Excerpt from It's Easier to Reach Heaven Than the End of the Street by Emma Williams, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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It's Easier to Reach Heaven Than the End of the Street

A Jerusalem Memoir

by Emma Williams

It's Easier to Reach Heaven Than the End of the Street by Emma Williams
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    Dec 2009, 384 pages

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Kim Kovacs

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“Yes, I’m 33. And we have a child, a baby boy. But my son is not listed on my ID and even when I take his birth certificate they won’t allow me a permit.”

“But surely...”

“In any case, even if I had a permit it wouldn’t make any difference. For weeks the Israelis have not let anyone through at all, even with a permit.”

Ghassan was telling me this quietly and calmly. “All I want,” he said, “is to be with my wife and child, to be able to live together as a family. I now see my wife for five minutes every now and then at work if we’re lucky. My son is one year and three months old. He will forget me. My wife sometimes manages to get here to see me on the weekend, but it is a risk and she has to go on a long, long detour because of the Wall, even though our homes are only two minutes apart.”

“And if she moves in with you in Abu Dis?”

“Then she loses her right to live in Jerusalem forever.”

“And Jerusalem...”

“Jerusalem is Palestine,” he said. “I used to go to the Old City of Jerusalem every day—look how close it is, we’re much closer to the Old City than the majority of West Jerusalem areas are. I would buy groceries, visit the dentist, pray at the mosque, whatever. It is, Jerusalem is—how can I put it?—the center of our lives.

“My brother is in the same position. But his wife has decided to let go of her birthright to Jerusalem. She will never be allowed to return. They are miserable about this, but they are together.”

He slows down, thinking.

“And the injustice... people are ‘returning’ from all over the world to claim the right to live in Jerusalem, a place they may never have seen, but it’s their ‘right’ — because they’re Jewish, while we’re being forced out.” He pointed to the snake of concrete wall along the ridge, stamping its course between houses, through people’s gardens and over their land.

“I can’t understand the Israelis. They took the last part of Palestine in the war of ’67. They want to control our land, our water, our history, our freedom. They want to drive us away, perhaps, but why do they want to break apart our families?To keep children from their parents, to keep me from my son and have him grow up in anger—what good does that do?”

He was asking me questions he didn’t expect me to answer.

“My father is a retired teacher. He is so affected by the situation that he just sits at home not saying anything. Me, I see nothing beyond tomorrow.

“And my wife, my poor wife. It’s very hard for her, not just raising our son without me but being harassed by the insurance.” The “insurance,” he explained, is a department of the Israeli Ministry of the Interior. “They come to your house to check up on your residency status, and if you’re not there or your clothes are too few they say you’re not a resident and you lose your status.They raid our house in Ras al-Amud to make sure my wife’s not ‘lying.’

Everything you do, they begin with the position that you’re lying. They come at any time, usually very early in the morning, hoping to catch you out. They go into the kitchen, open the fridge, ask you why you have a dishwasher like this, or food like that.They go in the bedroom, they are very rude, very offensive, and open all your drawers and look at your most personal things and make comments.”

Ghassan was a computer engineer. “I used to supply computers to the settlement of Ma’ale Edumim. I had many friends there, among the settlers. They are very sympathetic but they can do nothing.They’re not like the settlers in Hebron or some other places: they’re civilized. Some of the soldiers, too. My brother speaks Russian and sometimes, if the soldiers are Russian, they sympathize and let us in so we can see our friends in Ma’ale Edumim.

Excerpted from It's Easier to Reach Heaven Than the End of the Street by Emma Williams. Copyright © 2009 by Emma Williams. Excerpted by permission of Interlink Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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