Jews and Arabs worlds apart in Jerusalem’s Old City


In the Old City of Jerusalem, both Pales­tini­ans and Jews were talk­ing on Sun­day about fear and the prospect of a new in­tifada or upris­ing.

Some sought to ex­or­cise the specter of a new con­fla­gra­tion which other Pales­tini­ans would welcome, while Jews said they have seen it all be­fore.

Be­tween the two peo­ples there seems to be a to­tal lack of un­der­stand­ing of the other, although they may live just streets apart within the same an­cient walls.

The Western Wall, vis­ited by tens of thou­sands of Jews over the high holy days of the past few weeks, is at the foot of the plateau hous­ing the Al-Aqsa com­pound to which Mus­lims flocked in sim­i­lar num­bers for the feast of Eid alAdha dur­ing the same pe­riod.

But the Pales­tini­ans do not un­der­stand the small but stri­dent mi­nor­ity of Jews who claim the right to wor­ship at the Al-Aqsa site, known to them as Tem­ple Mount and the most revered spot in Ju­daism.

And the Jews do not grasp that it is just a small mi­nor­ity of rad­i­cal­ized Mus­lims who are sow­ing terror with knife at­tacks in the Old City, such as Satur­day’s killing of a rabbi and an off-duty soldier and the wound­ing of the rabbi’s wife and their two-year-old child.

The at­tacker, shot dead by po­lice, was a young man from the Is­raeli-oc­cu­pied West Bank said to be an Is­lamist mil­i­tant and re­port­edly en­raged by in­creas­ing Jewish en­croach­ment on the mosque com­pound.

A few me­ters from the at­tack site three Pales­tini­ans sit at the foot of a wall.

‘We live in fear’

A few tourists pass nearby, walk­ing the streets of the bazaar with its now shut­tered store­fronts.

Is­rael has barred the Old City to all but a few Pales­tini­ans who live or work there, cut­ting off not only the mosques but keep­ing lo­cal Chris­tians from shrines such as the Church of the Holy Sepul­chre.

Po­lice bar­ri­cades are at ev­ery cor­ner.

“No­body has slept since last night,” says one of the three sit­ting Pales­tini­ans, ask­ing not to be iden­ti­fied.

“We live in fear — we know that at any mo­ment the set­tlers could come to at­tack us.”

He is re­fer­ring to a rampage by Jewish ex­trem­ists at a shop­ping mall out­side the city walls af­ter Satur­day’s stab­bings, where a flag­wav­ing mob seek­ing vengeance searched for Pales­tini­ans, shout­ing “Death to the Arabs.”

“The in­tifada started be­cause the Is­raelis have worn peo­ple down to the point where they are now ex­plod­ing,” he says.

Sub­hiyeh Abu al-Hi­j­jeh, a veiled Mus­lim woman from north­ern Is­rael, says the latest events were part of an upris­ing “to de­fend AlAqsa.”

Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu “does not want to un­der­stand, but Al-Aqsa is a red line,” says Sheikh Ka­mal Khatib, deputy head of the Is­raeli Is­lamic Move­ment which or­ga­nizes Is­raeli Arabs to con­front Jewish visi­tors to the site.

For many Mus­lims, Is­rael’s two­day clo­sure of the Old City to Pales­tini­ans liv­ing be­yond its walls is a fur­ther sign of in­tent to take over the hal­lowed com­pound, com­ing in the wake of re­stric­tions on young male wor­ship­pers and re­peated po­lice in­cur­sions.

‘Our peo­ple’s strength’

“By clos­ing the Old City the Is­raelis are show­ing they do not want peace,” says Abu Has­san, al­lowed to reach his work­place be­cause at 53 he is not sub­ject to the age bar.

“How do you want us to talk peace af­ter what hap­pened yesterday?” asks Yaki Saada, 60, a Jewish Is­raeli.

He and his wife Nava, 57, left fam­ily cel­e­bra­tions of the Sukkot Jewish fes­ti­val which ends on Mon­day evening to come from the south­ern port city of Ash­dod to Jerusalem in a show of sol­i­dar­ity with the vic­tims and to “pray for peace” at the Western Wall.

Another Is­raeli, giv­ing his name as Jonathan E, 27, was walk­ing the Old City af­ter pray­ing at the wall.

“We are not afraid,” he says. “We’re very fa­mil­iar with wars and at­tacks.”

“That is our peo­ple’s strength,” adds his wife Deb­o­rah, 22.

Yossi Krakover, 47, a set­tler in the Is­raeli-oc­cu­pied West Bank, found it in­com­pre­hen­si­ble that Jews were killed “sim­ply be­cause they are Jews.”

He had come to Jerusalem for a rally in sup­port of the rightwing Ne­tanyahu.

Jewish set­tle­ments, a key is­sue in the Is­raeli-Pales­tinian con­flict, should not bother any­one, he be­lieves.

“We came here to build our home, a peace­ful home,” he says.

“Many peo­ple do not want to un­der­stand that the peo­ple of the Bi­ble is re­turn­ing to the land of the Bi­ble.”


1. Pales­tinian youth burn tires dur­ing clashes with Is­raeli sol­diers close to the Jewish set­tle­ment of Bet El, in the West Bank city of Ra­mal­lah, Sun­day, Oct. 4, af­ter Is­rael barred Pales­tini­ans from Jerusalem’s Old City as ten­sions mounted fol­low­ing at­tacks that killed two Is­raelis and wounded a child. 2. Is­raeli se­cu­rity forces ar­rive in front of Damascus Gate, in the Mus­lim quar­ter of Jerusalem’s Old City, be­fore be­ing dis­patched to pa­trol the streets, Mon­day, Oct. 5. 3. Is­raeli rel­a­tives and friends carry the body of Rabbi Ne­hemia Lavi, dur­ing his fu­neral at a ceme­tery in Jerusalem, Sun­day.



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