Jerusalem is a graphic memoir of Delisle’s living in Jerusalem with his wife who works with Médecins Sans Frontières. His two previous memoirs were also excellent: Shenzen, Pyongyang and Burma Chronicles. Delisle illustrates the mundane and the fascinating aspects of the places he chronicles with an incredible eye for detail. He begins with the flight to Israel, a jovial old Russian man on the plane to the city calms Delisle’s cranky child by hoisting her in the air. Delisle is surprised to see concentration-camp serial numbers tattooed along his forearm: “We’ve seen so many horrific images from that time in history,” Delisle remarks, “that my imagination just takes off. But I’m treated to a whole other picture tonight, as this old Russian plays with my daughter thousands of feet in the air.”
Jerusalem provides both an excellent introduction to the conflict in the Middle East and a fascinating close-up of what it’s like to live in the most sacred city in the world. The city of Hebron,is an example of the deeply rooted strife in Palestine. Delisle guides us through the Old City section of the West Bank community, where Israeli settlers live on one side of the street, and Palestinians on the other, between which famously documented hanging nets prevent them from throwing stones and refuse down onto passersby of the opposite religion.
Delisle is astounded at the desensitization of Jerusalemites to repression. Men go for jogs with assault rifles strapped to their backs, and whether or not one can visit certain neighbourhoods depends on a number of factors, including your ability to cite the proper religious prayers, your dress, the day of the week and which soldiers are on duty.
Jerusalem is a must read.