Friday afternoons were always the best part of the week. After the school bell rang to signal the end of the day, we would assemble outside the walls of our school to meet our friends and walk into town. We would always make sure to stop by the main square to see which Jerusalem-syndrome suffering individual was there. Jesus, Moses and random saints were the most common, but every now and then, God would make an appearance, preaching to passers-by about sin and punishment. He had a long white beard and blue eyes, yet, strangely enough, he was not a very friendly fellow. We never met any religious figures from Judaism or Islam – they were always Christian.
Any non-local who would find themselves in or around the square must have been baffled by their surroundings; surely this was the only place in the world where you could see dozens of soldiers carrying machine guns, being yelled at by rabbis. Or where God was being pestered by Palestinian children.
What I have written appears to be the beginning of a memoir about what life is like for a teenager growing up in Jerusalem. Readers may expect it to contain some religious, political and historical context, but as the location is a rather controversial subject, I have tried to introduce certain aspects of the city and its people with an ironic sense of humour. The story will most probably continue with the same tone, alternating between tragic and dramatic instances related to the country and my life, to happy and ludicrous moments shared with friends, family and strangers.
What was perhaps most ironic about Jerusalem was the sense of freedom. My Palestinian friends, whom there were dozens of, often complained about their lack of freedom and rights to roam about the country. They would have to carry a number of different forms of identification with them, and sometimes, even when they had everything they needed, the soldiers at the checkpoints would not allow them to pass from the West Bank into Israel, even if only to come to school. I had the complete opposite experience. As a so-called U.N.-brat, I was able to escape any awkward encounter with the soldiers by flashing my U.N. ID and demanding that they had no authority over me. “I’m like a diplomat,” I used to insist. I was confident and very spoiled, but at least I avoided getting into trouble. This type of superiority-complex no doubt came from my parents’ divorce. It had been a year since they split up. My sister decided to stay in Finland with our mum, but I thought it would be fair if one of us went to live with our dad, so I did. Not long after though, he had to be re-located to Iraq, so I was stuck in Jerusalem, by myself, left to finish high school. I often forgot about my parents’ split, but my mother had given me her wedding ring before I said goodbye to her. I wore it every day. As she gained her freedom from taking the ring off, I gained a sense of freedom by placing it on.