Abu Tor report: Our deadened morality
I knew that I would not need to set my alarm for morning minyan once I heard on the radio that Rabbi Yehudah Glick had been shot. Helicopters had already been present since the Gaza war, and their numbers increased along with all sorts of other police and military vehicles with the settler incursion into Silwan. Here in Abu Tor (a mixed Arab-Jewish community that transverses the Green Line), we immediately knew that their middle-of-the-night “return,” along with their home defenses and much security — private and governmental — would soon have a bad end. We only wondered how fast and exactly where violence would ensue. We didn’t expect that it would be the Light Rail and attempted assassination of a rabbi, and, this morning’s killing of Glick’s assassin in the hood.
Abu Tor has become a difficult border town and a noisy one. During the summer, just seven houses down the block, we had angry Arab rioters with firebombs and the rest of the paraphernalia. But it was possible to see that their hearts were not fully in it.
The riot “problems” seemed to be limited to Oct. 30 and 31. I asked an Arab neighbor about it. He replied poker-faced that I should know these three things: “a) our boys don’t want to get hurt, b) they don’t want to get arrested, and c) they need to get up early on Sunday to go to work or to school.” I blurted out, “They sound Jewish!” He let out an unfathomable but serious sigh.
I think that illusive sigh, nonetheless, tells us a lot about the promise of our situation in Jerusalem, at least in Abu Tor. The vast majority of our residents and citizens (greatly overlapping categories) simply want to live their lives. Young adults yearn to go to school, get jobs and pursue romance. You can see all of this on Naomi Street and on the promenade (Tayelet), and it is just humanly inspiring. Are there serious troublemakers among them? Certainly. But we Jews make it immeasurably worse, upset the neighborhood balance and allow for the terrorists to have their sway by allowing our police-protected extremists to do whatever they want.
The Silwan Settler Sympathizers (SSS) argue that the new Jewish homes will keep the city Jewish. And that, not traffic easement, has been the real argument for the Light Rail. And for the building on Givat HaMatos, although the added claim that it will also benefit all citizens has somehow, incredibly, not been understood by the Arab population. Of course, all this activity only plays into the hands of Arab terrorists. They feed on their population’s sense of being threatened, which can override the push for normalization and create further havoc. The SSS and Jewish Sovereignty Proponents only want further repression, which further plays into the terrorists’ hands. But it could be — and this morning, it seems to me — that Jewish extremists do indeed want this … all so that we can further extend our “governance” and so that their War Messiah can come (finally, already!) and clean up the mess.
We Jews have allowed the stress of the conflict to deaden our moral sensitivity. We express little regret for Arab families ruined in the last Gaza war. We know the name of the sweet innocent Jewish baby murdered in the Light Rail attack, but who of us knows the name of one Arab child killed by our arms? (Yes, Hamas forced us into it over and over again.) We are now allowing for segregation (I only say segregation because I can’t get myself to use that other word) on buses for dead-tired Arab workers who are doing Israel’s hard labor. And stupidly, we don’t act to decrease, but rather we increase the sense of threat felt by Jerusalem’s Arab population.
Three days later, everyone is up for minyan in Abu Tor. We are not sleeping anyway, what with all the new police and military traffic, alarms on newly damaged cars going off, and the Muslim call for prayer having somehow gotten louder. Oh yes, we have plenty of helicopters overhead — but beyond “protecting” us, they are only spinning their propellers.
Rabbi Daniel Landes Is director of the Pardes Institute in Jerusalem