Inter Campus established its Israeli-Palestinian camp, now attended by 60 Israeli and Palestinian children, is located between the district of Abu Tor and the town of Bet Zafafa. Located along the Hebron Road in South-East Jerusalem, just a stone’s throw away from the Wall, two projects deeply rooted in their respective millennia-old Arabic and Israeli cultures, that have never before come together, have united to fight the common enemy of COVID-19.
Abu Tor (father of the bull in Arabic), which according to local legends was the site of the house of the high priest Caiaphas where Judas betrayed Jesus just under 2000 years ago, stands on a hill about 800m above sea level, developed under Ottoman rule as a residential area where Arabs and Christians lived side-by-side. The ancient border between Israel and Jordan was located here from Israeli independence up until 1967, in what was metaphorically a cultural and religious meeting point between the Jewish and Muslim cultures.
Today, Abu Tor is one of the few districts of Jerusalem with a mixed Arab and Jewish population, with synagogues and mosques standing side-by-side. Also located in the area are the homes of diplomats and United Nations employees, as if to symbolize the mediation between cultures and to represent the area’s characteristic heterogeneity of customs and traditions.
A little further north is the Gehenna (Kidron valley), a place of great mythological significance, and one of the holiest sites in the Holy City, which runs from Abu Tor to Mount Zion; if we think metaphorically about the balls kicked by children in black and blue jerseys, it brings to mind an almost mythological connection between the past, the present and the future. And this is a future that still seems very uncertain, as the region faces the risks of a failing peace process, the annexation of Palestinian territory, and the second wave of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Just like Abu Tor, Bet Zafafa (Summer House) is situated on the Green Line, divided between East Jerusalem and a small part in the West; that is, divided between Jordanian law (the east part) and Israeli law (the north part). This division dates back to the Crusades, although it was repeatedly re-partitioned and disputed in the various Arab-Israeli conflicts that, until an arrangement was made in the wake of the Six-Day War that has allowed the different ethnic groups to live together in harmony until today. Situated a stone’s throw away from Bethlehem, Beith Sahur and Beit Jala, the past and the present come together, Ben Zafafa is a cultural crossroads that is matched by few other locations in the city. The children at Inter Campus, who receive a good education in local schools, are almost all trilingual, symbolically representing the multicultural development and versatility of the area, which seems to look to the future whilst overcoming a troubled recent past, and despite being situated between the Green Line and the Wall with Palestine, the area has now learned to live with conflict and intercultural mediation, finding its own identity, something that is more important than ever in the current climate.