It’s easily the most contentious piece of real estate in the world. And there’s no hope—none—of ever talking about it without pissing somebody, if not everybody, off. Maybe that’s why it took me so long to come here, a place where even the names of ordinary things are ferociously disputed. Where does falafel come from? Who makes the best hummus? Is it a fence or a wall? By the end of this episode, I’ll be seen by many as a terrorist sympathizer, a Zionist tool, a self-hating Jew, an apologist for American imperialism, an Orientalist, socialist, fascist, CIA agent, and worse. So here goes nothing.
I was raised without religion. One side of the family, long ago, Catholic—I think. The other side Jewish. I’ve never been in a synagogue. I don’t believe in a higher power. But that doesn’t make me any less Jewish, I don’t think. These guys sandbagging me at the Wailing Wall, they don’t seem to think so either.
Just because I was raised outside the faith, with no particular attachment or loyalty to Israel, doesn’t mean that plenty of people on this earth don’t hate me in principle. I know that. But the state of Israel? I never really knew what to think.
First, look around. It’s like everybody says—it’s pretty. It’s awesome. It’s urban. Sophisticated. Hip. Like Southern California—only nicer. Then you see the draftees in the streets and you start to get the idea. This is Jerusalem.
This field note is excerpted from Bourdain’s narration of the episode.