Christian, Jewish and Muslim clergy united in prayer outside Kehillat Bnei Torah Synagogue in Har Nof, Jerusalem in which four worshippers and a policeman were killed, 24 hours earlier.
“Our future in the world is dependent on God,” said one man outside the building, where it is reported that a security guard was posted.
“We came to this place to express our stance against this criminal act, which involved an assault against the sanctity of the house of God, and against unarmed worshippers,” said Sheik Samir Assi, Imam of Al-Jazzar mosque.
But hatred is historic and runs deep. A Jewish ultra-Orthodox woman shouted from her window at the Imam, “You don’t have faith! Rubbish, you don’t have faith!”
For the first time in nine years a Palestinian’s home was demolished on Wednesday, the resumption of a punitive tactic which sparked controversy in the past.
Abdel-Rahman Shaloudi had lived in the house in East Jerusalem. He was shot by security forces and subsequently died after he rammed his car into a train stop in the city.
There has been no let-up in the building of Jewish settlements where many Palestinians have found work.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “We have Palestinian workers working in Israel, some legally and some illegally, and they [presumably Israel’s opponents] exploit that to put in terrorists of Hamas, terrorists that unfortunately are incited by the Palestinian Authority, by the Palestinian president. I think we’ll do whatever we can to prevent this danger.”
Netanyahu also talked in terms of the ‘Battle for Jerusalem’, where security has been tightened. Fraught opinions abound whether a heavy hand, politics, international diplomacy or God will prevent more bloodshed, after Jerusalem’s deadliest mass killing for years.
From euronews, our Raphaele Tavernier spoke with Vincent Lemire, a historian and specialist on Jerusalem, researcher with France’s prestigious CNRS and head of the project Open Jerusalem, first asking him about the present atmosphere in the city.
Vincent Lemire: “By day, it seems fairly normal. But by night, the streets are absolutely empty. At night, people are reluctant to go out or to go home late in the evening. Above all, there are several Jerusalems: West Jerusalem and East, and the different neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem which almost every evening are arenas of sometimes very violent clashes. So, it’s hard to say if the atmosphere is calm or not. It really varies from one time of day to another, and from one neighbourhood to another.”
Raphaele Tavernier, euronews: “Could this escalate?”
Lemire: “We do have, effectively, new methods that are uncontrollable by the security services: knife attacks. That does give an image of an uprising that is much more spontaneous, a lot less organised, far less structured, but in a way much more worrying for the Israeli security services.”
euronews: “Israel’s continuation of settlements in East Jerusalem, do you consider this the only factor to explain the rise in tensions and violence?”
Lemire: “The pursuit and acceleration of Israeli settlement-building in the West Bank and Jerusalem is the structural factor and the determining factor over the long term, but, that said, I don’t believe this is what explains the explosion in violence today. There has been an immediate trigger for several months now. Clearly, it is the repeated visits by religious extremist Jews to the Esplanade of the Mosques, with intentional provocations by these Jewish religious extremists. Then there are the new political initiatives from within the Likud party in government, the MP Moshe Feglin leading activities on the Esplanade of the Mosques, and even from within the government, with Naftali Bennett supporting these activities.”
euronews: “Sweden recognised Palestinian statehood at the end of October; Spanish MPs have called for going in the same direction. So have British MPs, symbolically. How is Israel taking this?”
Lemire: “There is an official version and a more closely-up feeling. The first says, ‘this has no effect, it’s of no importance, it’s symbolic’. But when we dig a bit more we realise the gut feeling is very different. All Israelis know that the state of Israel was born from a United Nations General Assembly vote in November 1947, and therefore all of them know that Mahmoud Abbas’s new strategy, and that of the Palestinian leadership, to seek this international recognition is absolutely not only of symbolic significance, but that it has political implications in terms of international relations — extremely strong implications, in the medium and the long term.”
euronews: “In your book, ‘Jerusalem 1900’, you say that wasn’t really such a long time ago, and that Jerusalem was a model of communities living side by side. Is that time gone for ever?”
Lemire: “Yes, clearly, that time is gone, in the moment we find ourselves, but that doesn’t mean it won’t come back. Since Biblical times, Jerusalem has always been a sort of jewel in an imperial crown, and, in fact, that imperial, supranational context would allow a certain quality of city dweller, a sort of living together. After the First World War, Jerusalem swung towards a totally new context. It became the focal point for two competing nation-building projects — the project of Zionism on one side, then Israel, and the Arab project on the other. In this context, the rival, clashing citizenships prevent any getting along, prevent the people living in Jerusalem from living together calmly and in harmony.”