Jerusalem: Where (some) Jews dare not tread

Monday, April 02, 2012 |  Ryan Jones

Years ago I remember being shocked that many of the friends my wife had grown up with in Israel's southern Negev region would not attend our wedding, deeming our new hometown of Jerusalem to be too unsafe to visit, even for such an important event.

How could Israelis view their own capital as being too dangerous to step foot in? But as the buses and cafes began to explode during the Second Intifada (or Oslo War), I started to understand their trepidation. It was much easier, much more comfortable to remain in parts of the country dominated by a Jewish population and simply pretend that conflict is not raging a mere 50 miles away.

The intifada is now over, and today we ride the buses and visit cafes largely without fear of being blown to bits. But there are constant reminders that the hatred the fueled the bloodiest days of the intifada remains, and that there are many parts of Jerusalem that even locals like ourselves still try our best to avoid.

On Monday, a Jewish man walking near the Damascus Gate of Jerusalem's Old City was attacked with an axe for the crime of being Jewish. The man suffered wounds to his head. The young Arab perpetrator managed to escape the scene back into the nearby Arab-dominated neighborhoods.

Last week, a young Jewish bridegroom tried to visit his mother's grave atop the Mount of Olives before his weeding, only to be viciously attacked by a mob of Arab youths. At one point, the Jewish man was pulled from his car and brutally beaten. The Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives is the site of regular acts of Arab vandalism, an phenomenon so common that it is no longer covered by international or even local Israeli media.

Three weeks ago, a young female Jewish soldier was stabbed and nearly killed while riding the new light rail through an Arab neighborhood in northern Jerusalem.

These are but a few examples of the violence that continues to simmer in Jerusalem, and which keeps most Israelis from ever visiting their capital and holiest city.

And now we begin to see some push-back. Last week, two young Jewish men were arrested for allegedly attacking an Arab man on Jerusalem's light rail. A week before that, a police investigation was launched into a recent riot by Jewish soccer fans at the Malha Mall, during which several Arab maintenance workers were attacked.

Jerusalem remains a hard stone, a stumbling block for many, even for many Israelis.

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