Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Jerusalem Tolerance Video

This is a story I've been working on for a few weeks along with Isabel Kershner of the New York Times. The written story appeared in last Saturday's newspaper and the video you can check out by clicking this link below:

Jerusalem Tolerance Video

It's an interesting story that I think encapsulates Jerusalem's mood at the present moment. Within a very short time period, three events transpire. A monument of tolerance in unveiled between Jebel Mukaber and Armon Hanetziv. A peace concert at the YMCA brings together Arab and Jewish children of the city. The night after the concert, a violent encounter ensues that leaves 17 Israeli soldiers wounded and one young Palestinian man dead.

One interesting aspect from this last violent encounter is how differently this event is perceived by the Arabs of Jebel Mukaber and the Jews of Armon Hanetziv. While the facts on the ground are not always black and white, the interpretation of the event is almost always black and white depending on which side of the fence you're standing. As is the case with most violent incidents here, each side immediately plugs the story into their own ethnically jaded, century-old narrative where your side is usually/always the victim and the other side is usually/always the aggressor.

For the Arabs, this was a clear-cut accident. The victim is the young innocent Arab man driving without a license who accidentally ran over some soldiers. The aggressor is the Israeli soldier who cruelly ended the young man's life so viciously. As one Arab man told me, "I am now scared to drive the streets. Any single mistake and I am likely to be called a terrorist and shot."

For the Jews, this was a clear-cut terrorist attack. The logic goes as follows: There were three other attacks from East Jerusalem this year. Two of them were clearly ideologically motivated with the intent to kill Jewish civilians. The attackers of the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva are from the same Arab village as the driver. You don't just accidentally run over 17 Israeli soldiers, especially if you're Arab. Therefore, it was no accident. Jew=Victim, Arab=Aggressor.

This is basically a repeat of the same story we've been seeing in Israel/Palestine since the Jews came back to this land. What is new, however, is that amidst the violence, many noble attempts are being made to bring together both sides into a single narrative. It was inspiring to see both Arabs and Jews teenagers on the stage jamming together. They are wise enough to know that when violence strikes, everyone here is a victim.

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