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The BBC's Frank Gardiner
East Jerusalem is a place where most Israelis no longer feel safe
 real 56k

Friday, 27 April, 2001, 12:49 GMT 13:49 UK
Jerusalem's beleaguered tourist trade
East Jerusalem's market
East Jerusalem's market is suffering from the effects of the violence
By the BBC's Middle East Correspondent Frank Gardner

The morning market in Jerusalem's historic Old City is a picture-postcard scene, with elderly Arab women in embroidered dresses, selling a myriad of fruit from woven baskets.

But for Israeli Jews, East Jerusalem has become a potential danger zone, a place where most don't venture without an armed guard in a flak jacket.

"People are knifed and people are attacked," said Israeli tour guide David Aarony.

"But if you know your way around, you should not avoid going to places like this. But I do understand those who decide not to take the risk. It's a calculated risk".
Palestinians throw stones at Israeli soldiers
Frequent clashes have driven the tourists away

Palestinian shopkeepers say that's a wild exaggeration. Certainly, the few European tourists here look relaxed. But the fact remains that since the intifada began, tensions have risen, and violence can break out without warning.

Frequent clashes

In the Old City after Friday prayers earlier this month, young Palestinians pelted Israeli riot police, a sign of their boiling frustration with Israeli occupation.

It may not happen every day, but even occasional scenes like this are enough to scare off casual visitors.

For Palestinians like Ali Jiddah, whose tour business depended on taking round Israelis, the intifada has spelt economic ruin.

"Before the intifada, we used to see more and more liberal Israelis who used to feel safe in the Old City, coming shopping and doing business," he said.


Nowadays things look really bad. Most of the people in West Jerusalem are afraid to go to the Old City

Elik Margalit, Israeli waiter
"But since 28 September, we don't see those Israelis coming, because they are really afraid. They understand that Palestinians can't distinguish between good Israelis and bad Israelis."

The mood is gloomy in the Old City. Hardly anyone is buying any souvenirs from the tourist shops, and those Israelis who do come here head straight for the Jewish quarter, hurrying past with their armed escorts.

In this climate of mutual hatred, there's little chance of Arabs and Jews living comfortably side by side. This has become once more a divided city.

In the relative safety of a West Jerusalem cafe, Elik Margalit is a young Israeli just beginning his shift as a waiter. He wouldn't consider visiting the Old City in the current climate.

"Nowadays things look really bad," he said. "It's very tense and people throw stones and Molotov bottles. Most of the people in West Jerusalem are afraid to go to the Old City."

Empty shops

One of the saddest places in the Old City is Abu Shukry's. It's an Arab restaurant which was often packed full of Israelis, drawn by its reputation for making the best hoummus in town.

Today it's almost empty. Sitting at a table, though, is the liberal Israeli journalist, Danny Rubenstein, from Ha'aretz newspaper.

Danny Rubenstein
Danny Rubenstein sees East and West Jerusalem as being two separate cities
Rubenstein grew up in West Jerusalem in the 1960s, when the city was still physically divided between Arabs and Jews. Now he sees that old division hardening.

"Because of my childhood experience, still for me it's two cities," he said. "When I cross from the Jewish neighbourhoods to East Jerusalem, I feel that I cross a border. Also I must admit that my personal political approach is that we have to respect the 1967 border."

But divided or undivided, this is a city that Arabs and Jews must share. Until they agree on how to do that, violence and fear will continue to stalk its streets.

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See also:

25 Apr 01 | Middle East
Palestine's lost children
25 Apr 01 | Middle East
Israel seals Palestinian areas
23 Apr 01 | Middle East
Palestinian boy shot dead
24 Apr 01 | Middle East
Iran conference to support Intifada
22 Apr 01 | Middle East
Mid-East deadlock continues
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