Divided Jerusalem's hope of coexistence falters in anger and fear HD: Palestinians barred from city by police

October 23, 1990|By Robert Ruby | Robert Ruby,Sun Staff Correspondent

JERUSALEM -- In the West Jerusalem neighborhood called Baka, yesterday was when Jewish residents were willing to say aloud that they were afraid of Arabs and wanted Arabs to be afraid of Jews. If they once had believed in coexistence, their faith had failed.

"Everyone should live in his own place, and this place should be for Jews," said Yaccob Pinchas, owner of a fruit and vegetable stand on Baka's main street. "That's how it's going to have to be."

Yesterday was when merchants like Mr. Pinchas opened their doors for business knowing that their Palestinian workers would not appear.

Any Palestinian who was brave enough to begin the trip would have been stopped at the checkpoints set up at the entrances into the city, where soldiers examined papers of identification and turned Palestinians back.

Israelis were drawing harsh lessons from the violence Sunday, when a Palestinian construction worker in Baka stabbed to death three Israelis.

His victims included an 18-year-old female soldier, an off-duty policeman and a florist.

"The lesson? We shouldn't employ Arabs," said Hava Duron, adding that she was thankful that no Arabs worked at her jewelry store. "I don't want to see them here because they have taught us we can't live together."

At a flower shop, Devora Shuraki said she was relieved her Palestinian helper failed to show up. He had fled Sunday when a crowd of Israelis began chasing Palestinians and throwing stones. If he returned, she said, he would be fired.

"The solution is simply not to let them come here," Ms. Shuraki said.

In the city that officials promoted as a successful experiment in coexistence, some of the same officials have decided that at least for now it is unacceptably risky to allow Jews and Palestinians to mix. Tempers seem too high, each side's belief in the righteousness of its cause too firm.

Palestinians could still be seeking revenge for police shootings earlier this month that killed 21 Palestinians on the Temple Mount, one of Islam's most venerated sites.

Israelis could desire revenge for stone-throwing from the Temple Mount onto Jewish worshipers at the Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism, or for the killings in Baka.

To protect each group from the other, authorities deployed an extra 2,000 police and decided to maintain indefinitely the checkpoints on the outskirts of the city.

Arye Bibi, the Jerusalem police chief, appealed to the public to remain calm "and let the police do their work."

Their efforts were only partially successful. At midmorning, a 46-year-old Israeli delivering meat to a grocery store in a Jewish suburb of East Jerusalem was stabbed by a Palestinian working at the store. Police said the Israeli was not seriously injured.

Police deployed themselves in Jerusalem in such a way as to make the city's seams reappear, undoing two decades of efforts by the municipality to unite the city's halves. To see where West Jerusalem ended and Arab East Jerusalem began, a person needed only to look for the largest police patrols.

Jerusalem appeared to have more police checkpoints than traffic lights. There was the sense that the city was holding its breath and expecting the worst.

"The hope for coexistence is making way for the acceptance of its impossibility," the newspaper Ha--ot editorialized. "The acceptance makes way for despair; the despair manifests itself in anxiety and madness."

Baka, more middle-class than hard-hat, is one of the places where tolerance appears to be losing ground.

Ms. Duron, in her jewelry shop, said her neighbors were beginning to believe that coexistence had been given enough of a chance.

"I think a lot of Israelis are starting to understand the idea that a good Arab is an Arab who lives outside the borders of Israel," she said. "After your friends are murdered, how else can I feel?"

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