… Or, 25 interesting things about Ramallah and its environs.
Whole areas of the Greater Ramallah area now loom like “Dubai on a hilltop”, with clusters of large high-rises either recently built, or still being built. Many are glossy, glass-fronted “trade centers” or “office complexes.” Who’s been financing this massive wave of development? Some of it, clearly, has been financed by western donor governments eager to prop up the Ramallah-based “Palestinian Authority’. Many area residents say, however, that much of it has been financed by the very extensive, and relatively well-off, networks of Ramallah expatriates. Some people say that as much as 90% of the Palestinians whose family origins are here now live elsewhere– primarily in the US. When they’ve sent money ‘home’, over the years, they have generally loved to plow it into real-estate development. Back in the days of full-bore Israeli occupation, the military authorities kept a tight lid on Palestinian building. Now, they are ‘free’ to indulge their wildest real-estate fantasies (and some truly are pretty wild and tasteless.) The results do not make it easy to persuade the many international NGOs who flock to Palestine that there is any real socioeconomic need here. Yes, there is need in Palestine, including a lot of it in other parts of the West Bank, as well as in Gaza. But for the most part you don’t find it if you stay inside Ramallah.
Many of the city’s high-rises are now occupied by PA ‘ministries.’ By some counts there are 37 of them, each with its own grandiose marble-clad building. (Often, little goes on inside, but that’s another question.) But the PA is not a sovereign government. In fact it has a jurisdiction and mandate that is far more circumscribed than that of my home-state, Virginia. In Virginia, the state– or Commonwealth, as it is somewhat grandiosely known– has a ‘Department of Education’, a ‘Department of Transport’, etc etc. Wouldn’t it be more appropriate for the PA to call these bodies “Departments”, and to keep them to a reasonable and effective scale? Calling them ‘ministries’, it seems to me, is just another instance of PA grandiosity and legerdemain.
Ramallah has numerous lively and engaging cafes and eateries– and apparently some bars and night-clubs, though I didn’t check those out. But I don’t think it has a single decent bookstore. H’mmm…. I moved from there to East Jerusalem recently; one of the first things I did was wander along Jerusalem’s Salahuddin Street to the Educational Bookstore. Although it’s tiny it always has the most stunning and well-organized selection of books on current political and cultural topics, in Arabic and English. Maybe they should open a branch in Ramallah?
I had a nice relaxing coffee in Ramallah’s Cafe de la Paix with my old friend Vera Nofal, an accomplished woman who does a real job as an interpreter at high-level international gatherings. Most of the city’s up-market cafes and eateries have, like the Paix, a determinedly ‘European’ decor and menu. I would have had a dessert there with my coffee but Vera said all their desserts are Made in Israel. Just about all aspects of Ramallah’s life are, indeed, Made in Israel. The city– like all the rest of the Palestinian Occupied Territories– serves as a captive market for Israeli products, including for the dumping thereof. There is nothing approaching equality in the terms of trade between Israel and the OPTs.
Regarding dumping: I stayed in the Royal Court Suites, which is not as fancy a place as it sounds, but very serviceable for my needs. (Workable internet and a kettle and fridge in the room: what more does a person need?) Breakfasts were not their strongest selling-point– though they were, as is usual here, included in the room rate. The breakfasts featured little individually packed honeys and jams with Israeli labeling that were very evidently ways past their sell-by date. Hey, guys: what about using some of the great preserves made by Palestinian producers in and around Ramallah??? Less plastic waste to worry about, too…
One of the local institutions in Ramallah that does do real, small-scale manufacturing is the Sinoqrot candy factory. Last Sunday, the IOF forces made one of their very frequent raids into the city and occupied the factory for four hours, while they interrogated each employee individually. I think one employee was taken away to an indefinite detention. (See: “Lack of sovereignty”, in #2 above.)
The ‘government’ of PM Salam Fayad, which was installed by President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) in a non-legal way at the Bush administration’s urging in June 2007, has had a lot of American help in funding and organizing the revamped PA security forces. There are traffic cops on the street who look very adequately equipped for their task and seem to do a generally competent job of keeping the traffic moving. There are also gendarmerie forces that have been trained for much broader tasks of social control. They are reportedly trained by US and Jordanian trainers in Jericho. One of their big barracks is in the old ‘Muqataa’ complex, near the center of Ramallah, which was the last redoubt and last resting-place of the late Yasser Arafat.
Friends in a position to know about these things said that, whenever there’s an IOF incursion into Ramallah, the Palestinian forces are usually notified in advance so they can conveniently make themselves scarce before it happens. But if by chance that system doesn’t work and the PA forces are surprised by an Israeli snatch-squad (or assassination squad), their orders are to lay their arms down on the ground and turn their backs on the Israelis. As I said, the person who told me this is in a position to know. See “Lack of sovereignty” above.
This same friend also told me, and I had it confirmed from other sources too, that recently there’s been a big shake-up in the gendarmerie forces. All the “old militants”– that is, the former Palestinian freedom fighters who ‘came back’ to Ramallah with Arafat and Co. in the immediate aftermath of the Oslo Agreement– were pensioned off, and new recruits taken in. The main conditions for these newbies were that (1) they not have any ‘security file’ held by the Israelis, and (2) they have not passed their tawjihi secondary-school matriculation exam. I guess the goal would be that these would be impressionable youngsters, uninfected by the ‘virus’ of nationalism, who could be molded accorded to the whims of U.S. Gen. Keith Dayton’s training teams.
The Muqataa complex is now getting all spiffed up, with cranes working overtime inside it. The Japanese government proudly proclaims its financial support for this project on billboards outside. H’mm, where were the Japanese or any other pro-US governments when Yasser Arafat, the elected president of the PA, was holed up there in incredibly degrading conditions, from March 2002 through his death in November 2004? Ariel Sharon just humiliated and humiliated Arafat in the Muqataa for all those 31 months, keeping him quite unable to operate as a political leader. The conditions of his imprisonment there certainly helped to kill him, even if he was not directly poisoned….
One other puzzling thing at the Muqataa these days, though: The elaborate marble cenotaph that the Fateh/PA leadership erected for Arafat is located inside the Muqataa. I’m not sure why they would want to memorialize that humiliating period in his life in this way? (Or is it his useless sense of ‘steadfastness’ there that they’re memorializing?) Also, having the cenotaph inside the Muqataa means it is hard for ordinary Palestinian citizens– many of whom do seem today to have some nostalgia for the man, perhaps because of the even more demoralizing nature of what came after–to go in and pay their respects. It seems to be mainly a place groomed to be visited by foreign dignitaries, rather than the common person.
Ah, talking of those foreign dignitaries… Where is Abu Mazen? This week, in Norway, Sweden, and the Czech Republic, I think. The word on the street in Ramallah is that he only ever comes back into Palestine these days when he has to be here to receive visiting foreign dignitaries. He may be the darling of many western leaders. But I heard almost zero good assessments from Ramallawis about his political skills or achievements. The best things I heard said were assessments of his personality along the lines of, “Well, he is personally a decent man, and not nearly as financially corrupt as the rest of the Fateh leaders… ” That latter bar is a low one, indeed.
And what, you will ask, occupies the rest of those great office-complex skyscrapers that are thrusting up out of the ground– often, sadly, out of the remains of old terraced olive-groves– everywhere you look? And I would say, based on my numerous trips around town, two kinds of offices. probably the greater amount of office square-footage is occupied by, basically, foreign-funded NGOS, INGOs, Quangos, and other general do-goodery. Post-genocide Kigali had nothing on Ramallah in terms of having a truly massive NGO/INGO footprint. The premises occupied by many of these organizations are vast, and very expensively and tastelessly decorated… The other kinds of office are offices for banks or other financial institutions that provide the foreign-supplied funding that greases the wheels of the entire edifice of today’s Ramallah. Just about this whole edifice is living– and in many cases, very comfortably indeed– off some form or another of international dole. The only organizations I visited that weren’t in overly large, sumptuously decorated offices were the international aid organization CARE and the veteran Ramallah-based human rights organization Al-Haq. Okay, I am sure there other organizations operating in Ramallah within reasonable financial constraints– but those were the only two that I saw. Al-Haq’s premises, in particular, still looked exactly the same as when I first visited them in the early 1990s: a third-floor walk-up down at the grungy end of Main Street; old, stained carpet on the floor; a warren of tiny workspaces; everyone in there looking focused and busy. Now, there’s a serious organization making excellent use of donors’ funds.
Of course there are many different layers of privilege inside Ramallah and other Palestinian enclaves of the West Bank; and this whole system of doling out these (relative) privileges is carefully orchestrated by the occupying power. In a hilariously revealing press release February 24, the IDF spokesman foregrounded the extent to which every little bit of “privilege” given to the West Bankers is, actually, tightly controlled by the IDF. (The West Bank– which the government of Israel has tried to re-name “Judea and Samaria”– is after all under Israeli military occupation, just as it has been for the past 41.5 years.)
In the press release, the IDF spokesman told us that,
- 190 certificates were handed out to Palestinian public figures and security forces personnel (from the rank of Battalion Commander) that allow maximum freedom of movement, as an addition to the 200 people currently holding these certificates.
Following a strict security examination, an individual authorization was given to few senior personnel in the Palestinian security forces, allowing them to have armed security due to real life threat…
The “certificates… allowing freedom of movement” are linked to what is known among Palestinians as “VIP passes.” People with VIP passes can pass through checkpoints on the West Bank roads almost as easily as Israeli settlers. The whole system of movement controls within the West Bank is so coercive! Additionally, just on people’s cars, anyone associated with the PA these days has red lettering on their license plates, rather than the regular green lettering. I think this was at Israel’s insistence, too. But the people who have the regular green and white plates for some reason don’t seem very fond of the red-platers…
I imagine that the people of the many different enclaves into which successive Israeli governments have, since Oslo, tirelessly diced the West Bank– and the people of Gaza– all have their own sets of attitudes towards today’s Lords of Ramallah. The sets of attitudes that I know best are those of the Gazawis, most of which are quite unprintable, and those of many Palestinian Jerusalemites.
Ramallah and Palestinian East Jerusalem have a complex relationship, whose terms have– once again– been deeply affected by the occupation force’s decades-long pursuit of the classic policies of divide and rule. At root, many or most Israelis seem to hate the thought that the Palestinians might have any valid claim at all on East Jerusalem. Thus, ever since the IDF captured this historic half of the ancient city, Israeli governments have done just about everything they could, not only to deny any role at all inside the city to either the PA or any other Palestinian national institutions, but also to reduce the Palestinian population of the city and replace it with Jewish Israelis. The intensive policy of Judaizing occupied East Jerusalem was pursued with a vengeance under “Teddy” Kollek, the longtime Labour Party mayor of Jerusalem who made quite a name for himself in the west… and it continues today. Despite all the best efforts of the Israelis, however, some 220,000 Palestinians remain in their ancestral homes in East Jerusalem. Right after Oslo, the Israelis erected a ring of steel around East Jerusalem, in an attempt to cut its people off completely from their compatriots– and often close relatives– elsewhere in the West Bank, including Ramallah. Later, that ring of steel became solidified into the Jerusalem portion of the Wall. And successive Israeli governments have continued to squeeze the Jerusalem Palestinians very hard, economically, while trying to tempt them to move– for economic and other reasons– into Ramallah or another Palestinian population-dump. Thus, Jerusalem Palestinians are allowed– even encouraged– to commute to jobs in Ramallah. But it is just about impossible for Ramallawis to make any kind of a visit at all to Jerusalem, which used to be about 12 minutes away from their town by car. When I moved to Jerusalem from Ramallah a few days ago, some of my Ramallah friends spoke wistfully about the last time they had been able to go to once-loved old haunts, or visit friends or loved ones, in the Holy City… In many cases that was 12 years ago, or more…
Meanwhile, many Palestinian Jerusalemites have their own sense of disapproval for the Lords of Ramallah. Noting how harshly Israeli taxes squeeze them at every turn, the incredibly tight constraints Israel puts on Palestinians doing any real-estate development work at all in Jerusalem, and the extremely meager levels of support that Jerusalem Palestinians get from rich western countries, they often look at the no-tax lifestyle, cheaper prices, international funding, and palatial real-estate developments in Ramallah with ill-concealed amazement and disdain.
One Palestinian Jerusalemite I talked with told me that many of his friends refer to Ramallah as “the Green Zone”, which he said was, yes, intended to be a comparison with the seat of US occupation rule in Iraq.
Ramallah is bound up with Jerusalem in so many ways. One of the complexities has to do with telephones. For their landlines, Ramallah, Jerusalem, and Bethlehem, which is just to the south of Jerusalem, all share the single “02” area code, a practice established, I think, early on in the Israeli occupation– though since Oslo, the land telephone service for Ramallah and Bethlehem has been provided by the Palestinian telephone company, Paltel. But for cellphones, the entire system is different for in the PA areas. Currently, cell service is offered there by a PA-registered monopoly called Jawal (the Roamer), while cell service in Jerusalem comes through Israel’s Orange service. If you call from Ramallah to Bethlehem or anywhere else on the West Bank– or even, I think Gaza– on a Jawal-to-Jawal call, it’s at local rates. If you call Jawal-to-Orange, it’s international rates. (But if you call from Ramallah to Jerusalem on a landline, it’s a local call, whereas a landline call from Ramallah to Gaza would be long distance.) Now that I’m in Jerusalem I’m not even getting a signal on my Jawal phone, though people say there are parts of Jerusalem where you can. So like the many people who now commute daily from Jerusalem to Ramallah, I’ve gotten hold of a second phone to get Orange service on.
Practically everyone inside Ramallah seems to regard the whole ‘PA’ venture as one huge patronage-and-gravy-providing machine. This includes many of the extensive numbers of people who are themselves quite firmly lodged onto the gravy train, as well as just about all those who are not. For the ones who are, there is a sense of tiredness, frustration, and resignation involved. Many of these are people who have fought for many past years for Palestinian rights, have suffered a lot in the past, have lost close friends, comrades, and family members to the struggle, been in prison, been tortured by Israel or its neighboring Arab countries, and/or lost a lot financially over the years to the struggle. Many of them are good people. Several are people with whom I’ve been friends for several decades… But they got tired. They were offered (for those who were previously exiled) a return to a portion of their beloved homeland, or (for those who were previously militants inside the homeland) a life notably easier than the one they had had before. They were also offered the chance to do a few things that many of them considered extremely valuable. The main valuable thing I heard mentioned was the opportunity to build and sustain a good, modern, Palestinian education system, rather than leaving the kids in occupied Palestine to be educated under a mish-mash of very ancient Jordanian or Egyptian curricula. They were also given a chance– which some of them considered valuable– to “prove themselves” capable of self-rule, thus taking away from the Israeli occupiers the argument that the Palestinian really weren’t “ready” for independence.
But what an unbelievably patronizing notion! Since when did any colonized population have to “prove itself capable” to the colonizing power, as a precondition before the colonizing power would leave? Also, Palestinians are stunningly well-educated in comparison with other peoples that have been victims of colonization; it was, after all, overwhelmingly Palestinians who built good, functioning, modern state administrations in just about all the small states of the Gulf, back in the 1950s and 1960s. So why any of them have bought into this notion that they need to “prove themselves” to the occupying power, beats me. Also, whenever they have actually shown themselves capable of effective self-administration, even under the strictures of continued military occupation, Israel has not hesitated to go in and ruthlessly destroy the institutions of that self-administration… as in both the West Bank and Gaza in 2002, and in Gaza in the recent war.
Anyway, these are some of the reasons/justifications that the Lords of Ramallah and their various Lordlings give for their participation in this bizarre system. (I’ll provide a few more detailed quotes on these points from PM Salam Fayad, and others, later.)
I can sympathize with their tiredness. We are none of us getting any younger. Some level of creature comfort does start to seem more attractive. But why have Fateh and the other historic PLO groups done so little to raise up strong successor generations? I suppose the fact that for the past 16 years now they’ve been entangled in the Alice-in-Wonderland world of Oslo must have made it much harder to do that.
The shrinkage toward zero of what was once a vibrant Palestinian leftist movement has been intimately connected to the decision the various leftist groups made at various points to get on the Ramallah-based gravy train. It’s been an open secret in Palestinian circles for years that just about all the once-lively alphabet soup of Palestinian leftist movements have been either on the dole of Fateh directly, or on the dole of the Fateh-dominated PLO. Though officials in some of these movements voice occasional open protests at, say, the excesses of the PA security forces or the counter-productive bankruptcy of its peace diplomacy, these objections are never sustained for long. And besides, most of these movements long ago lost the vast bulk of their earlier mass-level support. Sad, but true. Ghassan Khatib, a respected leftist who was imprisoned by Israel during the First Intifada and later became a PA Minister of Information, then Planning, admitted that the opinion polling done by the research center he founded (JMCC) showed that the whole gamut of groups other than Fateh and Hamas had dwindled to a tiny following and had therefore become just about irrelevant politically.
For most of the Fateh leadership, and certainly for present PA president Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), the conclusion of the 1993 Oslo Agreement was a signal victory, and a vindication for the veteran liberation movement’s many decades of hard-fought struggle. I remember meeting Abu Mazen in Tunis in the late 1980s, and how he explained then how he was pushing very hard for a policy whereby “We’ll show the Israelis that we love them, and we’ll hug them and hug them until they can’t avoid giving us our rights!” Abu Mazen was one of the biggest engines of all, within Fateh, for that policy. He persuaded Yasser Arafat to buy into it. It was the two of them, primarily, who engineered and led the PLO delegation’s participation in the lengthy negotiation that led to the Oslo Agreement. You have to wonder how different Palestinian history might have been if the other big heavyweights among the Fateh founders– Abu Iyad, Abu Jihad, and Abu Said– had lived until 1993. (By the way, I don’t count Abu Mazen as a heavyweight on a par with those three, or Arafat.) But they didn’t. Abu Jihad was killed by the Israelis–Ehud Barak leading the charge– in Tunis in 1988; and Abu Iyad was killed in Cairo, most likely in a Saddam-orchestrated hit, in January 1991.
Since Arafat’s death in November 2004, Abu Mazen has taken over the mantle of leadership inside Fateh, the PLO, and the PA. He holds all these strings of formal leadership in his hands, and has had every freedom to pursue his policy of “hugging the Israelis into compliance/generosity.” It hasn’t worked. He has hugged and hugged, and the Israelis have not given him anything. Indeed, they have continued to take away from the Palestinians additional quantities of their lands, their lives, and their human dignity. As a result, Fateh itself, which for many earlier decades comprised something like three-fourths of the specific weight of the entire Palestinian movement, has now fallen apart from the inside. The movement’s long-delayed sixth congress has recently had to be delayed yet again, since the “powers that be” inside the movement’s leadership can’t even decide who should be a part of it, or where it should be held…
Well, you could ascribe Fateh’s internal collapse to Abu Mazen’s “victory” in securing the deeply flawed Oslo Agreement in a very direct way, given the failure, from the Palestinian point of view, of the Oslo policy. Or, you could ascribe it to Oslo indirectly, since the whole PA structure established by Oslo magnified a hundred-fold, and to a large extent extent formalized, the shady and patronage-based way that Fateh had always conducted its internal organization. Now, in effect, it no longer has an internal organization. It has a few patronage centers, which are literally awash in American and US-mobilized money.
Some Fateh people hope that the organization could become revitalized if only Marwan Barghouthi, an up-and-coming grassroots leader who was imprisoned by the Israeils in 2002 and sentenced to five consecutive life terms in prison for having killed on-duty IOF soldiers during the second Intifada, is released from jail. Barghouthi’s trial was, certainly, a travesty, since in direct contravention of international law it was held in an Israeli civil court inside Israel. He rejected the court’s jurisdiction throughout the whole trial. Now, there’s a chance he might be released, as part of the large-scale prisoner release being negotiated in connection with Hamas’s handing over of Israeli POW Gilad Shalit. (Though I think the possibility of that happening is now receding as the premiership of Olmert winds down… Olmert had by all accounts become deeply invested in getting Shalit freed; Netanyahu seems far less invested in it.)
But it also seems fairly quixotic to me to think that Marwan, who’s been in jail for seven years now, can single-handedly heal Fateh upon his release. Some people talk about him as “Mandela”. But the very strength that Mandela had during his 28 years in jail was the strength and discipline of the ANC organization ways beyond (as well as inside) the prison walls. Mandela’s stance affected the ANC leadership, yes; but he would have been almost powerless if that leadership had not been strong and continuous on the outside. Also, Mandela was a very experienced, highly cultured, and highly disciplined person before he went to jail; and the 28 years in Robben Island further steeled these personal qualities within him. I’ve seen no sign yet that either that Marwan has Mandela-like qualities or– more importantly– that Fateh has anything like the same level of discipline, vision, nationalist commitment, and organization that the ANC had in 1990-92.
If Marwan does get out any time in the near future, it will be due to Hamas’s negotiating efforts. Just how that will strengthen Fateh, nobody has yet explained to me.
From some points of view, more important than freeing Marwan– since the Palestinians do also have more than 11,000 other political prisoners in Israeli jails– is freeing the 41 elected members of the Palestinian parliament who are still imprisoned by the Israelis without any valid charge having been laid against them. How can western governments that profess their support for ‘democracy’ continue to give their generous support to a government that treats the results of a free and fair election with such crushing disdain? And how can these same governments continue to give their support to a foreign-installed ’emergency government’ in Ramtustan that is serving mainly as a security sub-agent for the occupying power while the latter continues, daily, to defy international law by pushing ever forward with its colonial land-grab project in the occupied territories?
You look out of Ramallah, beyond the Wall, at the growing settlement of Psagot just across the valley. Or from other directions, you can look at other settlements and settlement “outposts”. All the outposts were supposed to have been removed under the Road Map. Instead, both their number and their population have continued to grow, along with the number and population of the older, larger settlements. “Natural” growth– as claimed by some Israelis?? You gotta be kidding.
From Ramallah, to get to Jerusalem, you can travel through the cattle-yard terminal at Qalandia– overlooked by segments of the 30-foot-high Wall that are all set at strange angles to each other and are pierced by no fewer than four high concrete watch-towers that cannot but be evocative of the Nazi era. That involves either you having a taxi or private car that has yellow, Jerusalem license plates to get you through, or you walking through the ID/biometric line in the cattle-shed and looking for a mini-bus on the other side. Either way, lengthy delays.
Alternatively, if you have a car or taxi with Jerusalem plates you can take the wide arc around to the east and drive into Jerusalem from the ‘Hizmeh’ crossing point. That one gives you some broad vistas of the West Bank. Hizmeh is the name of a village that used to be q few miles east of Jerusalem. Now, just about all of the village’s lands that lie between it and the old Jerusalem have long been expropriated and intensively settled, forming the vast Israeli settlement of Pisgat Ze’ev. It occupies several sprawling mountain ridges.
Back in the late 1980s, I came to Jerusalem and took a tour with a guy called Ibrahim Mattar who was a big specialist in the geography of settlements. He drive me along the main Jerusalem-Ramallah road and took a turn off to the east someplace where terraced olive groves were being plowed under as huge earth-movers cut broad roads into the hillsides. “They’re going to put 20,000 or more settlers into here,” he said. “They’re naming it Pisgat Ze’ev.” Ze’ev as in Jabotinsky, the ideological guru of the Likud movement.
By 2006 it had 41,653 residents.
A few of the Hizmeh people whose homes were in the midst of the area where Sharon and Co. wanted to build Pisgat Ze’ev refused to budge. You see their older, smaller homes stuck in the middle of the fortress-like new conurbation that surrounds them.
On Friday, February 20 I set out to witness the weekly anti-Wall demonstration mounted by the villagers of Bil’in, 30 minutes west of Ramallah, down toward the sea. That week’s march was a special one to mark the fourth anniversary of the villagers’ almost entirely nonviolent weekly marches against the Wall, which cuts them off from much of their farming land. So they’d tried to do a big mobilization for that week’s march. To his credit Salam Fayad showed up for a cameo appearance at the (safe) beginning of the action, as people exited the village mosque after Friday prayers, though he had to rush back to Ramallah to greet Sen. John Kerry. (Someone later opined that he couldn’t even imagine Abu Mazen gong anywhere near the Bil’in demonstrations.) Mustapha Barghouthi, Abu Leila, MK Mohamed Barakeh, and a few other political notables of the non-Fateh left were there.
It was a valiant, if slightly straggly band that marched with many colorful flags from the village to the Wall. A few boys off to the side launched small stones from slingshots against the IDF soldiers guarding the Wall, which upset the nonviolent tenor of the action and provoked the launching toward us all of some truly debilitating tear-gas canisters. There were, as usual, a couple of dozen– maybe up to 50?– Israelis who’d come to join the march from “the other side.” But even with all the allegedly big mobilization various organizations had done for the march, there were fewer than 250 people taking part. The village head whom I interviewed declared himself satisfied with the level of attendance and pleased that four years’ worth of continued marches had won them– after their case won a ruling from Israel’s Supreme Court–at least the right to go through the Wall to their lands from time to time. But I have to say the whole effort felt a little sad.