Timewarp: Curfew in Jerusalem

But 23 nights of enforced “imprisonment” is proving a strain even on the steady, sombre, exemplary dispositions of the Holy City’s population.

By DOROTHY KAHN
June 9, 2011 19:10
The Palestine Post

Palestine Post 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

It is 23 days since Jerusalemites were initiated into the rites of the Curfew Law which forces them to scamper to their homes before seven o’clock in the evening and to remain there until five o’clock next morning.

The Jerusalem population, in non-curfew times, could hardly be charged with being obstreperous, Bacchanalian, or addicted to high living and bright lights. A cinema, a concert or an hour’s chit-chat in a cafe suffices during their most abandoned moods.

But 23 nights of enforced “imprisonment” is proving a strain even on the steady, sombre, exemplary dispositions of the Holy City’s population.

Telling Tales

And one is beginning to hear strange and terrible tales. For instance, it is being bruited about that one respectable lawyer in Rehavia climbed over a wall the other night in order to visit another respectable lawyer.

It was the climbing expedition which inspired this article. For when Jerusalem advocates are driven to fence climbing in the dead of night, it is quite as much news as when the proverbial man bites the proverbial dog. Surely it would be less surprising for a Jerusalem fence to climb an attorney than for a Jerusalem attorney to climb a fence! It must be admitted that this is an exceptional case, which we hope will not prove infectious, as the thought of people climbing walls all over Jerusalem is not to be cherished. Just imagine a Judge or an eye, ear, nose and throat specialist caught red handed on top of a wall without a curfew pass! Suppose he was spiked there? Marooned for the night? Could he ever face the world – or himself – again? Most of the population have resisted fence-climbing. At the present moment their chief dissipation is visiting neighbours in the flat upstairs, or the flat downstairs, or the flat across the hall. One wonders if any two families in any two apartment houses will be on cordial speaking terms after the curfew has been lifted.

What Do You Read?

Of course, this business of visiting from flat to flat came only after the members of families found it difficult (we learn on fairly good authority) to look at each other any longer. For it is possible to have too much of even a very good thing. During the early period of the curfew “siege” Jerusalemites remained at home. First they read. People who only read biography and essays reached the point of throwing themselves into detective yarns. Habitual detective story readers were forced to turn to poetry and “The Life of the Bee.” Others read the life of the fly, mosquito, flea, or nit. In fact no life was too small to be carefully studied by curfew-ridden Jerusalemites.

But there came an end to the amount of hours during which one could read. The women then turned to mending (we learn also on good authority) and the men began tinkering about with carpentry. Language professors from the University and prominent bankers looked for creaking hinges that should be tightened. Then came cardplaying. If you had four bridge hands in the family (or if the maid knew an ace from a jack of clubs) you played a bit of bridge. If not, there was patience, or rummy. It is understood (from an unofficial source) that some folks have now resorted to dominoes and are spending some scintillating hours over the game.

Outdoor Tel Avivians

It must be borne in mind that curfew in Jerusalem is vastly different than was curfew in Tel Aviv about six weeks ago. For you can’t keep a Tel Avivian down – or inside So, during the curfew days, Tel Aviv citizens whiled away the evening hours by standing in their doorways clad in the most startling and heterogeneous array of night-clothes ever on parade. Pyjamas, night-shirts, and all sorts of curl papers and boudoir caps graced the doorsteps.

Nothing could drive the Jerusalem population (we learn from high circles) to take such desperate steps. But what they have been doing is packing their clothes and moving into a friend’s house for the night. It is their only way of paying calls after dark. Sofas and camp beds are distributed about the libraries and terraces to accommodate the “curfew guests.”

Leaves in the Wind

Every evening, at 6:30, Jerusalemites begin to look like autumn leaves caught in a high wind. They begin scattering in all directions. Needless to say, they remain wherever they are until the last minute and then run for home, watch in hand. From five o’clock until “almost seven” there is “S.R.O.” in the Vienna Cafe. Everybody tries to say as much about the political situation in an hour as he would normally stretch into an evening. They linger over their ices like children in school recess. Then, at “almost seven” the shutters are let down and the wild scamper begins.

More than a few “curfew victims” have admitted that normally they go out very seldom in the evenings. But since they are forced to remain inside they are obsessed with the notion to be outside. They are anxiously awaiting the end of curfew so that they can stay at home and enjoy it because they could go out if they wanted.

The real pathos of this story has been purposely saved till the end. Once in a while a resident of Haifa or Tel Aviv drifts to Jerusalem. Nothing could be more pathetic than the wistful questions put by the curfewers, “So you really go to cinemas?”

And then the swaggering reply of the Tel Avivian, “Certainly. Only last night I was at the cinema. Then I went to the Fair. Didn’t get home till after twelve o’clock.” And then the meagre whisper of the Jerusalemite, “Twelve o’clock? Goodness gracious!”


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