article to her, I could read the disappointment in her face.
What would Rawan and her twin sister Riham understand about a boycott? What
did they know of the political situation of Jerusalem? Part of me wanted to
shelter them from the political realities. I wanted them to continue
dancing and singing with their plastic Disney figurines bobbing up and down
on their school backpacks. But I knew that "Greater Jerusalem" had already
In March 1993 when they were almost three Israel imposed a closure that cut
the West Bank from Jerusalem and Israel. Only their mother who was born in
Jerusalem and had a Jerusalem ID, could go to the East Jerusalem post office
to get the mail. Aunts, Uncles, cousins and Grandparents on their father's
side could not (even though they live inside the area that Israel has called
greater Jerusalem). That closure, still in effect, has had a devastating
on West Bank economy. They felt that effect personally when the only jobs
available were on the other side of the checkpoint where their father could
When the twins were six years old "greater Jerusalem, eternal
undivided capital of Israel" became an even harsher reality for them. The
Israeli military demolished the home of their uncle as part of the "master
plan" to provide for the expansion of the Israeli settlement of Ma'ale
Adumim. Part of Ma'ale Adumim was built on land confiscated from the twins'
More recently their aunt married a man who has family land in
Waleja village, but that land too is being confiscated, also to be part of
"greater Jerusalem." In fact as I joined Israelis on September 27th for a
succot between Israelis and Waleja families whose homes had been demolished
recently, Rabbi Arik Ashermen of the Israeli Committee against Home
Demolitions pointed out that the Waleja families had crossed the valley in
1948 as refugees from Jerusalem. Then in 1987, greater Jerusalem expanded
its borders around their lands but did not give them Jerusalem IDs. Instead
Administration put demolition orders on their houses.
I looked out across the valley as Arik spoke and could see the expanded
Jerusalem stretched out before me. The largest mall in the Middle East,
Gilo settlement, and new developments all around had replaced the pastoral
scenes of earlier decades. It seems that as the "Greater Jerusalem" area
prepares for the influx of tourists, Disney is coming to Jerusalem, even as
Jerusalem is going to Disney World.
If you visit the Disneyfied Jerusalem here in the Middle East you won't need
a special ticket. You will be able to travel the bypass roads and visit the
holy places. Tour moguls are setting it up so that you can "walk on water"
in the sea of Galilee, visit a reconstruction of Nazareth as it was in
Jesus' day, and you will be able to visit Bethlehem without even going
inside the Palestinian controlled area.
However, for thousands of West Bank families it won't be so easy. They will
wait in long lines for their tickets (permits to go to Jerusalem) which give
them a two week pass. Often these are denied. They will be entering on
foot along paths that are far removed from your view.
Rawan and other west Bank children would like them have a chance to welcome
you when you come. You probably won't meet them however. They will be
hidden out of sight. Rawan doesn't want to give up Mickey. He is a symbol
of friendship around the world. She just wishes she were part of it.
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