Reconciliation in Times of Escalating Violence Between Israel and Palestine

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For many who live in Jerusalem, the last few days have been difficult.

“From my home I could hear the violence from Damascus Gate in the Old City, the shootings and shock grenades. The main reason for the violence is the decision of the police to limit the movement around the Damascus Gate courtyard, an area that is used by many Palestinians during the month of Ramadan for socializing and breaking the fast,” writes Salim J. Munayer, Executive Director of Musalaha, a reconciliation ministry in Israel, in an email update to supporters.

Many young Palestinians began to protest the measure. “They saw it as an act of provocation by the police during their sacred month. The police did not remain passive in the protests and we witnessed a lot of police brutality,” he said.

“In addition, in many other locations in Jerusalem including the market, train track and downtown area, organized Jewish-Israeli groups were looking to lynch Palestinians and chanting ‘death to Arabs.’ Several Palestinians were attacked and injured. The Jewish-Israeli groups were led by a far-right Jewish supremacy organization called Lehava (‘Prevention of Assimilation in the Holy Land’), who also have close relations to a political party that passed the election threshold in the past elections. In response to both the protests in Damascus Gate and the lynching, young Palestinians attacked a number of Jewish-Israelis as well. Moreover, there have been several TikTok videos that have gone viral of Palestinians slapping and beating Orthodox Jews in public areas.”

Munayer says that during one of the lynching nights, his two boys in their late twenties were walking back from the YMCA in Jerusalem, not far away from some of the violent attacks. Instead of walking in their flipflops, they were wearing their running shoes in case they were targeted as Palestinians by the Jewish-Israeli supremacists. “It has been a difficult time for all families in Jerusalem, many people have been avoiding going out of their homes,” he said.

“One must also remember that these recent violent clashes are simply physical expressions of much deeper violence within the system itself. The economic situation has been deteriorating in East Jerusalem during the pandemic, Jewish settlers taking over Palestinian homes, house demolitions and the frequent postponement of Palestinian elections which may or may not include Palestinians in East Jerusalem,” he notes.

In the Musalaha  office, the staff had a discussion about the situation, asking many questions, he said. ”What is our role as a reconciliation organization in this situation? How do we respond? What actions do we take? Why do we not hear more voices against violence and racist statements by politicians and Church leaders?”

He said: “One answer to this situation is our reconciliation activities, which bring people together. They not only bring people together to build relationships, but also address the injustices around us. Although we are a modest organization within a huge system, we can do our part in trying to transform the conflict and people’s lives through reconciliation.”

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SOURCE: Assist News Service, Michael Ireland