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Thursday, 2 August, 2001, 13:25 GMT 14:25 UK
Jerusalem: City of fear
Security officials searching a Jerusalem bus for bomb
Security is high, and people are wary of taking public transport
Tensions are building after the Israeli rocket attack which killed eight people in the West Bank town of Nablus on Tuesday. Jerusalem is at the heart of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, and the BBC's James Reynolds has been gauging the mood in the divided city.

In East Jerusalem, just steps away from the walls of the old city, the shops are closed. Radios play, but the streets are subdued.

A Jerusalem street market
The people of Jerusalem are in subdued mood
There's a strike here, a strike in memory of those killed in Tuesday's attack in Nablus.

Outside the Damascus gate a handful of fruit stalls remain open, but business is slow, tourists no longer come here much, and most Israelis no longer come here at all.

Among Palestinians there's anger and there's fear. Rahel Yafeli, who works at a clothes store, thinks the situation is very scary.

"I think twice about going to West Jerusalem now, even standing here, I'm afraid something will happen at any time."

Hard to share symbols

And just a few days ago something did happen here. Palestinians and Israeli police fought on the Temple Mount, or Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary), a holy site for Jews and for Muslims, two peoples fighting to own one place.

Palestinian analyst Mehdi Abd al-Hadi calls it a fight for symbols.

I'd rather walk than take the chance of being blown up somewhere

Naomi Cohen, Jerusalem student
"As a Jerusalemite your symbol is Jerusalem, and you cannot share that symbol, you cannot divide that symbol and you cannot ignore that symbol. It's in you, it's part of you.

"And since we are in political confrontation, and this is still a political struggle for Palestinian freedom and independence, I don't think people are keen to share their symbols, nor their holy places."

'Don't go on buses'

On the other side of town in West Jerusalem, the shops are open. In busy streets, soldiers carrying machine guns guard street corners.

Jerusalem cityscape
The two sides will not share their symbols
They are told to look out for potential suicide bombers. Some people in this part of town carry on with life as normal, others are more nervous. Student Naomi Cohen is one of them.

"My father just called me a week ago to tell me not to go to places with many people, to be careful, not to go to films, not to go to shopping centres.

"I don't want to go up on buses, I'd rather walk than take the chance of being blown up somewhere."

Violence is nothing new

In this city violence is an old story. The Israeli writer Maya Shelef says things are not as bad as they have been in the past.

"In the long history of Jerusalem we had even worse times, times of terrible slaughters and destructions, and driving you out to exile.

"These are tense times, but still Jerusalem can produce some memories that are much more horrible."

Walt Whitman once wrote: "I dreamed in a dream I saw a city invincible to the attacks of the whole of the rest of the earth."

It's the sort of city which people would like Jerusalem to become. But for the moment theirs is a city filled with anger, mistrust and fear.

The BBC's James Reynolds, in Jerusalem
"It does not look like any outsiders are coming"
Hamas spokesman Dr Mahmoud Allzahar
"We have no choice but to defend ourselves against Israeli aggression"
Jordan Vatikai, Israeli Defence Ministry spokesman
"We targeted the people who have already launched a huge amount of terror attacks"

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See also:

01 Aug 01 | Middle East
31 Jul 01 | Middle East
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03 Apr 01 | Middle East
30 Jul 01 | Middle East
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29 Jul 01 | Middle East
01 Aug 01 | Media reports
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