It’s been a while since I’ve written. Israel has been going through some crazy times lately. At first my excuse was that it was the middle of semester. As soon as the semester’s over, I’ll go back to writing again. Semester break came and went, and then it was another semester. After that, I’ll surely go back to posting in the blog, I said.
And then the summer happened. Or, more like, it didn’t happen. Instead of having a bit of a breather between my first and second year of my MA in Public Policy, some time to catch up on things at work and maybe write some of those blog posts I’ve been promising myself, I spent two months, along with half the country in reserve duty. Israel was under attack. The missiles were flying all over the place and many Israelis spent more time underground than above it. Come to mention it, so did many Palestinians, but they were using their underground for an entirely different purpose- sneaking through tunnels built for the sole purpose of infiltrating Israeli towns in order to kidnap and murder. I got to go to the beach only once this summer, and that was during a family visit in the US after the war.
So that was summer. And then semester began again. And instead of having the workload of one semester, I now have the workload of two- because I’m still finishing up exams and papers that were supposed to be handed in during the summer.
But I decided it’s time I opened my mouth and talked a bit about what’s going on here.
The attacks in Jerusalem are not new. They’ve been going on for a number of months now, almost a year. At first it was ‘just’ buses being stoned in East Jerusalem neighborhoods. It was reported in small articles in the back pages of the paper and on non-mainstream websites. It didn’t fit the narrative of calm and peaceful Palestinians that the mainstream media was trying to promote. So if you were connected to the right people on Facebook, you got to hear about all the people who’s car windows were smashed and were almost lynched in their own capitol. But if you weren’t connected, nothing whatsoever was going on.
And then came the kidnapping of the three boys- Gil-ad, Eyal and Naftali, and it became harder to push the incidents out of sight and out of mind. But the revenge murder of Muhammad Abu-Khdeir did the job, and all the media could talk about, was the violence and racism displayed by Jews against Arabs. It’s a classic “man bites dog” case, except that eventually you start believing that dogs never bite, only men do.
And then came operation Defensive edge or whatever we called it in English. The Hebrew name was Tzuk Eitan, which means a steadfast rock. Any violent events in Jerusalem were far outshone by the rockets pouring down by the bucketful on towns in the south. What are a couple of Molotov cocktails, compared to the daily rocket being intercepted in the skies of Tel Aviv?
Tzuk Eitan came and went. Israelis rose to the occasion and truly showed what true camaraderie is all about. Tens of thousands of people were called for reserve duty in the IDF. I was among them. A friend of mine set up a volunteer center where women who’s husbands were fighting in Gaza could ask for help with anything at all, from babysitters to meals to transportation to fix-it help. Her volunteers helped hundreds of women during the war. Another friend organized sending baskets of fruit to women who’s husbands were fighting in Gaza. As a reservist myself, we had so much junk food and supplies sent in by caring citizens, I gained 2 kilos. Every evening we got another boxful. One truck driver loaded giant water tanks onto his truck and drove down to Gaza where he set up field-showers for the soldiers to bathe. While it was a dark time for Israel as a country, it was also a time where Israelis were at their best.
But the cease fire in Gaza marked an increase in violence in Jerusalem. To be sure, this did not start with ‘provocations on the Temple Mount‘. Jews have been visiting the Temple Mount for time immemorial. Nothing has changed, except that more Israelis are visiting the holy site than before. As always, the Temple Mount is just the excuse. It is a campaign well-orchestrated in order to incite violence and reap rewards for it in the shape of concessions from Israel.
Over the past few weeks, the violence in Jerusalem has increased even more.
It started with a Palestinian who drove his car into a crowd of pedestrians waiting for the light rail at the Ammunition Hill stop, near the Hebrew University. An infant girl was murdered in the attack. The murderer was praised by the Palestinian leadership.
It continued with the assassination attempt of Rabbi Yehuda Glick, in the center of Jerusalem. Glick advocates the right for Jews to pray at the Temple Mount, the holiest site for Judaism. Astoundingly, the Jewish country does not allow Jews to pray at Judaism’s holiest site, for fear of angering the Muslims there. Not only that, but Hamas has been hiring dozens of people to camp out at the Temple Mount and yell “Allahu Akbar” (God is great) at any Jew who sets foot there. By the way, Glick is not an extreme right-wing activist, but rather a peace activist, who advocates peace based on understanding between religions based on mutual beliefs. Thankfully, he survived the 4 bullets that were fired at him, point blank.
Then there was another Palestinian who drove his car into another crowd of pedestrians at the next light rail stop.
Then there was a Palestinian who stabbed a soldier at a train station in Tel Aviv. The soldier later died of his wounds.
That very same day, another Palestinian drove his car into a crowd of pedestrians waiting for a bus near Alon Shvut. He then got out of his car and stabbed a 26 year old woman to death.
Last week, a Palestinian stabbed a Jew outside where I work, only half an hour after I left.
And yesterday morning, two Palestinians entered a synagogue in Jerusalem during morning prayers, with a gun, a meat cleaver and knives, and hacked 4 rabbis to death. A policeman who arrived at the scene was also killed. One of the murderers worked in a nearby supermarket. Immediately after the murder, spontaneous celebrations broke out in Gaza and in East Jerusalem, where Palestinians handed out candies and baked goods and danced in the streets.
And today, a Palestinian was convicted for firing at buses on three occasions. According to the shooter, who was given a light sentence, he tried not to hit anyone and only aimed for the bottom of bullet-proof buses, because he wanted to get a grant from the Palestinian Authority. Did you get that? The Palestinian Authority, led by the Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, hands out grants to Palestinians who attack Israelis on buses.
So why am I telling you all this?
Firstly, because the world needs to know what’s going on, and the world needs to know that by supporting Abbas and the Palestinian Authority, they are supporting terrorism and murder, not peace and justice.
And here is reason number two:
Two weeks ago, while all this was going on, my sister got married and relatives from the US came to visit. Some of them were here for the first time ever. It was an exciting visit. It’s not every day that we get to see family members, most of whom do not live in Israel. It’s even rarer to see them here and not in the US. So I took them to see the sites. In the short time we had, we toured Jerusalem and Masada and the Dead Sea. We walked past where Yehuda Glick was shot the night before. We drove past the light-rail stops where Palestinians had rammed their cars into pedestrians only days before. And we also visited the site where Jews put up a last stand against the Roman Empire almost 2000 years ago. And every night, we went out to eat at our favorite places- cafes and restaurants that are always full and bustling, the streets are full of life.
What amazed them the most was that despite everything, Israel goes on, life goes on. Israelis continue to innovate and make the world a better place, through start-ups and medical advances and aid to disaster-devastated places. Despite having to constantly fend for our lives, Israel is a leader in agricultural technology, which is exported to Africa. Despite being constantly having to defend ourselves, Israel has more start-ups per capita than any other country in the world. Despite being shunned across the globe, Israel is the first to assist in any disaster- in the Haiti earthquake, the South-Asian Tsunami, and recently in the snow-slide in Nepal. Despite having to worry about personal security, Israelis continue to go out, to live their lives and even to party.
Through it all, life in Israel goes on.
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Sadly, I haven’t had as much time as I would like lately for updating this blog. I hope to be back full time in a few weeks. In the meantime, I do post short updates, photos and links to other sources on the blogs facebook page. Go in and like it for more frequent news from Israel.