A Normal Week in Jerusalem

Dec. 19 2017

For the past two weeks, newspapers and magazines have been filled with stories of rising “tensions” in Israel’s capital. But the Jerusalemite Matti Friedman reports that last week was a thoroughly normal one. Jacksonville, Florida, he notes, had far more homicides this year than Jerusalem, although the two cities are roughly the same size. And for those seeking bloodshed and religious hatred: Aleppo and Baghdad are a day’s drive away. He writes:

Jerusalem is always said to be on the brink of catastrophe. . . . 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. . . .

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. . . . This week, I went to one of the big supermarkets [near my house], 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. . . .

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.

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More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli society, Jerusalem, Media

To Israel’s Leading Strategist, Strength, Not Concessions, Has Brought a Measure of Calm

Aug. 14 2018

Following a long and distinguished career in the IDF, Yaakov Amidror served as Israel’s national-security adviser from 2011 to 2013. He speaks with Armin Rosen about the threats from Gaza, Hizballah, and Iran:

For Israel’s entire existence, would-be peacemakers have argued that the key to regional harmony is the reduction of the Jewish state’s hard power through territorial withdrawals and/or the legitimization of the country’s non-state enemies. In Amidror’s view, reality has thoroughly debunked this line of reasoning.

Amidror believes peace—or calm, at least—came as a result of Israeli muscle. Israel proved to its former enemies in the Sunni Arab world that it’s powerful enough to fill the vacuum left by America’s exit from the region and to stand up to Iran on the rest of the Middle East’s behalf. “The stronger Israel is, the more the ability of Arab countries to cooperate [with it] grows,” Amidror explained. On the whole, Amidror said he’s “very optimistic. I remember the threat that we faced when we were young. We fought the Six-Day War and I remember the Yom Kippur War, and I see what we are facing today. We have only one-and-a-half problems. One problem is Iran, and the half-problem is Hizballah.” . . .

In all likelihood the next Israeli-Iranian confrontation will be a clash with Amidror’s half-threat: the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hizballah, Iran’s most effective proxy in the Middle East and perhaps the best armed non-state military force on earth. . . . “We should neutralize the military capability of Hizballah,” [in the event of war], he said. “We should not destroy the organization as a political tool. If the Shiites want these people to represent them, it’s their problem.” . . .

“It will be a very nasty war,” Amidror said. “A very, very nasty war.” Hizballah will fire “thousands and thousands” of long-range missiles of improved precision, speed, and range at Israeli population centers, a bombardment larger than Israel’s various layers of missile defense will be able to neutralize in full. . . . This will, [however], be a blow Israel can withstand. “Israelis will be killed, no question,” Amidror said. “But it’s not going to be catastrophic.”

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More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Lebanon