Listening to reputed experts talk on the weekend programs taxed one's Hebrew and rationality. Sentences merged into one another; themes changed in the midst of what sounded like paragraphs; conclusions backed into one another. One could wonder at the invitation given to a former senior police officer. His analysis was far from clear, and his reputation had been sullied by a highly publicized resignation associated with accusations of sexual impropriety. A retired intelligence officer, an opposition politician, and senior media commentators sounded no better.
The fluidity of the situation could explain the babble. The mistakes of those sounding unsure was to appear on a television program that extended for a couple of hours, with time to fill, and no hard information.
If we're not actually in an intifada, we're in something that is very similar. Experts are calling it a different kind of intifada. It is not led from the top, but it is incited from the top, by old men who have lost control, and propelled by lots of young people acting independently.
Commentators are saying that assertions about al Aqsa are behind the upsurge. Just as likely are the thrills of joining in the mayhem. Participants are mostly teenagers and people in their 20s, with some as young as 6 and 8 joining in the fun.
The overwhelming majority are males, but one knife-wielder was a 30 year old woman, working on a masters degree. She was also a mother, and divorced. The latter trait marks her as unusual in the Muslim community, and may have something to do with the onset of her attack. A video shows her surrounded by police, and refusing repeated calls to put down the knife. Eventually the police shot her in the legs.
Both the West Bank leadership and that of Gaza have been more pompous than effective. They seem impotent against gangs of young people, incited by preachers or political activists, or simply joining in the fun led by older brothers and cousins.
There are signs that both the Palestinian/Israeli Arab and Israeli leaderships are working to restrain restive underlings, and sense they are in danger of losing control.
Arab MKs initially responded with furious statements of refusal against Netanyahu's order that the police keep all MKs off the Temple Mount. More recently, they have indicated that they will comply in a spirit of calming emotions. The cadre close to Abbas has expressed concern that local party leaders are not in step with the leader's concern to restrain young Palestinians.
Bibi has a problem with his own party and some coalition partners. Back benchers in Likud and MKs associated with Jewish Home, including one minister and one deputy minister, have come out in support of Jews being able to pray on the Temple Mount. There are settlers as well as urban Jews who are intent in taking the law into their own hands, by attacking individual Arabs and their property.
There has been no apparent let up of weekend violence among young Jews. They stab one another in the parks and outside down-scale night clubs. One case getting a lot of attention is the alleged gang rape of a young woman on a barroom table. She initially said he had consented, later claimed she was drugged, and may now be filing a suit against those she can remember. The police have closed the bar, which lacked all the required licenses as well as its personnel not bothering to intervene while patrons were cheering on what was indecent, even if it may not have been a crime.
Arabs are also killing one another in brawls. Involved in both communities are struggles between underworld gangs over markets, and personal rivalries that may be nothing more than unrestrained masculinity. Prominent in the Arab community are family feuds that go on for years of killing and revenge, plus killings of women who violate family honor.
Overall, however, Israel is in the minor leagues: 1.8 homicides per 100,000, according to a UN agency, compared to 4.7 for the US.
A recent day's body count in Turkey is exceeding 90, associated with an uptick in the violence associated with Kurds, or maybe an attack by ISIS.
Estimates for the Syrian civil war begin at about 150,000 deaths, and extend to more than twice that number, with millions displaced, exceeding the capacity of refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, and creating headlines in Europe.
Egyptian sources are accusing Israel of overreacting, while ignoring the way Egyptian forces acted on their side of Gaza. They razed several hundred buildings as part of a campaign against the tunnels used to smuggle weapons into Gaza and fighters out to Egypt, giving little warning or provision for the thousands of people they made homeless.
The toll of death and injured among the Palestinians due to current events is climbing more rapidly than among the Jews. Compared to four Israelis killed, Palestinians have reported more than 20 deaths and 1,000 injured.
The balance of force is overwhelming. Arabs who think Jews are timid should pay attention to what happened on the borders of Gaza. When a crowd charged the fence and tried to tear it down, soldiers quickly moved from measures of control to deadly fire. On that front there have been 9 Gazans killed and more than 150 injured.
Decades of experience make prediction tempting.
It's easiest to expect an upping of violence, with Palestinians and Israeli Arabs using fire arms rather than stones and knives. That'll up the count of Palestinian casualties, accompanied by condemnations of Israeli responses from he governments of Arab countries that do not mention their cooperation with Israel on other matters.
While there hasn't been a suicide bombing at this writing, we are getting close. Those who survey the Arabic web sites are finding young people who aspire to the job. And a woman exploded gas canisters in her car at a checkpoint on a road to Jerusalem, while being questioned by police.
Foreign media are so far paying little attention to us. Their headlines deal with the latest mass shooting in the US, the failure of the Obama administration to do anything serious in Syria, and the looming potential of a clash between US and Russian activities.
We needn't be detailed in predicting escalation. There will be time enough to compare the numbers, and decide whether this one resembles intifada #1 or #2.
On my recent walks I've encountered a neighbor retired from the security services. He was carrying a heavy metal rod, about a meter and one-half in length, with a sharp point on one end. When questioned, he said that he did have a firearm, but that the rod would be more effective against a knife.
In the same spirit, I've started carrying Grandma's cane on morning and evening walks.
Optimists are seeing a decline in the incidence of violence. They also emphasize the efforts of Palestinian and Israeli leaders to calm emotions, despite opposition from restive underlings.
If incidents do lessen to the point when our newscasts focus on something beside first person reports of the latest occurrence and muddled assessments of the larger picture, I'll put Grandma's cane back in the closet.