“Thirteen-years-old,” said the large man at the bus stop, the one wearing the purple ‘Veterans for Peace’ T-shirt. “And in jail for standing up for her people.”
His eyes bore into mine, and they were hard. The young woman on my other side squirmed.
“And Trump — what did he move the capital to Jerusalem for? It’s never been there, anyway!”
The young woman shot anxious little looks between us. Her eyes, when she looked at me, were full of compassion.
“Oh no, I’m so sorry you’re going through this, how unpleasant” they seemed to tell me.
“It’s OK,” I wanted to say back. “Don’t feel uncomfortable on my behalf. I can take this. I’m fine.”
Truth be told, I was more than fine. Everyone is so very polite here in America. Most people say “how nice” when I tell them where I’m from, and move on to other topics.
They don’t ask the hard questions.
The ones worth asking.
The ones I’m more than happy to discuss.
Finally, I thought. finally, a discussion.
“Trump didn’t move Israel’s capital to Jerusalem,” I told the man in purple. I was feeding my baby at the time, and continued passing him crumbs of bread between the sentences. “He merely acknowledged that it’s there. It’s been there since 1948.”
“No it hasn’t,” he shot back, eyes narrowing. “It was always in Tel Aviv!”
“No sir,” I repeated between crumbs. “Jerusalem has been the official capital since the foundation of the state.”
“Oh yeah? Then why is the Knesset is in Tel Aviv?”
I told him that I am from Jerusalem, and Israel’s capital, Knesset and all, is most definitely there.
He shook is head.
I fed my baby.
I told him that Jerusalem was even acknowledged as the capital by American legislators since the nineties.
He shook his head.
I fed my baby.
I told him that I passed by the Knesset twice on every weekday throughout my high-school years.
He shook his head and went into an incoherent rant that included words like “the Confederacy” and “South Africa” and ended with “The capital was always in Tel Aviv. Trump just moved it.”
“What a sweet baby,” the young woman interjected with exaggerated enthusiasm. “How old is he?”
I smiled and thanked her and started answering.
“So you’re wrong!” concluded the man in purple.
The young woman sighed, and stood up to board the bus, looking very defeated.
I felt rather defeated too.
I didn’t get to point out that all countries name their own capitals. I didn’t get to discuss the Jewish connection with Jerusalem, which is at the core of our return to Zion after millennia of exile. I didn’t get to discuss possible solutions for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and how President Trump’s statement would or wouldn’t affect them. I didn’t get to say that the peace process would never happen if we won’t acknowledge reality first.
And I didn’t get to hear anything that surprised or challenged me.
Instead, I basically engaged in the equivalent of explaining that the sky is blue to a man who refuses to look up.
“Look,” I said before boarding the bus. “you can think whatever you want about Trump’s decision, and if you want to think that Israel’s capital was in Tel Aviv until now that’s your right. But you really need to check your facts.”
I sat down and hugged my baby.
The young woman sat by me and smiled. “He really IS so sweet.”
I smiled, because he really IS. And she really WAS nice. And Jerusalem really IS the capital of Israel (and really HAS been prior to Trump’s announcement) and the man in purple really WAS quite ignorant.
But how can we discuss anything if we don’t even agree about the facts?