Crisis in the Middle East

Crisis in the Middle East
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Life During The Crisis:
The Impact on Israelis
The following are personal accounts of Israelis living and working in Jerusalem during the current violence.

My Son On The School Bus

Living in Jerusalem with young children these days is downright frightening. It’s getting too close for comfort. Too many people know the victims, if not first-hand, then certainly second-hand.

My sister-in-law knows the family whose three children lost their legs in the Gaza bombing of a school bus. Abroad, one hears about the "wounded." Here, the nation knows the tiniest details about each and every case. Even if we do not know them personally, we know them. They are part of the family.

I heard about the school bus incident on my way to work. I literally cried out in frustration and terror en route. At that moment, my son was on a school bus. Those who know me know that the school bus issue has been haunting me since the beginning of this conflict. In Israel, school bus services are privately run. In Jerusalem, all of the bus drivers are Arabs from East Jerusalem. Were these same men participating in demonstrations calling for "Death to Jews?" How could I know? Do I pull my child off the bus as some parents had? Do I help put an East Jerusalem Arab out of work, most likely affecting negatively the lives of many dependents? So far, the vast majority of parents from our children’s liberal school, which places a premium on teaching democracy and tolerance, have kept their children on the school bus. I’ve done so, too, but some mornings or afternoons when the tension gets too much, or I have a bad premonition, I simply take him to school myself.

I am deeply fearful for my family and myself. I want my family to live in peace.

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Will We Know What To Do And How To React?

We try our best to continue to live "normal" lives - go to the supermarket, visit the mall, take a walk downtown. But Israelis are definitely hesitant about being outside in public places. The streets and mall are almost empty - except for the cell phone stores - which are overflowing with customers who want to be connected to their families at all times.

I tell myself that I am not afraid because I believe in "Beshert" – fate. But when I start thinking of my children, the maternal instinct takes over and I dread every morning and evening they have to take public transportation. Twenty-seven years ago, I gave birth to my son during the Yom Kippur War. We had come so far since then that it seemed unlikely that we would be in this situation again.

My greatest fear is that our choice is either continued conflict with the Palestinians or an eruption of a full-blown war within Israel. The only thing we can all agree on is that the clock is ticking.

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The View Of A New Immigrant

I remember sitting with strangers, watching in disbelief as former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin shook hands with Chairman Arafat in 1993. I remember the multitude of questions that so quickly came to the fore: How could it be? Can a peace process succeed? Is Arafat trustworthy? And, will there one day really be peace – a genuine peace?

Now, more than seven years later, after having left the creature comforts life in the United States, I reside in the charming Baka neighborhood of Jerusalem. In a sense, I am like a photographer who has done away with the telescopic lens in search of a panoramic view. Yes, things do look different up close.

When reading the paper and seeing the pictures of the recent eruption of violence in the Middle East, a frightening sense of deja vu swept over me as once again those very same questions from 1993 popped into my head: How could it be? Can a peace process succeed? …

As a single male living in Israel, I am free from many of the fears that plague my married friends. I am not concerned about how my children will get to school or whether my spouse will return home late because a road has been closed. Instead, I ponder whether hatred will leave an indelible imprint on society.

In the meantime, until I hear the next volley of bullets and rockets firing, it might as well be just another beautiful autumn day in Jerusalem.

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Will I Get To My Home In Efrat Tonight?

Let me give you a glimpse of a day in the life of a settler in Efrat.

I leave the house to get to work in Jerusalem, not knowing how long it will take me to get there or back home. I sit tuned into the radio, as the tunnel road is often blocked for hours, since has recently become a fighting front. Thus, a 30 minute drive home turns into a nightmare, which can take hours. Sometimes we try to get home using detours, which take longer, and are also often blocked, and sometimes we need to stay in Jerusalem until the Palestinians decide not to shoot any more.

It is rather scary to admit that they are the ones who almost dictate the way I come home. Think of it, all I want is to get home safe and sound to my kids.

I commend Prime Minister Barak for the restraint he has shown and I know he is trapped between two opposite situations: war, which none of us want, and peace, which we yearn for, but are not sure the other side will abide by once an agreement is signed. Yet, despite all the difficulties, the government should give us an answer. Efrat is a settlement, which was agreed to by the Labor Party at the end of the 1970s, and I am entitled to feel as safe in my country as anyone else. Any government, left or right, owes it to me. Then how come this morning on my way to work the road before the tunnel road was again full of stones and rocks, a reminder of last night’s events? Why is it that a local publication of the Etzion Block ran an ad offering personal bulletproof vests for sale? Where is the security? How can we go on living like this? Yes, the situation is that bad.

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Lynching In Ramallah: Was It My Son?

My office is kept constantly up-to-date by e-mails and faxes from various news services. I don't remember the day but the time was 1:05 in the afternoon. A fax was received stating that Israeli reservists had been lynched in Ramallah. My oldest son, father of two, had been called up for reserve duty. He was stationed somewhere north of Jerusalem. I called and called all afternoon to his cellular phone. I got a strange beeping signal - that was all. I was frantic. Then it was reported that the wife of one of the lynched had called her husband on his cell phone and been gleefully told by his murderer that he had just been killed. I'll never forget the sickening terror and relief when I heard that report.

I finally got through to my son only to find out that he'd been restationed in Jericho where there was an incident almost every day and night.

We are weary of this situation, but not without hope. I was at a Brit (circumcision) last week. The parents have two other children. They are not religious or overly Zionistic but they named their son Ben Shalom - Son of Peace.

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