Israeli police patrol the streets of East Jerusalem's Silwan neighborhood on Nov. 20.
JERUSALEM — Dara Frank and Sam Green had been planning their wedding for months.
The nuptials, though, was the easy part. The timing was harder. The couple, American emigres to Jerusalem both in their 20s, had scheduled their wedding for late August — and all summer Israeli soldiers had been fighting in Gaza. And then there was the seating arrangement....
“We had left-wing peacenik Jews, Arabs, right-wing Zionists, gay American Jews, Hasidic Jews and Israeli soldiers” as well as an "ultra right-wing Rabbi,” said Frank, who, as a leader of Project Tiyul-Rihla, spends her time working to bring Israelis and Palestinians together.
It took the couple days to figure out how to divide the tables, but ultimately there were no fights and the party was peaceful. “But coexistence like that is very rare here,” Frank said.
These days, it seems especially so.
Following a 50-day war in Gaza this summer in which more than 2,000 people were killed, the vast majority of them Palestinian civilians, there have been a number of attacks in Israel, ratcheting up fears — especially in Jerusalem.
On Oct. 22, a Palestinian man rammed his car into a crowd at a Jerusalem train station, killing a three-month-old Israeli-American girl and a woman from Ecuador. The driver, Abed Rahman Shalodi, was shot on the scene by Israeli security forces and later died from his wounds. In response, on Wednesday morning, Israeli Defense Forces demolished his family's home.
Another Palestinian driver ran into people waiting at another railway stop in Jerusalem on Nov. 5, killing two more people. Police also shot him dead.
In a third incident, an Israeli soldier was stabbed to death on Nov. 10 by a Palestinian attacker near a train station station in Tel Aviv. Again, the attacker was shot and killed by police.
On Tuesday, two Palestinian men from East Jerusalem burst into a synagogue in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood in West Jerusalem, killing five people, using a gun, knives and axes. According to The New York Times, it was the deadliest attack in the city since 2008.
Police killed the two attackers in a subsequent shootout.
While both Israeli and Palestinian leaders reject that this represents a new intifada, there is no denying that this latest violence has everyone on edge. A crackdown by Israeli officials, who immediately demolished the homes of the assailants' families, further exacerbated tensions.
Yet, at the attacked synagogue later this week, people attempted to return to normal, even if many expressed sadness and fear. Meir, a Yeshiva student, said what makes the recent attacks particularly troublesome is that they don't appear to be organized by particular groups but instead were planned and carried out by so-called “lone wolf” attackers, making it difficult for security forces to prevent further similar violence.
Yonatan, another Yeshiva student who studies near the synagogue, said he doesn't blame Palestinians or Israeli Arabs for the violence, but rather those Jews who go to pray at the holy site known to them as the Temple Mount. For Muslims, the site is known as the Noble Sanctuary and is the third-holiest site in Islam. For Jews, it holds a 3,000-year significance as the site of an ancient Jerusalem temple.
In recent weeks, there have been scuffles as Jewish militants have demanded extended prayer rights.
“They are provoking the Arabs,” Yonatan said. The attackers, he added, "had an excuse to do this because of tension around the Temple Mount.”
Israel’s response to the recent spate of lone-wolf attacks has been swift. Municipal officials in Jerusalem have begun a sweeping crackdown on the Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, reinstating a controversial policy of demolishing the homes belonging to attackers or their families.
Israel describes the measure as a “deterrent” while rights groups have called it “punitive” and “unjust.”
“Punishing the families of suspects by destroying their homes is collective punishment and is prohibited by international law,” Amnesty International said this week.
Israeli officials began demolishing Palestinian homes this summer after three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and killed in an attack that spurred the retaliatory killing of a Palestinian teen by a Jewish extremist, leading to mass demonstrations and clashes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
In East Jerusalem these days the situation seems tense once more. When I visited this week, police had blocked roads to Palestinian neighborhoods and increased patrols, and locals were protesting with some younger residents throwing stones at Israeli soldiers.
In the al-Thori neighborhood, I sat down with Ibrahim Hijazi, the father of Mutaz Hijazi, who was shot and killed by police last month after he allegedly seriously wounded the American-Israeli rabbi and right-wing activist Yehuda Glick in a shooting on Oct. 29.
“My son is 100 percent innocent,” Ibrahim said. “He was very intelligent in school and always finished first, second and third in his class. No way he did what [Israeli officials] say.”
On Oct. 30, as police attempted to arrest Hijazi, he tried to escape by running to the rooftop of his home. There, dozens of Israeli soldiers shot him down.
“There were 22 bullet holes in him,” Ibrahim said, standing over the spot where his son died.
The younger Hijazi had spent 11 years in an Israeli prison. According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Hijazi was arrested in 2000 on suspicion of being a member of the Islamic Jihad and "involvement in disturbances of the peace." However, the newspaper reported that, according to the Palestinian Prisoners Club, Hijazi had not been identified with any organization for the last few years.
“He was putting his life back together,” Ibrahim said, adding that his son had been studying to be an electrician.
On Wednesday night, Ibrahim received a demolition warrant from the Israeli government letting him know that he had 48 hours to appeal, which he did. But he had little faith that his family would win the appeal. As we spoke, the entire family sat amongst boxes packed with all their belongings.
“They could come and tear the house down right now, or in an hour. We don’t know,” Ibrahim said, adding that the notice did not surprise him. “I wasn’t the first father to lose a son, and I’m not the last one.”
Tags: ISRAEL, JERUSALEM, WORLD