< meta name="DC.Date.Valid.End" content="20050825"> Amendment Nine: Bizzaro World of the Holy Land - Add Election - Stir

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Bizzaro World of the Holy Land - Add Election - Stir

Security at a presidential campaign rally anywhere is a sight to behold. In the Palestinian Authority presidential election, it's surreal. Can you imagine someone brandishing a machine gun in front of John Kerry at a Kerry Edwards '04 event? All the while, the candidate smiling and waving?

Almost everything here in the Holy Land is surreal. It's as if God woke up one morning in a particularly mischievous mood and decided, you know what? Let's create three religions, with a common cast of forefathers, give them all guns, and make one tiny pile of rocks their big Holy City where the holiest events all occurred on top of each other - and sit back and watch the fun!

As a Catholic, I feel a bit distant from the top of the fight card here - Jews v. Muslims. I'm sure walking in the Old City and visiting the Holy Sepulchre probably gives some people goose bumps, but to me, it feels like a big Jesus theme park, crammed with tacky souvenir shops and snake oil salesmen. Come see where Jesus fell the first time. The second time. Right next to the Ali Baba Internet Cafe! Right there! You half expect to turn a corner along the Via Dolorosa and bump into the Tiki Twirl.

It's all been given that extra bit of bizzaro by the approaching election. Driving through the West Bank training election observers isn't your normal commute to work. We pass checkpoints bristling with Israeli soldiers, guns at the ready, pass by the giant separation wall going up a bit more each day, barbed wire and concrete slabs snaking along through rocky hills. Then show up somewhere and talk about democracy...grassroots baby!

Meanwhile, an orthodox Jew sits next to me in this Internet cafe in Jerusalem, with the full regalia, the long coat, beard, yarmulke. He's got the headphones on, a cell phone on the table, watching some video. I just had a bagel and some lox down the street.

Bizarro world, indeed.