Concerned but defiant in the capital’s Muslim Quarter

Three yeshivot face challenge of life in mostly Arab neighborhood.

Security forces at the site of the murder by a Palestinian on Saturday of two Israelis in Jerualem's Old City  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Security forces at the site of the murder by a Palestinian on Saturday of two Israelis in Jerualem's Old City
Amid the wave of terrorist attacks that has beset the country in the last few days, students and teachers of yeshivot in the Muslim Quarter of the capital’s Old City are facing unique circumstances in conducting their daily lives.
There are four yeshivot in the Muslim Quarter: Ateret Yerushalayim, Shuvu Bani, Aderet Eliyahu and Netivot Yisrael.
Ateret Yerushalayim is were Rabbi Nehemia Lavi taught. A knife-wielding teenaged Arab terrorist murdered the rabbi in the Muslim Quarter on October 3.
Haim Raicher, an assistant at the Shuvu Banim yeshiva of the Breslov Hassidic community, said the 350 students and rabbinical staff are trying to maintain a sense of normality but that doing so is difficult given the heightened security threat.
Jerusalem stabbing scene October 10
Raicher insists however that verbal and minor physical assault from Arab residents and workers in the Muslim Quarter are a common occurrence, saying that Jews are frequently cursed at, spat at, shoved and goaded while walking in the streets and alleys.
“The Arabs know where the police are positioned and so they engage in this kind of behavior away from the eyes of the security personnel,” Raicher told The Jerusalem Post.
“Even if the police do see pushing or stone throwing, they might arrest these people, but they aren’t brought to trial or punished in any way, they’re just released a short time later, so it just continues.”
Raicher says some of the students at the yeshiva have stopped coming out of concern for their safety, and that the police need to act more vigorously against these attacks.
Daniel Luria of the Ateret Cohanim organization, with which the Ateret Yerushalayim yeshiva is associated, echoes the comments of Raicher in relation to the security situation in the Muslim Quarter.
Ateret Cohanim’s main organizational goal is to bring Jews to live in the Old City and parts of east Jerusalem to prevent the city from being split in the future, and is therefore much more ideologically inclined than the Shuvu Banim yeshiva and its students.
In this spirit, Luria too talks of the spitting, stone throwing, shoving and general taunting from the Arab population, but says the approach must be broader to deal with the phenomenon, alluding to the ideological goals of the organization.
“There needs to be a major change in thinking in education [in the Arab sector] to change the violence in Old City,” he said.
“It’s Arab terrorism. We want to live side by side with people who want to live side by side with the Jewish state and under Jewish sovereignty,” he says.
“The Arab world has to understand Jews have right to live anywhere in Jerusalem.”
Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, a hard-line national-religious leader and dean of the Ateret Yerushalayim yeshiva, seeks to play down talk of security concerns and problems however.
The rabbi says that he, the yeshiva staff and the students cooperate and are attentive to the instructions of the police and security services and are being particularly vigilant at present, but that life in the Old City is considerably less dangerous than might be thought. He compares the murder rate in Israel favorably to that in the US to prove his point.
“Anyone who comes to this yeshiva is not someone who is in general afraid, because they know where the yeshiva is, people who are afraid don’t come here,” he says.
Aviner only speaks in general terms about how the current violence, and the general antagonism from the Arab population in the Muslim quarter, can be solved, saying that on the one hand punishments must be made sufficiently severe to dissuade such incidents.
“When we talk however about concessions to the Arabs, about saying that they can have part of the land or part of Jerusalem, this increases terrorism. We must say ‘This is ours,’ and make it clear, ‘You can do whatever you want, but you won’t get the Land of Israel,’ and only then will it stop.”
In response to the concerns raised by Raicher and Luria, a spokesman for the police said that the Jerusalem police forces are “in and around the Old City, with an emphasis on the Muslim Quarter.
If and when there are any incidents, on all levels, they respond immediately.