Thoughts and Impressions

A View from the Center of the Conflict

Or, “A walk in Maale Adumim”.

I live in a city called Maale Adumim, which can be translated to “the Red Heights”. It wouldn’t be obvious why the city got that name. Though it is build on a number of hill tops, there isn’t a lot of red about them. It’s more sand color all over, though with more green in the winter.

The church tower of the Russian Church, standing over the Al-Sheikh neighborhood.
However, as is the case with several other more recent Israeli cities in Israel and the Palestinian areas, the name comes from Biblical texts, in this case from Joshua 15:7 and 18:17:
“The boundary ascended from the Valley of Achor to Debir and turned north to Gilgal, facing the Ascent of Adumim which is south of the wadi;”

Looking north towards Samaria, as seen from the Israeli perspective of the West Bank being known as Samaria and Judea.
Today Maale Adumim has expanded around the wadi, Arabic for valley, but originally the city was founded south of a wadi, near the East-Jerusalem neighborhood of Azariyyah.
The Efes-Shmoneh neighborhood resting on the lower part of a hill, with parts of Kfar Adumim in the background.
I moved here in 2010, when I married my wife. She already lived here, and her children’s father lived here as well, so we didn’t want to move away, making it harder for them to see each other. We decided to stay here, at least until they are both 18.

Parts of the Azariyyah neighborhood.
Since then we’ve had two kids of our own. The oldest, Micha, has ASD (or is autistic, different preferences), and our luck had it that we lived in one of the best places, when it came to options for ASD kids in Israel. Jerusalem is right next door, with the Hebrew university around the corner, where they are researching in ASD.

Flowers blooming in the winter. In the summer these flowers will be brown again.
It is mostly for Micha, that we go on a weekly walk. When I have the smaller one with us, we usually go to a playground, but when it’s only Micha and I, we like to “explore” a little. This is a gift in itself, when you are dealing with ASD kids, but it also allows me to see parts of the city, which I don’t normally see.

One of the hills surrounding Maale Adumim.
Maale Adumim is really a boring city. It’s great for families with kids, but if you’re a city person like me, who grew up in a metropolis, Maale Adumim is too quiet. Fortunately the nature and views here are amazing. With Jerusalem on the one side, and the Judean desert on the other, we are placed basically on the border between green hills and the desertscape. 

A tree standing lonely looking at its brethren on the other side of the 01 Highway (not visible) going from the Dead Sea to Jerusalem, and onward to Tel Aviv from there.
While it’s pretty green in the winter, the summer is without much color, leaving most of the scenery bathed in sand color. Coming from Scandinavia I do prefer the winter, both because of the more live nature, but also for the cooler temperatures. 

However, as is the case for most of the region, conflict is ever present. Not necessarily in an active form, but in the form of presence of “the other”. As said, Azariyyah, a neighborhood in East Jerusalem, is literally next door to Maale Adumim, and the road into Jerusalem passes by Az-Zaid.

A man walking his dog, with the Azariyyah neighborhood towering in the background.
It’s a weird thing to relate to in the beginning, but – sadly – you soon get used to it. Suddenly it just is. The Palestinians are there, the Israelis here. We see each other, but don’t really acknowledge each other’s presence or existence too much.

Parts of the Alon settlement.
However, there is something happening. I won’t call it miraculous or claim that it’s a step towards peace, but something. The Palestinians are working in Maale Adumim, being a part of the everyday picture of the city. We can’t escape reality, even if we try to.  

Another part of the Al-Sheykh neighborhood. Both Al-Sheykh and Azariyyah are part of East Jerusalem. 
Obviously this is partly caused by pragmatism and opportunism. We can hire employees to lower salaries or for jobs, which ordinary Israelis don’t want. They get better paying jobs. 

Parts of the infamous wall, which either is supposed to protect Israelis against terrorists, or to keep the Palestinians separated in apartheid like realities, depending on who you ask. 
However, it’s not just work they come for. I was surprised in the beginning to see Palestinians shop in the mall of Maale Adumim, and to play with the kids in the various parks. I was surprised because Maale Adumim is considered a settlement, and it is a very right-leaning city. But some form of pragmatic inclusion, ever so little, apparently managed to grow here.

The flowers are ever present during the winter, and most of spring as well. They offer a micro world, which seems to exist in a different reality than the one we live in.
It isn’t without its challenges, obvious I feel like saying. There have been terror attacks – at least one, and calls for firing all of the Arab workers, as well as there has been attacks – at least one – on an Arab, for being Arab. 
The conflict is also found in Maale Adumim.

However, in many ways Maale Adumim isn’t different from most other Israeli cities. Arabs and Jews are generally existing side by side, but not together, no matter where you live in Israel. We know that the other part exist, and is part of our day to day lives, but that’s it. The wish to intermingle is reserved the few.

I love people. I love seeing life being lived. To observe it, and to document it. But it can become too much, take too much energy. That’s why I love going to Eilat, the one city in Israel where religion and the conflict is secondary, if not of less importance. 

And that’s why I love to take the walks in the nature around Maale Adumim. Not that it all disappears. As you can see in the photos, it is still very much there, East Jerusalem and settlements, surrounding my scenic walk.

But it’s at a distance. I feel somewhat removed a little, being able to focus on the smaller things. A flower here, some stone formations there, and, most important, my son. Just enjoying his company and good mood.

A lot could be said, but most of what I feel like adding has already be said. There will probably be other posts, where I will go more into some of the issues mentioned here. So for now I will leave you with the rest of the photos, to get your own impression of the views from Maale Adumim, a settlement in the center of the conflict.

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