I just got back to Tel Aviv from spending three days in Jerusalem – sleeping over two nights in Emek Refaim/The German Colony, going every morning to the Palestine-Israel Journal (PIJ) office in the Wadi Joz neighborhood of East Jerusalem. On the first day from Tel Aviv the monit/sherut 10 person taxi took me to Haneviim Street above Zion Square, and I walked down the hill to the entrance of East Jerusalem, then another 10 minute walk to the office. The other two days I took the light rail from King George and Jaffa Road to the Damascus Gate station, twostops, then walked ten minutes. If I’m not wearing a soldier’s uniform or a kipa/yarmolka, or dressed like an ultra-Orthodox Jew, it’s less likely that something will happen to me.
But yes, in general, Israelis are afraid to go to East Jerusalem and the Old City, and Palestinians are afraid to go to West Jerusalem. Najat came into the office today very depressed, hardly having slept, since the settlers in Jabal Mukabar near where she lives were shouting all the time Mavet L’Aravim (Death to the Arabs). While my colleague Ziad AbuZayyad felt uncomfortable with the idea of going to West Jerusalem for a meeting with the Israeli NGO Ir Amim, and I convinced them to come to us in a taxi (I assume with a Palestinian driver — half of the taxi drivers in Jerusalem are Palestinian).
The empowerment training session of young East Jerusalem Palestinians which was scheduled to be held today and on Saturday was postponed — because 2/3 of the young Palestinians live in the East Jerusalem neighborhoods on the other side of the Separation Barrier, and they have tremendous difficulty coming to “our side” where the session was scheduled to take place. It will be held next week instead.
At the meeting, Ir Amim’s Yehudit Oppenheimer was very upset by Mayor Nir Barkat’s call for all Jerusalemites with guns to carry them around to protect themselves. Even he carried a pistol when he went to visit the Shuafat neighborhood. Police sources said that weapons should be only in the hands of authorized security
At this stage, Ziad, who can be very pessimistic at times, says that there is a good chance that the situation will calm down, because neither the Palestinian leadership nor the Israeli government is interested in an escalation of violence. Meanwhile, the security cooperation is continuing.
To show you how surrealistic things can be around here, after the meeting with Ir Amim, I went to meet two young South Koreans at Notre Dame which is literally on the seam between East and West Jerusalem. The Vatican-owned institution was a fitting place to meet Olivia Kim and Sarah Shin, the Middle East Regional Managers of HWPL (Heavenly Culture, World Peace, Restoration and Light), founded by a guy who was a young soldier in the Korean War. Now 84, he became very anti-militaristic, and is making his first visit to the Middle East in November. I asked them if they felt any tension, living in a rented apartment for two months near the East/West seam. They said no – only when they talk to Israelis and Palestinians.