Friday afternoons are times of high tension. Tens of thousands leave the mosques, where some of the preachers have urged death to the Jews. My last note included a link to one such sermon. The translation is provided by Memri, a respected institution that provides material from Persian and Arabic in Hebrew, English, Russian, French, and Spanish. For those who missed it, here it is again.
Our Friday afternoons often comes along with the sound of a police helicopter circling above Isaweea to the east, Shuafat to the north, and French Hill between them.
Earlier on Friday I received a video clip, said to be from the Islamic State, in Hebrew, promising eventual death to all the Jews.
Those of you with enough of the language can judge it by clicking here.
If it really does come from the Islamic State, it's lousy propaganda. The message to Israelis is to kill Arabs, expel those remaining alive, and settle the Land of Israel to the edge of its borders.
It's so extreme as to set me wondering if it comes from right wing Jewish fanatics. I don't perceive a clear Arab accent in the Hebrew. I have no expertise to judge the Arabic, in order to decide if it comes along with a Hebrew accent.
The better part of Friday's e-mail was this from a Palestinian who is a former student and current friend.
מה שלומך ושלום בני המשפחה בימים קשים אלו שאנו עוברים.
אני חושב כל הזמן איך ולמה חתרנו למצב נוראי זה, וחשוב יותר בשלב זה איך נצא?
אני מקווה שנצא במהרה מהמנהרה החשוכה בה נתקענו.
שיהיה לך יום נעים ושבוע שקט
How are you and your family. These are difficult days we are having. I think all the time about how and why we got to this condition, and more important how we may get out of it. I hope that we can soon get out of the dark tunnel we are in. Hoping that you will have a pleasant day and a quiet week, With my blessings.
גם אני חושב תאופן דומה.
אני רואה את עצמנו במלכודת, שנובע מהיסטוריה אורך ומסובך. מאד חשוב לי לשמור על שביעות נפשי, ולהתרכז על יחסים טובים עם חברים מצד השני. כלנו תלוים אחת על השני, וגם נהנים מהקרבה ומהשונים.
היינו כאן. נעבור את זה. לצערי נחזור למשהו דומה--אני מקווה אחרי הפסקה שקטה אורכה.
כל הברכות לך ולמשפחה.
Thank you. I think like you. I see ourselves in a trap, that comes from a long and complex history. It's very important for me to guard my sanity, and to focus on the good relations that I have with friends from the other side. All of us are dependent on one another, and enjoy our relationships and our differences. We were in these conditions, and will pass through them, and sadly return to something similar, I hope after a long and quiet respite. All the blessings to you and your family.
This Friday was relatively quiet. But not in our house, filled with two kids, spouses, and two granddaughters, ages one and almost 3. The big sister doesn't stop talking and bossing all of us. No chance to talk politics.
I'm careful to do my walks in daylight, most days twice, each about 40 minutes and two miles around my circuit. I do it with a pointed walking stick, which I generally carry lightly in one hand or the other. Friends have asked if I have gone lame. And if so, why am I carrying the stick that way. They're quick to understand that it is my weapon of defense. Maybe it'll increase my probabilities by a percent or two, assuming I'm not day dreaming when an attack begins. It may persuade a hostile to choose an easier target.
It's important to remind ourselves that Arabs also suffer from times like this. Many--perhaps most--generally get along well and benefit as we do from mutual relations. Some 30 percent of Jerusalem's bus drivers are Arabs. Many of the workers in French Hill's supermarket and other neighborhood stores are Arabs.
Jews depend on Arab personnel who staff menial, clerical, managerial, and professional positions in the municipality, university, and hospitals. The Arab neighborhoods would not be here without the city's economic opportunities.
Arab blather about being the original inhabitants is the same nonsense heard from activists among Native Americans and Afrikaners. People have moved here, there, and elsewhere since the beginning. Claiming to be descended from the first is a lot easier than proving it.
Friday mornings I sometimes arrive early at the coffee house where I buy the weekend paper.The Arab manager asks me to light the oven. A Jew must do that so he can bake pastries that qualify as kosher. He calls me Rabbi. I insist that I am only an oven lighter.
In the course of a long career that included association with two national armies and numerous government agencies in several countries, I've often expressed criticism, but generally perceived that officials choose reasonable courses of action. Senior professionals in military or civilian functions are better informed than politicians, and senior politicians in decent governments tend to rely on professionals for advice. Professionals exercise an informal veto on politicians. Sometimes they simply do not implement what the pols enact.
What I see here is an acceptable mixture of tough response to aggression, along with a degree of moderation meant to keep the doors open to the majority of our neighbors, who we call our cousins, given our mutual roots. The police have already removed the barriers and relaxed patrols alongside one Arab neighborhood where residents have not been involved in the present uptick.
Mahmoud Abbas and King Abdullah are playing their own difficult games. Abbas is cleaving publicly to a host of demands prior to meeting with Netanyahu. They include a prisoner release, a greater measure of Muslim control over the Temple Mount, and an acceptance of the 1967 boundaries as the starting point for negotiations.
He won't get any of that.
Reports are that he is urging his party colleagues to calm things, and not to escalate by demonstrative visits to the Temple Mount.
Abdullah is waffling between urging quiet on the Palestinians, and rejecting proposals to meet with Abbas and Netanyahu in Amman. Commentators indicate that he shouldn't arrange a meeting likely to fail, in part to avoid increasing tensions with his own restive population, two-thirds of which is Palestinian.
Bibi has contributed to tensions by frequent accusations in public about Abbas' incitements. Bibi's comments are offensive as well as accurate. The Prime Minister isn't getting high marks for his statement about the Mufti and the Holocaust.
Bibi has been characteristically moderate in action. His critics to the right say timid.
News Saturday night is that John Kerry is claiming success, and giving credit to Abdullah for the creative idea to put cameras on the Temple Mount. There have been cameras there for years. There might come to be more. It's not easy knowing the true details when various actors are each playing to their own crowd.
Abdullah is reported to have told Abbas to cool things, but not many Palestinians listen to Abbas or his cadre. Hamas is threatening to explode any cooling off with violence. Israel is pondering a call up of reserves if conditions warrant it.
Wish us well, but don't exaggerate your concerns. This is an exciting as well as a meaningful place. Boredom is not one of the problems associated with advancing age.