Tracks of my tears

I couldn’t resist the headline, sorry – even though I’m not crying and it means I’ve had two consecutive posts headlined with ‘tears’.

Thrilled and delighted this weekend to have another piece on BBC radio’s From Our Own Correspondent, after ones earlier this year on Saudi Arabia and Cairo. This time I’m talking about Jerusalem’s new Light Rail.

Article transcript is here.

Audio is here.

And there’s a bit of background about how From Our Own Correspondent is put together here (8min audio).


  1. Simon Varwell

    Really enjoyed the piece, Matthew. I’d like to expand on a tweet I sent you, however, about the claustrophobia that you convey; the sense of two nations occupying the same space but ignoring each other.

    It evokes for me the China Mieville novel The City & The City, effectively a science fiction novel set in two fictitious twin cities somewhere in Eastern Europe. For obscure reason the cities parted company long ago in history, and today exist in a curious relationship where – in the areas where they most overlap – the citizens are conditioned to ignore each other, with dire consequences for those that “breach” the invisible barricade by even the merest acknowledgement of an event or action they are supposed to “unsee”.

    Although the plot is effectively a detective noir with a bit of political thriller chucked in, the main impact of the novel is as a metaphor for such divided cities – Belfast or Jerusalem spring to mind for instance.

    Is this light rail one of the few opportunities for Israelis and Palestinians to occupy the same spaces not in conflict or tension but in a mundane, everyday atmosphere? It will be interesting to see the impact of this over time.

  2. Matthew Teller

    Many thanks, Simon – very interesting indeed. I’ll look out the novel you mention.

    To answer your question – yes, it is, up to a point. Shopping malls and hospitals are others.

    But bear in mind the only Palestinians allowed to use the tram are those who have Jerusalem ID issued by the Israeli Interior Ministry. Without that, Palestinians cannot enter the city at all. (And Israel is withdrawing Jerusalem IDs at an alarming rate.) I’ve met many people living a couple of miles outside Jerusalem’s (Israel-defined) municipal boundaries who haven’t been into the city in years.

    And, as I mentioned in the piece, few Israelis travel into East Jerusalem.

    It’s tempting to imagine shopping and public transport being the great levellers, with Israelis and Palestinians sharing ordinary everyday life and so abandoning the fear and loathing. At the moment, though – like this tram – it’s all on Israel’s terms. No amount of transport mundanity can overcome the absence of Palestinian sovereignty in East Jerusalem. Until that’s rectified – and until, in truth, the tram tracks are cut at the 1967 line and so become two separate lines – we’ll be no farther forward.

    1. Simon Varwell

      Interesting, thanks Matthew. I wasn’t quite fully aware of the situation regarding the ID cards. It will be interesting to see how the line develops (politically/culturally, rather than practically) over time.

  3. Steve Keenan

    Well done Matthew – really good to hear you, literally, expanding into FoOC. Hope the neck gets better

    1. Matthew Teller

      Thank you, Steve, much appreciated.

  4. Jenny Woolf

    I always enjoy this programme – the standard is always extremely high. Well done. This was a fascinating and thought provoking piece, and a really unusual take on a tram trip. I was somehow reminded of those old maps of East Germany transport routes compared with the maps after unification.

  5. Emirates Discoverer

    Jerusalem is a wonderful place to visit. The tramway looks very neat, it looks a bit similar to Dubai metro, except in Dubai the station are indoor.
    Noice article Matthew.

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