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Fear in Jerusalem

Fear in Jerusalem

Israel’s enemy brilliant strategy: Strike ordinary people, anywhere, anytime, anyplace, with ordinary weapons, like a knife or a car.


There are different kinds of fears. Some fears are specific – you can stumble into a dangerous neighborhood, receive a bad diagnosis from a doctor or get caught up in a legal battle. Remove the circumstance, and the fear goes away.

Other fears, however, are more generalized and random. You never know when something bad might happen. Violence can strike you anywhere, anytime, any place.

It is the latter fear that is permeating the city of Jerusalem these days. Every face is a potential assailant; every car a potential weapon.

I have visited the holy city regularly for the past twenty years – through wars, riots and intifadas – but I can never recall being afraid to walk its magical streets.

And yet, on my recent visit this past week, I had to always watch my back. I noticed that other pedestrians were watching me, too.

This is the fruit of what has been called the “knife intifada,” the latest version of the Arab war against the Jews. After failing for 68 years to crush Israel with regular armies, suicide bombers, rockets, tunnels and the like, the enemy has now stumbled onto a brilliant strategy: Strike ordinary people, anywhere, anytime, anyplace, with ordinary weapons, like a knife or a car.

Israel’s enemy is using Israel’s open society against itself, and turning the country’s vibrant street life – open to all peoples and all religions – into the new battlefield. In this latest war, the choice targets are pedestrians.

There is no Iron Dome that can stop a knife that pops out of a terrorist hand in one second, and no roadblock that can stop a car that barrels into pedestrians in one second. There is no intelligence that can alert you to random acts of street terror.

This is the One-Second Intifada, and there’s no easy way for an open society to stop it.

It’s true that the genocidal Jew-hatred that has marinated Palestinian society for decades has contributed to this terror, and that the hysterical lies about “Jews taking over Temple Mount” have poured more oil on the fire.

Regardless of the reasons, the net result is that Israel is facing a nasty onslaught of street level terrorism that is extremely difficult to contain. Maybe this is the price of doing business in a region where so many people hate you.

In any case, the notion that leaving the West Bank would end all this animosity against the Jewish state is delusional. One can argue that it would help Israel remain a Jewish democracy, but no one is arguing anymore that “land for peace” would bring peace.

The celebrated Israeli resiliency that has overcome so many threats in the past is being severely tested by this One-Second Intifada. This is especially true in Jerusalem, where many of the latest attacks have been concentrated.

The irony is that Jerusalem has been going through a remarkable cultural renaissance over the past decade. The arts, music and theater scene has been thriving; new hotels, restaurants and high tech parks have sprung up; public transportation has been upgraded; tourism has been at record levels.

The assaults of the past few months have darkened this picture. On this latest trip, the cab drivers and restaurant owners I spoke to all told me that business is way down. The streets were mostly quiet. Hotel lobbies have become sanctuaries of safety.

The reaction from my friends who live in the city has been equally sobering. As resilient and tough as they are, they can’t walk the streets without always watching their backs. This is threatening a treasured aspect of Israeli society – the extraordinary street life. Take that away and you rip out Israel’s heart.

Israel’s enemies seem to understand this. These new acts of terror don’t come with grievances or demands. As they stab innocent people or ram their cars into children, the killers are not agitating for a higher minimum wage or better health care. They’re aiming to rip out the heart of a society that loves life.

“The aggressors of the future are likely to be the nations in which life is cheap,” Walter Lippmann wrote in The New Republic in 1914. He could easily have been referring to modern-day terrorists who have given up on life and who terrorize societies that celebrate it.

On my last night in Jerusalem, my friend Yossi Klein Halevi and I were walking through the new Teddy Kollek park, named after the legendary former mayor, on the way to a restaurant in an arts district. A dramatic fountain and light show was accompanied by the majestic sound of an orchestra playing Mizrachi music. It was a beautiful moment – but no one else was there.

Earlier that day, I was talking to a cab driver who told me that in thirty years, business had never been worse. Now, because of the random car attacks, he won’t even let his kids play outside anymore.

“I’m Arab,” he told me. “I’m afraid, too.”

This article originally appeared in the Jewish Journal.

December 20, 2015

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Visitor Comments: 10

(6) Janna, December 29, 2015 2:23 AM

Hashem runs the world

Everything that happens in the world is orchestrated by Hashem. Of course none of us, common people, knows why things happen. However, one phrase caught my attention:

"The irony is that Jerusalem has been going through a remarkable cultural renaissance over the past decade. The arts, music and theater scene has been thriving".

Do you think this "cultural renaissance" adds Kiddusha or tuma to Yerushalaim HaKodesh? Do you think this could do anything with the recent wave of terror in the Holy City?

(5) Anonymous, December 27, 2015 5:06 PM

What to do?

Perhaps the only answer is to get to the "Queen Bees," i.e. those who are inciting this hatred.The Imams and teachers who should be caught and jailed. Maybe if the heads are cut off the monsters, people will not be motivated to do these horrific acts.

(4) Anonymous, December 23, 2015 8:33 PM

Self-satisfying but not accurate article

>" the Arab war against the Jews. After failing for 68 years"
This is not accurate. Israel has peace (defined as Jews not being killed) with Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Hezbolla, even though they haven't changed their educational system or done anthing else that Gold Meir said was needed. Think, people: what is different with the Palestinians?! (Israel needs to drop more bombs on Gaza and bulldoze more homes, I guess. Go Bibi!)

(3) Anonymous, December 23, 2015 12:37 AM

There's no easy answer.T

There is no easy answer. Maybe confiscating all knives, scissors, axes, hatchets, or anything else that can cause bodily harm. Those who do not comply, and do not turn in these things, will have their houses blown up. Arab cars should have a special sign on the windshield, so that Israelis can more easily identify them. As I said, there is no easy answer. There are always, stones, and bricks, and fires to start. It is an awful situation, but maybe it can be alleviated somehow. It is not safe anywhere.

Anonymous, January 1, 2016 3:07 PM

Blowing up houses is no solutions

Why have Egypt, Syria, Jordan and even hated Hezbollah stopped killing Jews? None of your suggestions made the difference. Time to think outside the (Bibi) box.

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