|Arabs and Jews mingle at the |
Mahaneh Yehuda market [Linda Haddad]
The Jewish sweetshop owner who initially shied away from talking to me begins little-by-little to open up.
He wants me to know that he feels at peace among the Palestinians of Jerusalem.
An old Jewish man, who refused to answer my questions, has a point to make about how the Arab media portray "his people".
He tells me that my editors will have cartoonists depict him as a "Jewish caricature with a big nose or devil's horns".
"That is how you Arab media make me look," he says. "If the media covered us the right way, then maybe we would have peace."
In a way, his words reveal more than I could have hoped to gain from my questioning.
In the Old City, I sit with a group of workers as they share a watermelon.
These Palestinian Muslims, Palestinian Christians and Israeli Jews have worked side-by-side on a large snack-food stall for years.
"He is like my brother. Better than a brother," one Jewish woman says, pointing to her Muslim colleague.
They get along well and joke about how they hustle tourists away from competing food stalls, but each has a different opinion on the conflict.
A Palestinian Christian waiter in the group explains: "It is normal for all of us to have an opinion when it comes to politics. But we still all get along, that should say something to the world."
Wherever their opinion begins, each ends with the same conclusion: The region's leaders are to blame for the ongoing conflict.
The whole group agrees that, for those on the ground, peace is achievable, but the peace negotiations are conducted by the wrong people.
Those leaders do not cross check points, fear suicide bombings or have their houses demolished because they lack necessary permits, they tell me.
Just a short drive from the tourist sites of the Old City and Manger's Square, the image of Jerusalem changes drastically.
The 'security wall' - a large, grey, cement block - looms over the Aida refugee camp, where about 5,000 Palestinians live in small, cramped homes.
"My grandfather lives on the other side," 14-year-old Adham tells me.
|Adham, (back, right) and his friends in front|
of the security wall [Linda Haddad]
"I don't remember the last time I went to visit him, they [the Israeli authorities] won't give us a permit to leave," he says.
Before the wall was constructed, Adham used to be able to play with his cousins in the open spaces the refugees say used to be there.
Diana Ayad's home is directly in front of the wall.
As she pours me another glass of mint tea - her kindness throughout the day is the definition of Arab hospitality - she shares her frustrations.
"We are trapped like animals in this refugee camp and what are we supposed to do? Sometimes you feel like exploding."
Each of the Palestinians I spoke to in Aida refugee camp told me they believed that the wall, the time-consuming and humiliating checkpoints, the house demolitions and land confiscation, were part of a process designed to transfer Palestinian land into Israel's hands.
For the people here life is gruelling. Simple, everyday tasks can take hours and hope is rapidly fading.
Diana does not believe she will see peace in her lifetime.
"My daughter has graduated from college but cannot find a job because it is too difficult for her to find one that pays well and is near," she says.
As the day draws to an end, I watch some of the children play one of their favourite games - 'Israeli soldier and Arab'.
|Four-year-old Shehad wears traditional |
Palestinian dress [Linda Haddad]
"Palestinian children are unlike any others," a Palestinian colleague tells me.
"From the moment they are born, they start to talk of politics, occupation and ways to free their homeland."
"I want to be an English teacher, but my sister is one already, so I will become a doctor," Adham says.
"This way all of my brothers, sisters and I can be something different and we can all take advantage of each other's trade.
"My sister can teach me English and I can treat her if she is sick," he says, before returning to play with his friends.
Watching him play, I remember two fellow Americans I had met in the Old City.
They told me they were in town to pray for George Bush, the US president, and Israel.
Proud Christian Zionists, they believed it was a crucial time to throw their support behind the Israeli state, but I wondered if children like Adham would be included in their prayers.