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Thursday, 21 February, 2002, 16:48 GMT
Israelis look for key to peace
Israeli soldier tries to calm down stone-throwing clash in Ramallah
Israelis are taken aback by the strength of Palestinian hatred
There is a mood of despondency in Israel as people contemplate the prospect of a heightened conflict with the Palestinians with tit-for-tat exchanges approaching the level of all-out war.

It's such a small country, you're always going to go near the firing line

Israeli Amit Shaabi
The violence has already affected most Israelis, like Ruth Hadad, who lives in the Jewish settlement of Maale Adumin on the outskirts of Jerusalem.

Seconds before a car bomb planted by Palestinian militants went off on Monday, Ruth had been driving past the very spot with her two young children.

"My son was very upset after this episode," she told BBC News Online. "He's asking me over and over again to tell him what happened and I felt sad that he, as a three-year-old kid, has to feel these things."

Monday's blast killed a suicide bomber and injured a policeman
It is a feeling echoed by Amit Shaabi, who told the BBC: "People find it quite difficult to accept that everyday there are casualties, with soldiers or young people dying all over the country, people are disturbed and they are talking about it a lot," he said.

Amit, a photographer who lives in northern Israel but who often travels to Jerusalem for work, says there is hardly anyone who doesn't feel exposed.

"It's such a small country, unless you're not moving anywhere, you're always going to go near the firing line - somewhere you might get shot."

Tragic celebrations

But it is not so much the Palestinian militants and their increasingly damaging armed attacks which fuel Amit's despondency. It is the perception that - in the current intifada - ordinary Palestinians have lost the will for peace.

As long as the only sound that we hear is bombs and guns, then we can't speak

Israeli Ruth Hadad
"When a Palestinian child dies, or even a terrorist, Israelis aren't celebrating," he says. "But when a suicide bomb explodes in Jerusalem killing innocent women and children, you can see the Palestinians celebrating."

"To look at a Palestinian child, four years' old, and know he hates me because I'm Israeli... it's sad."

Nevertheless, he still thinks a majority of both peoples want to live in peace, and it is up to both leaderships to abandon what he sees as their macho posturing, and begin to make sacrifices.

Israeli PM Ariel Sharon
Ariel Sharon is not everyone's choice of leader
"If there would be a true leadership, they would have talked a long time ago, but now it's like 'I'm the man... I'm the one who'll decide what'll happen... I'm stronger... No I'm stronger'.

"For peace, people have to give up things. And if they do not give up sooner rather than later, they'll have to sacrifice more for peace in the end."

Ruth Hadad also wants dialogue to start again, but she says the only way that can happen is for ordinary Palestinians to realise that anti-Israeli violence must stop.

"As long as the only sound that we hear is bombs and guns, then we can't speak," she says. "You answer guns with words, it doesn't work - I would like to hear other things than guns."

But she hasn't given up hope of a more peaceful future.

"If we lose hope, then we've lost the whole... we lost this war, definitely. I will always be hopeful and I will always believe that God is here to protect us. First of all I hope that the common person in the Palestinian nation will realise that this is violence does is not serving their cause."

See also:

20 Feb 02 | Middle East
Dissent in the ranks
18 Feb 02 | Middle East
Israel reservists back occupation end
25 Jan 02 | Middle East
Yasser Arafat's dilemma
16 Feb 02 | Middle East
Israel's history of bomb blasts
02 Dec 01 | profiles
Who are the suicide bombers?
15 Feb 02 | From Our Own Correspondent
Arafat: Down but not out
20 Feb 02 | Middle East
Fear and pride in Ramallah
20 Feb 02 | Middle East
Palestinian militants 'change tactics'
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