An Israeli professor just went on Al Jazeera and silenced the entire Arab World
Dr. Mordechai Keidar doesn’t need to hold back any punches when speaking with Arabic spokesman. He speaks their language and understands their culture and always goes on the offensive.
His knockout punch of pointing out that most Arabs in the Middle East would move to Israel if Israel would open it’s gates to them is a very powerful argument.
It needs to be repeated over and over again. Israel’s medical system keeps Arabs living longer than anywhere in the Middle East. Israel’s national insurance program takes care of Arabs who are less fortunate and need national assistance.
Israel’s democratic character allows Arabs to be represented in it’s Parliament.
All of these are things that all of Israel’s neighboring Arab countries don’t come anywhere close to offering it’s residents. (Israel Video Network)
Trump to present new doctrine that says Israel not the cause of Mideast problems
Prioritizing national sovereignty over alliances, US President Donald Trump is poised to outline a new national security strategy that envisions nations in a perpetual state of competition and downplays the Israeli-Palestinian conflict’s impact on the broader world order.
The new national security doctrine reverses Obama-era warnings on climate change and de-emphasizes multinational agreements that have dominated the United States’ foreign policy since the Cold War.
The Republican president, who ran on a platform of “America First,” will detail his plan Monday, one that if fully implemented could sharply alter the United States’ relationships with the rest of the world.
The plan, according to senior administration officials who offered a preview Sunday, is to focus on four main themes: protecting the homeland and way of life; promoting American prosperity; demonstrating peace through strength; and advancing American influence in an ever-competitive world.
Trump’s doctrine holds that nation states are in perpetual competition and that the US must fight on all fronts to protect and defend its sovereignty from friend and foe alike. While the administration often says that “America First” does not mean “America Alone,” the national security strategy to be presented by Trump will make clear that the United States will stand up for itself even if that means acting unilaterally or alienating others on issues like trade, climate change and immigration, according to people familiar with the strategy.
Despite international challenges, the document cites emerging opportunities to advance American interests in the Middle East. “Some of our partners are working together to reject radical ideologies and key leaders are calling for a rejection of Islamist extremism and violence,” it says. “Encouraging political stability and sustainable prosperity would contribute to dampening the conditions that fuel sectarian grievances.”
The strategy document asserts that “for generations the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has been understood as the prime irritant preventing peace and prosperity in the region. Today, the threats from radical jihadist terrorist organizations and the threat from Iran are creating the realization that Israel is not the cause of the region’s problems. States have increasingly found common interests with Israel in confronting common threats.”
The last such document, prepared by then-president Barack Obama in 2015, declared climate change an “urgent and growing threat to our national security.” A senior official said the Trump plan removes that determination — following the administration’s threat to pull out of the Paris climate accord — but will mention the importance of environmental stewardship.
Despite the risk of potential isolation presented by Trump’s strategy, its fundamentals are not a surprise. The Associated Press last week reviewed excerpts of a late draft of the roughly 70-page document and spoke to two people familiar with it. The draft emphasizes that US economic security is national security and that economic security must be ensured with military might. And they said it would stress the US is interested only in relationships with other countries, including alliances like NATO, that are fair and reciprocal.
Trump, according to the senior officials, is also expected to discuss threats he’ll deem as “rogue regimes,” like North Korea, and “revisionist powers,” like Russia and China, who aim to change the status quo, such as Moscow and its actions with Ukraine and Georgia, and Beijing in the South China Sea. Trump is also planning to renew his call for the member states in the United Nations and NATO to spend more on defense, saying that the United States will insist on its alliances being fair and reciprocal.
The senior officials said the document refers to China as a “strategic competitor,” rather than the stronger accusation of “economic aggression” previewed last week by National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster.
The president is also set to make the case that US economic security is national security and that economic security must be ensured with military might.
The criticism of Russia will come as a break from recent warm words between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The leaders have spoken twice in four days, with Trump calling Putin to thank him for kind words about the US stock market and Putin reaching out to Trump to thank the CIA for help in stopping a terror plot in St. Petersburg.
The strategy document will not make explicit reference to Russian attempts to meddle in the US political system, but an official said it would highlight the importance of ensuring the resilience of US democratic institutions.
The early draft of the strategy reviewed by the AP lamented that America had put itself at a disadvantage by entering into multinational agreements, such as those aimed at combating climate change, and introducing domestic policies to implement them.
The senior officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the plan before the president’s remarks. (the Times of Israel)
Saudi academic calls on Arabs to recognize Jewish connection to Jerusalem
A Saudi academic has voiced backing for US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and called on Arabs to recognize the city’s sanctity to Jews.
Abdulhameed Hakeem, head of the Middle East Center for Strategic and Legal Studies in Jedda, told US-based Alhurra television on Saturday that Trump’s move, which touched off protests across the Muslim world from Tunisia to Indonesia, constitutes a “positive shock” to the peace process.
Hakeem added: “We as Arabs must come to an understanding with the other party and know what its demands are, so that we can succeed in peace negotiation efforts, so that negotiations not be futile. We must recognize and realize that Jerusalem is a religious symbol to Jews and sacred to them, as Mecca and Medina is to Muslims.”
Hakeem – who in a March article for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy stressed that Israel and Saudi Arabia face a common Nazi-like threat in Iran – said the “Arab mind must liberate itself from the legacy of [former Egyptian President] Gamal Abdul-Nasser and the legacy of both the Sunni and Shi’a sects, which has instilled for political interests the culture of Jew hatred and denial of their historic right in the region.”
The London-based al-Araby al-Jadeed website reported that Hakeem’s comments touched off an angry response on social media. One user, A. Elmhay, wrote, “The Zionizing Arabs are a greater danger than the Zionists themselves.”
Hakeem’s statements came after Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz revealed earlier this month the existence of covert Israeli-Saudi contacts. The Saudi website Elaph, meanwhile, broke a taboo by publishing interviews with IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot and Transportation Minister Israel Katz.
Last week, a delegation from close Saudi ally Bahrain, made an unprecedented visit to Jerusalem as guests of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which is organizing a trip to the tiny Gulf kingdom by a group of Israeli businessmen for next month. (Jerusalem Post)
Palestinian girls filmed slapping soldiers in apparent provocation
Palestinian teenage girls slapped and harassed IDF soldiers in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh on Friday, in an apparent attempt to get the servicemen to act violently so the encounter could be filmed and distributed online, according to video footage that surfaced Monday.
In the video, which was spread widely on social media, a group of three Palestinian girls and an older woman could be seen approaching two Israeli soldiers who were standing guard in the village.
The teenage girls can be seen hitting the soldiers, yelling at them and — at one point — slapping one of them across the face.
Throughout the encounter, the girls film the soldiers with cellphones, which seems to indicate that they were trying to instigate a violent response from the soldiers.
The servicemen, however, do not oblige them. Throughout the encounter, the soldiers refrain from retaliating, though they do defend themselves from the harder blows.
Nabi Saleh has been the frequent staging ground for provoked clashes between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians, specifically members of the Tamimi clan, which has a history of getting involved in highly publicized interactions with the IDF. (the Times of Israel)
Watch the video:
Palestinian teen filmed slapping IDF soldiers arrested overnight
Border Police overnight arrested well-known teen activist Ahed Tamimi after a video clip filmed Friday of her slapping and kicking two IDF soldiers went viral.
Nicknamed “Shirley Temper” because of her blond curls and prominence in similar Youtube videos, Tamimi is somewhat of a star in the Arab world. This past summer, she went on a speaking tour in South Africa to share her story and, three years ago, was invited to dine with then-prime minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The sixteen-year-old is a member of a famous activist family from the village of Nabi Saleh, which holds almost weekly protests against Israel.
A hashtag called #FreeAhedTamimi began circulating on Twitter and memes calling for her release in English and Arabic have been shared across social media.
Her father, Bassem Tamimi posted a brief video of the soldier who entered his home to arrest his daughter and wrote about it on his Facebook page, saying that the soldier had beaten his family and taken their phones, cameras and laptops.
The IDF said she was arrested on “suspicion of attacking an officer and an IDF soldier.” Border Police added that Tamimi is currently being questioned by police over suspected assault charges.
It added that Ahed had participated in a “violent riot” in Nabi Saleh on Friday in which 200 Palestinians threw stones at IDF forces. At the demonstration, her cousin Mohammed was shot with a rubber bullet, being hit in the face.
Some of the stones were thrown from the Tamimi home with the family’s consent, the IDF said.
Solders removed “all the rioters from the house” and guarded it to prevent anyone else from entering, the IDF said.
“A number of Palestinian women went out to the soldiers to create a provocation,” the IDF added.
Two years ago, her family made headlines, when an IDF soldier tried to arrest Ahed’s younger brother, also named Muhammud, on suspicion of stone throwing. Ahed and her mother managed to pull him away from the solider. Their struggle was caught on a video that similarly went viral. (Jerusalem Post)
Australian Student Union Condemns Campus Antisemitism Amid Rise in National Incidents
The National Union of Students (NUS) in Australia adopted a resolution on Thursday condemning antisemitism and pledging to counter its rise on university campuses.
The motion — brought forth by the Australasian Union of Jewish Students (AUJS) during the NUS National Conference — recognized the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism, which includes “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination.”
It also committed the NUS to working with the AUJS — which represents some 9,000 Jewish students in Australia and New Zealand — to ensure that its programs and spaces “are inclusive and welcoming of Jewish voices and perspectives.”
To this end, the NUS agreed to endeavor to provide kosher food options at its events; to help AUJS ask universities for special consideration for Jewish students who would otherwise be required to take exams on Jewish holidays and the Sabbath, and to ensure that observant students have access to appropriate religious facilities; and to work with AUJS to survey the effects of antisemitism on Australian campuses.
The US decision on Monday to veto a UN Security Council resolution on Jerusalem sparked by President Donald Trump’s December…
Moreover, the NUS will formally recognize January 27th as International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and work with AUJS to educate students on the genocide.
Student groups affiliated with both the left and right wings of the Australian Labor Party, as well as the ruling Liberal Party and independent delegates, all supported the motion — with the exception of the Marxist group Socialist Alternative, which held about 17% of the votes on the conference floor, AUJS’s national political affairs director, Ariel Zohar, told The Algemeiner.
Starting around 2002, AUJS stopped engaging with the NUS due to the “incredibly hostile attitude towards Jewish students and Israel specifically” that the organization then displayed, Zohar said.
“During this time we kept our distance and condemned NUS from the sidelines,” he recalled.
AUJS reconsidered this approach in recent years, and sent a delegation to the NUS conference in 2016.
“We used our first conference to learn from the experience and restore crucial links with many of the attendees,” Zohar explained.
The Australasian Union of Jewish Students delegation at the 2017 National Union of Students National Conference.
AUJS returned with a bigger contingent this year, and “had Jewish students elected to various roles on their campus unions also attend,” he added. “This combined strength allowed … our members to speak passionately not only about antisemitism, but also [call] out separate convoluted motions that unfairly attacked Israel.”
According to the AUJS, its resolution came at the conclusion of a year when “Jewish students were attacked for simply wearing religious clothing, campuses were vandalised with swastikas and horrific statements and accusations were made against Jewish students participating in campus elections.”
A report on antisemitism published in November by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) — of which AUJS is an affiliate — found that antisemitic incidents increased by 9.5% between October 2016 and September 2017 over the previous twelve-month period.
In a statement released shortly after the NUS vote, the ECAJ “warmly” congratulated the student body for passing AUJS’s resolution, which it called “entirely sensible, uncontroversial and in keeping with the legal and moral duty of Australian public institutions to operate free from racial discrimination.”
The ECAJ also condemned representatives from the Socialist Alternative for abstaining on the motion.
In October, the Austrian National Union of Students voted to adopt a version of the IHRA’s definition of antisemitism, and to condemn the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. (the Algemeiner)
Report: Obama prevented anti-Hezbollah operation to clinch Iran deal
The Obama administration derailed a large-scale law enforcement campaign targeting drug trafficking by the Lebanese-based Shiite terrorist group Hezbollah over its efforts to secure a nuclear deal with Iran, the Politico media outlet reported Sunday.
Hezbollah is Iran’s proxy in the region. The terrorist group drug trafficking operations are one of its main sources of income. The operation was derailed despite the fact that Hezbollah’s drug pipeline funnels cocaine into the United States.
According to the report, Project Cassandra was launched in 2008 after the Drug Enforcement Administration amassed evidence that Hezbollah had evolved from a “mere” terrorist organization into an international crime syndicate. DEA officials pegged Hezbollah’s annual drug-trade and arms trafficking profits at $1 billion.
The operation had been going in for eight years, with DEA agents using wiretaps, undercover operations and informants to map Hezbollah’s criminal networks, with the help of 30 U.S. and foreign security agencies.
The Shiite terrorist group’s criminal enterprise proved to be global and American intelligence agents were even able to infiltrate the innermost circle of Hezbollah and its state sponsors in Iran, the report said.
But in 2013, as negotiations with Iran took a more serious turn, Obama administration officials began throwing “an increasingly insurmountable series of roadblocks” in Project Cassandra’s way, some of the agents involved told Politico.
According to the magazine’s sources, at some point during the U.S.’s talks with Iran, the Justice and Treasury departments began delaying or rejecting requests seeking to approve significant investigations, prosecutions, arrests and financial sanctions against major players, such as Hezbollah’s high-profile envoy to Iran, a Lebanese bank that allegedly laundered billions in drug profits, and a top officer with Iran’s Quds Force, which heads the Islamic republic’s operations overseas.
“This was a policy decision, it was a systematic decision,” financial expert David Asher, one of the Pentagon’s agents in Project Cassandra, said. “They serially ripped apart this entire effort that was very well supported and resourced, and it was done from the top down.”
According to Politico, the Obama administration also repeatedly rejected efforts to charge Hezbollah officials with ongoing criminal activity under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, and declined to designate Hezbollah a “significant transnational criminal organization.”
Within months of the nuclear negotiations going into high gear, Project Cassandra was all but dead in the water, task force officials said.
“As a result, the U.S. government lost insight into not only drug trafficking and other criminal activity worldwide, but also into Hezbollah’s illicit conspiracies with top officials in the Iranian, Syrian, Venezuelan and Russian governments,” the report said.
Meanwhile, Hezbollah continues to undermine U.S. interests in Iraq, Syria, Latin America and Africa, including providing weapons and training to anti-American Shiite militias. (Israel Hayom)
VP Pence’s trip to Israel postponed to mid-January
US Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to Israel scheduled for this week has been delayed until an unknown date in mid-January, the White House announced Monday evening, as the Trump administration seeks to push through historic tax reform legislation.
The delay will allow Pence to remain in Washington in case he needs to break a tie vote in the Senate over President Donald Trump’s tax reforms.
“The largest tax cut in American history is a landmark accomplishment for President Trump and a relief to millions of hardworking Americans,” the vice president’s press secretary, Alyssa Farah, said in a statement. “The Vice President is committed to seeing the tax cut through to the finish line. The Vice President looks forward to traveling to Egypt and Israel in January.”
Another administration official told The Times of Israel that because the vote could possibly “take place shortly before midnight on Wednesday, it was not practically possible for [Pence] to travel this week.”
Pence’s visit had already been postponed for several days due to attempts to pass the tax-cutting bill through the US Congress. He had originally been set to arrive on Sunday, but then delayed his arrival.
Taking into account the possibility that the vote could delay him another day, the White House decided his trip was coming at an inopportune time — and that more could be accomplished if he came next month.
“The tax vote is still in very good shape, but we don’t want to take any chances whatsoever,” said a senior administration official.
Senator John McCain’s return home to Arizona to fight cancer has left Republicans with a razor thin margin to push the legislation over the finishing line.
If the vote were delayed, Pence would have arrived in Egypt late on Thursday night and then would have run up against Shabbat and Christmas for his visit to Israel, the official said. “Therefore, to get the most out of the trip, the VP will now be traveling in mid-January.”
Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s top envoy trying to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians, is still on his way to the region as part of the administration’s continued push to clinch an accord.
Officials denied that Pence’s decision was motivated by a wave of deadly protests in the wake of Trump’s deeply controversial decision to declare Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
“This is all about the largest tax cut in American history and having the vice president and the full team here,” the official said.
“It’s an odd case to make given we are going to be there in two or three weeks,” a second senior White House official said.
Breaking with decades of US policy, Trump also said on December 6 that he would move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
That prompted a string of protests and Palestinian, Muslim and Coptic leaders had cancelled meetings with the vice president, who had already trimmed the trip by three days.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah faction had called for a massive demonstration to protest against Pence’s visit.
In his address, Trump insisted that after repeated failures to achieve peace, a new approach was needed, and said the move to recognize Jerusalem as the seat of Israel’s government was merely based on reality. He stressed that he was not specifying the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in the city, and called for no change in the status quo at the city’s holy sites.
The US on Monday vetoed a draft UN resolution rejecting Trump’s decision, after all 14 other Security Council members backed the measure. The text was introduced by Egypt, where Pence was scheduled to arrive Wednesday. (the Times of Israel)
Palestinians Are Destroying King Herod’s Palace in Jericho
Here is a lesson that teaches us how the Palestinians today treat remnants of the past. Following the revolt led by Mattityahu and his sons (the Macabbees) against the Greeks in 167 BCE, Jews had sovereignty in the Land of Israel for some 200 years, until the Herodian era. Forty years after Mattiyahu the Hasmonean and his sons first relit the Temple menorah and found that its oil miraculously lasted eight days, their descendants built grand winter palaces at the mouth of the Parat stream, at the entrance to Jericho. King Herod, who excelled at building – but also at killing and destruction – built three more palaces of his own nearby.
The Hasmonean palaces are located in what is today Area C, which is under full Israel control, but they can only be accessed via Area A, where the Palestinians are in full control. Most of Herod’s Third Palace, the grandest of the trio, lies within Area A.
Recently, a team from the Kfar Etzion Field School visited the site and was appalled to find that the Palestinians, who received the excavated and orderly site as part of the Oslo Accords, had built housing around it. Some homes were constructed on the grounds of the palace itself. The remains of the palace are being systematically demolished to construct a road. The historic edifice is being stripped of its stone, and the supporting pillars and arches have been defaced.
Not far away, in Area C, are the Hasmonean palaces, the most important preserved Hasmonean site in the country. These palaces, like the Herodian ones, were excavated by the late Professor Ehud Netzer, one of Israel’s pre-eminent archaeologists, who was killed seven years ago in an accident at the Herodion site, which he had also excavated. A week before his death, he visited MK Zeev Elkin, today Jerusalem affairs and heritage minister. Netzer laid the Hasmonean palaces file on Elkin’s desk and asked the MK to help save them.
At the time, the flow of the Parat stream was beginning to undermine the foundations of one of the palaces. The Palestinians had begun building illegally next to the site, and desecrating it. One of the palaces was even vandalized with a swastika. Natural wear and tear had also been at work.
Elkin is a politician, but has a penchant for Jewish history and is a historian by education and avocation. When Netzer was killed, Elkin saw his request as a sort of last will and testament, and took action. The IDF and the Civil Administration, which control Area C, stopped Palestinian assaults on the site. Once he became a minister, Elkin invested millions in preservation work. The Hasmonean palaces are safe.
In Area A, on the other hand, the Palestinian Authority has exclusive control, and preserving and protecting antiquities is not its top priority. When Civil Administration staffers, who have no authority in Area A, received reports of the destruction taking place at the Herodian palace, they tried to exert influence and to reach out to local village leaders. But the Palestinian construction around the Third Palace has not stopped.
The history of the Third Palace is bloody and full of intrigues, but it is part of our heritage. Herod exiled the last ruler of the Hasmonean dynasty, Antigonus II, seized the Kingdom of Judea, and married Miriam (Mariamne) the Hasmonean. Miriam’s brother was Aristobolus III, the last high priest from the Hasmonean line.
Herod was determined to thwart any possibility of a revival of the Hasmonean dynasty, and lured Aristobolus to his palace near Jericho (probably the Third Palace), where he drowned him in one of its pools, taking care to make the murder look like an accident. Herod also executed Miriam’s grandfather, Horkanos II, her mother Alexandra, and finally Miriam herself, the last of the Hasmoneans.
Along with Caesarea, the city of Sebastia north of Nablus, Herodian, and the Temple, the winter palaces Herod was inspired by the Hasmoneans to build for himself at Jericho were the grandest of his projects in the Holy Land. British archaeologist Charles Warren, who tried to locate the site of biblical Jericho, was the first to dig there. German and American archaeologists followed him, and finally Netzer’s team.
As far as anyone knows, the Hasmoneans built their palaces in the days of Yochanan (John) Horkanos I, the high priest and ruler of Judea, or in the time of King Alexander Yannai, who also served as the high priest. Both Yochanan Horkanos and Alexander preceded Herod by a few generations. In 31 BCE, a massive earthquake destroyed the Hasmonean palaces. Herod covered the ruins with dirt and built his second palace on top of them, which is how parts of the Hasmonean palaces survived. They are characterized by stucco adornments in the shape of building stones, colored frescoes that imitate marble, by water conduits that provided irrigation for gardens, and the remains of small bathing pools and several mikvehs (Jewish ritual baths).
Netzer, who excavated the Third Palace, found that it had stood on both sides of the Parat stream and that the gushing spring water could be seen from it. The Third Palace featured a northern wing, a sunken garden, a hill to the south and a large pool. The builders used the Roman building patterns known today as opus reticulatum – small diamond-shaped stones, 10 cm. by 10 cm. (3 in. by 3 in.), laid diagonally – and opus quadratum – rectangular stones set in parallel rows.
It is unclear how much of this beauty remains. Yaron Rosenthal, director of the Kfar Etzion Field School, who sometimes works with the Palestinians on environmental preservation projects, finds it difficult to hide his anger.
“Israel sees how one of the grandest palaces ever built in the Holy Land is being destroyed, and is standing by helplessly, because under the Oslo Accords the site, which is 30 meters from Area C, was made the responsibility of the Palestinians. It’s time for Israel to say, ‘No more.’ With all due respect to the Oslo Accords, we will not let you destroy important [archaeological] remains linked to the history of the Jewish people in their land, remains that are part of the cultural fabric of this country,” Rosenthal says.
“We [Israelis] are horrified when to our east and north, Islamic State destroys archaeological treasures, or when Jewish cemeteries are desecrated in Europe. But when it happens a few dozen yards from our own territory, we’re helpless. The Palestinians are causing damage, building a residential neighborhood on top of this unique site, wrecking it with tractors, and causing irreparable damage, which must be stopped.”
The Palestinian Authority has refused to comment. Elkin, whose office saved the nearby Hasmonean palaces in Area C, is trying to send an archaeological team into Area A to excavate there. That may be the salvation of Herod’s Third Palace. (Israel Hayom)
The ties that bind Jerusalem
by Matti Friedman The Globe and Mail (Canada)
Different religions have their own holy sites in Jerusalem, the city where I’ve spent my entire adult life. The place I believe to be among the most important, however, is a grubby swath of garages, welding shops and furniture stores known as the Talpiot industrial zone. The zone is sacred to no one and unknown to tourists or foreign correspondents. It’s a short walk from my street, so I spend a lot of time there – the industrial zone is where you can find the best hardware store, the cheapest supermarkets, my barber and stores selling balloons for birthday parties, model airplanes or anything else you could ever need.
When President Donald Trump announced on Dec. 6 that the United States would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move its embassy here, Arab leaders called for “days of rage” and a chorus of Western observers predicted an explosion. The predictions were predictable; Jerusalem is always said to be on the brink of catastrophe, and headlines are always reporting “tensions.”
The city is certainly volatile, considering: the proximity of sites holy to Muslims, Christians and Jews, all under Israeli control; the fact that more than one-third of the city’s residents are Palestinians, mostly Muslims, who aren’t Israeli citizens and tend to see Israeli rule as illegitimate; and the city’s existence in a region engulfed in a religious war. But what is truly interesting about Jerusalem is not the proximity of the brink, but the way the city’s residents often refuse to play their part in the script by stepping off.
After Mr. Trump’s announcement, amid warnings of “explosive” repercussions, I got e-mails from friends abroad, wondering whether I was worried, or whether I was safe. That Friday, a crowd of reporters gathered at the Old City’s Damascus Gate to document the violence that was supposed to erupt. But little happened; the protesters were outnumbered by journalists, and everyone went home. There weren’t spontaneous mass celebrations on the Jewish side or mass disturbances on the Arab side. The past week has been fairly normal.
I don’t think many veteran residents are surprised. Jerusalemites – Jews and Arabs – don’t necessarily have much in common, but we’ve all hewed out private lives in an immensely complicated political environment, and share an acute sense of the fragility of those lives. People here aren’t bears in a political circus who dance on call. Every act of bloodshed here is heavily covered, which creates the impression that Jerusalem is a violent place, but that’s misleading. If you count every single violent fatality reported here this year in this city of 860,000 – not just political violence but apolitical homicides, too – the number is 27. That’s 27 too many, obviously. But it’s worth pointing out that 27 is less than a quarter of the homicide number last year in Jacksonville, Fla., a U.S. city the same size.
I’ve been in Jerusalem for nearly two decades and am still trying to figure it out. What I have figured out, though, is that understanding means seeing it not as a symbol but as an actual city, and taking its people seriously as real people. I realize that isn’t what most foreign observers are looking for in Jerusalem – mundane features such as hospitals or supermarkets aren’t relevant to cosmic dramas of salvation, peace, the apocalypse, or the “Trumpocalypse,” as some local wits were calling last week’s dire forecasts. But anyone inclined to truly grasp the place will have to look at the prosaic power of daily life. Our temple to daily life is the Talpiot industrial zone.
This week, I went to one of the big supermarkets in the zone, on Ha’Oman Street, where much of the city does its grocery shopping. This is an Israeli area, but of the 50-odd workers I counted among the aisles of produce and cereal, at least two-thirds were Palestinian. One cashier, a Jewish woman in a modest hair covering (navy blue, tied at the nape of the neck), was serving three Muslim women in modest hair coverings (grey, pink and black, respectively, clasped under the chin). At a SuperPharm nearby, the scene was similar – an Arab female pharmacist serving a Jewish woman with a prescription, a Jewish cashier and two Arab guys stocking the shelves.
From there, I went to a franchise of Fox, an Israeli clothing chain. Of seven customers in the store with me, three were speaking Arabic. When I reached the counter, the cashier turned out to be Palestinian; the only giveaway was a slight Arabic accent in his Hebrew. It was once easy to tell people apart by their clothes, but the rise of global brands has meant that people, especially young people, tend to dress the same – the same skinny jeans, the same soccer haircuts. The old visual lines have been blurred, like the old geographic lines: Ten years ago, it would have been remarkable to see Palestinian customers or salespeople in a Jewish part of town, but today what’s remarkable is how unremarkable it’s become.
My friend Marik Shtern, a geographer at the Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research, is the author of a report, published this month on the trend, written with a Palestinian colleague, Ahmed Asmar. The city’s economic engine in Jewish Jerusalem is drawing more and more workers from the city’s Arab areas, and mixing in the workplace has dramatically increased. The movement was exacerbated by Israel’s construction of a separation barrier to combat a wave of Palestinian suicide bombings between 2000 and 2004, which cut off Arab Jerusalemites from their traditional hinterland in the West Bank. At the same time, the chances of a peace deal that would divide the city have evaporated in the general breakdown of the Middle East; no one’s about to risk a power vacuum in a city that’s a three-hour drive from Syria. So, over the past decade, the city’s Jews and Arabs have realized they’re stuck with each other.
Nearly half of the city’s Arab workers are now employed in Jewish areas, according to Mr. Shtern, and the number is rising. So is the number of Palestinian students enrolled at Israeli universities, the gateway to better jobs in the Israeli market. Three years ago, an employment centre funded by the Israeli government quietly opened in the Arab neighbourhood of Shuafat, with job placement services and Hebrew classes, and there was so much demand that a second opened this year.
What all of this means is that working hands in Jewish Jerusalem are increasingly Palestinian, as one sees in every corner of the Talpiot industrial zone. And it means that salaries in Palestinian homes increasingly come from Israeli employers. So Palestinians and Israelis might not like each other, but their fates are becoming more tightly entwined, and everyone has more to lose if things fall apart. That’s a big part of the city’s secret glue. The glue is tested frequently – by a war in Gaza, for example, by Muslim sensitivities about the al-Aqsa Mosque, by Jewish extremism, by Muslim extremism or by Mr. Trump’s embassy announcement and the resulting calls for violence across the Arab world. The glue has held.
Noting the glue’s existence isn’t saying the city is equal or happy. “When people come to work, they don’t leave their political identity at the door,” Mr. Shtern told me. For their study on mixed workplaces, he and Mr. Asmar interviewed Israelis and Palestinians. They found that many Israelis saw the presence of Arab colleagues as proof of progress and noted a “moderating” of their political views as they learned about hardships in Arab neighbourhoods, such as invasive police checks and discrimination in planning and resources. It was different for their Arab co-workers, who were being welcomed to better-paying jobs but also made painfully aware of the glass ceiling: These were Israeli businesses, and they were far more likely to be stocking shelves than managing the store. The human dynamic here is both positive and negative and, as with all human dynamics, tricky to foresee. “If the status quo continues,” Mr. Shtern said, “we’re likely to keep seeing what we’re seeing now – occasional violence alongside increased dependence, and a certain level of integration in the social landscape of the city.”
The mood here, a day’s drive from the urban apocalypses in Aleppo and Baghdad, is a strange one these days. I’m not sure Jerusalem has ever been so politically hopeless, or so quiet. That might seem mysterious given what most people know and say about the city, but it’s much less mysterious if you pay less attention to political headlines and more to people in the industrial zone. If you think an embassy is more important than a supermarket, you’ll miss the human drama in the produce aisle.