Less rioting, but more transportation delays

Egged employs 600 Arab bus drivers and at of the beginning of last week, following the discovery of their colleague Yusuf Hassan al-Ramouni’s hanged body, they stopped coming to work.

An Egged bus driving through Jerusalem (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
An Egged bus driving through Jerusalem
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
While all relevant official Jerusalem bodies agree – with caution – that there has been a drop in the daily amount of rioting and stone-throwing, there have been some practical consequences that are proving burdensome to residents of the capital. The most obvious of these is the unofficial strike by the Egged bus company’s Arab drivers.
Egged employs 600 Arab bus drivers (not just in Jerusalem), and at of the beginning of last week, following the discovery of their colleague Yusuf Hassan al-Ramouni’s hanged body, they stopped coming to work. Earlier this week, 30 of them officially announced their decision to resign from the company, and there are still some 150 who haven’t come back to work.
There are at least two versions of the story behind the drivers’ refusal to show up to work. One is that many of them have been threatened by Jewish rioters and are not receiving any protection from their employer. The other is that the drivers have received threats from Hamas activists that they must stop working in and for a Jewish company and Jewish residents in the western part of the city.
As a result, buses are coming infrequently, stops are packed, and the waiting time for each line has doubled at the very least. Egged has called up its retired employees to help out, but most of them are not familiar with the articulated (accordion) buses, or are no longer physically up to working long shifts.
On top of all that, Deputy Mayor Yossi Daitch (United Torah Judaism) sent a letter to Egged last week, calling for a general dismissal of all Arab drivers because they posed “a security threat to the city’s residents.” A group of local human rights organizations called on Mayor Nir Barkat to condemn what they consider his deputy’s racist declaration.
• On Thursday of last week, the mourning tent for the family of the two cousins who carried out the terrorist attack at Har Nof’s Bnei Torah Synagogue was packed with visitors from Jebl Mukaber and other Arab neighborhoods in the city.
Muhammad, the father of Ghassan Abu Jamal, one of the murderers, said his son had not been religious and had even consumed alcohol from time to time. In an effort to explain his son’s actions, however, he added that “for us, even a nonreligious Muslim, Al-Aksa is a red line.”
Muhammad, an elderly and sick man, speaks Hebrew. He knows many Israelis in the city, and for 30 years his wife has worked as a cleaner for some of the most prominent residents of Jerusalem, including a judge. She has the keys to all their apartments and doesn’t know how to face this new situation.
Will they agree to let her come back to work? Will they take back the keys? For the moment, says one of her relatives, she hasn’t heard from any of her employers.
• On Sunday evening, a young Palestinian man was walking down the main road in Pisgat Ze’ev, apparently on his way to the Arab village down the hill, when three Jewish boys attacked him. They beat him, then left him on the side of the road and ran when two adult residents who were passing by tried to separate them. An ambulance took the young man to Shaare Zedek Medical Center, but for the moment, the police, who were notified about the incident, have no clues as to the attackers’ identities.
Less than 24 hours later, a Jewish resident of the same neighborhood suffered a mild head wound when a stone was thrown at him from the Arab village below the same road.
He was taken by ambulance to Hadassah University Medical Center at Mount Scopus.
• Jebl Mukaber has been under semi-military control since last week. Border Police have set up checkpoints at some of the entrances to the neighborhood, along with other neighborhoods in east Jerusalem. The restrictions seem to be aimed primarily at teenagers and young adults, who are the main ones suspected of stone-throwing or more severe violence. But it seems that inside the village itself, there is a lot of pressure on the residents, mostly to go on strike (many shops and supermarkets are now closed part of the day).
There have also been disturbances in schools: One of the neighborhood residents says that almost every day masked youths burst into one of the schools and order the teachers and the principal to cancel classes and send all the students home.
“Sometimes they just go home or go to play soccer, but many other times they sneak out of the neighborhood and join teenagers in Shuafat to throw stones,” adds the resident.
Another source in the neighborhood confirms this, adding that the authorities – in this case, the municipality’s education administration – have been notified, but that no principal would dare to disobey the masked activists.