Analyze this: In Jebl Mukaber, evil counsel is the order of the day

By
March 8, 2008 23:37

Israeli Arabs are proud yeshiva killer came from their midst.

3 minute read.



"We never expected this to happen. We had personal relations with the mukhtars in Jebl Mukaber. The Arabs have always been free to come here and shop at the community center and get care at the Tipat Halav [mother-and-baby] clinic." So said former East Talpiot neighborhood council chairman Ephraim Huja to this journalist, exactly 20 years ago this month - when Ala Abu Dhaim, the son of this Arab village in south Jerusalem who opened fire inside the capital's Mercaz Harav Yeshiva on Thursday night, killing eight students and wounding nine more, would have been just six years old. In the early months of 1988, the first intifada that had sprouted in Gaza and quickly spread to the West Bank, belatedly came to the capital's Arab areas, including Jebl Mukaber. The Jewish neighborhood of East Talpiot abuts right up against it, and for years had enjoyed fully amiable relations with its residents - so much so that when the first crowds of young people there began hurling stones at adjacent Jewish homes, some were quick to dismiss the threat. "I don't think these incidents will have any impact on our relationships with our Arab neighbors," another East Talpiot community leader told me. But the stone-throwing continued and intensified, and soon East Talpiot residents were afraid to step even a few meters down the street leading into Jebl Mukaber. Eventually the intifada petered out, and the relations between the adjacent communities returned to relative normalcy - though never again with the sort of naïve neighborliness that had characterized it prior to those days. Jebl Mukaber lies within the expanded Jerusalem municipal boundaries and sits within the "Israeli" side of the West Bank security barrier, visible on the hilltops just east of the village. Its residents hold the valued blue Israeli identity cards that enable free movement within the rest of the city and country, and most work in west Jerusalem, many for the municipality. It is not one of the Arab neighborhoods that has been mentioned by members of the Olmert government as a candidate to be handed over to Palestinian sovereignty as part of a final status agreement. Yet Labor Knesset member Danny Yatom, who as a former OC Central Command once held security responsibility over Jebl Mukaber, on Saturday became the first member of the coalition to say that it was also necessary to create some kind of "separation" between the non-Israeli Arab residents of the capital and the rest of the city, so they will not be able to move freely, without any kind of check or supervision, throughout the rest of the city and country, as Abu Dhaim did. "How many terrorist attacks will it take before we understand that [allowing] this kind of passage is dangerous?" Yatom asked. Though there's no denying his point after last week's shooting, turning it into a reality in a place situated like Jebl Mukaber won't be easy, especially as work progresses on a new Jewish housing project, Nof Zion, which spills down a hillside directly into the village. Although being marketed to foreign buyers as a luxury development featuring views of the Old City, the gated fence around its perimeters doesn't impede the view of the much closer Jebl Mukaber homes on all sides. When Israel conquered east Jerusalem in 1967 it offered Arab residents the chance to become full Israeli citizens, an offer only a few thousand of its now some quarter-million population elected to take up. Twenty years later, when PLO flags began to be regularly put up in Jebl Mukaber and other Arab neighborhoods, and the stones began to fly, any illusion that this option was still viable as a answer to the city's political conundrum evaporated. On Friday, it was not just Fatah banners, but those of Hamas that were hung up in the neighborhood in honor of Abu Dhaim's murderous deed. "We are proud and happy, and everyone in Jebl Mukaber is proud of him," a cousin of his told The Associated Press as the family gathered in a mourning tent outside their house. On a hilltop overlooking both the entrance to Jebl Mukaber and the apartment blocks of East Talpiot, the Jerusalem Foundation is currently constructing a "Tolerance Park and Monument," in which an engraved cornerstone has already been laid. "Tolerance and understanding and acceptance of the other are the universal standard for behavior - equal to ethics and faith in importance," reads part of the inscription. The monument sits right night to the United Nations compound on the so-called Hill of Evil Counsel. Right now, thanks to Ala Abu Dhaim, evil counsel is indeed the order of the day in Jebl Mukaber - and the prospect that tolerance and understanding will someday truly take root in this corner of Jerusalem, for both its Jewish and Arab residents, looks like a far more distant dream. [email protected]

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