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Jerusalem Diary: Monday 10 March

By Tim Franks
BBC News, Jerusalem

It has been another week of lives ended or turned upside down by violence.

They, rightly, attract our attention. But all around are people who have long been caught in the conflict, and remain trapped by its effects upon them.

These are the brief stories of two men: one, his life transformed in a moment; the other, watching his livelihood slowly implode.

SHLOMI'S STORY

En route to Nablus, we stopped for petrol.

The pump-man was a tall, broad, shaven-haired bear of a man called Shlomi.

Israeli forces on patrol in Nablus - September 2007
Israel conducts regular operations in the West Bank's city of Nablus

He admired the bullet holes our armoured car had acquired in Gaza.

"I've got a few holes myself," he told me. "Picked them up in Shechem" (the Israeli name for Nablus).

He rolled up the right trouser-leg of his stained red overalls to show me an impressive scarred mess.

Shlomi had been out on duty with the Israeli army, in one of their almost daily operations into Nablus.

His jeep came under attack. Not, in the first instance, from bomb or bullet.

A donkey had been pushed off a roof, and landed on the bonnet. Shlomi got out of the jeep. He shot the donkey, which was, he says, in some distress.

The next he knew, he'd been hit by a petrol bomb. He skidded on the glass and petrol, and broke his leg.

A Palestinian gunman then fired at him, hitting his leg three times.

Shlomi's fellow soldiers shot and killed the gunman.

Shlomi spent the next year in a wheelchair. Now he's a petrol pump attendant on the road from Jerusalem to Nablus.

ISSAM'S STORY

The winter feels distant, now. But it was a filthy day, wet and foggy, when I first met 53-year-old Issam Shurti in Ramallah.

Nablus city centre closed down for the visit of George W Bush - January 2008
Closed down: Ramallah during the visit of George W Bush

It was the day that President George W Bush had been in town. The road closures and knotted traffic had left Issam struggling to reach one of the two plumbing supplies shops he and his brother run in the city centre.

The delay made little difference. There are not many customers these days.

Issam sat at his desk at the front of the shop, a Quran on the glass top, along with two calculators, lying dusty and dormant.

His father opened the shop we sat in, in 1965.

In recent years, sales have fallen 75%. Business has been hit by the closures and blockages the Israeli military impose across the West Bank, and by the slow collapse of the bloated Palestinian public sector.

He has been relying on a series of loans from the United Nations Refugees and Works Agency.

Issam told me he hoped Mr Bush's visit would change things.

"But we can't bet on anything. Past experience shows American promises don't count. Once I had a perfect life. Now I just live," he said.

Issam said he could not imagine passing the shop on to his sons. In fact, despite Mr Bush's assurance of a peace deal within a year, he was unsure whether he could make it through the next five or six months.

It has not taken that long. Within two months of the presidential visit, Issam and his brother have already had to close one of their shops.




TIM FRANKS' JERUSALEM DIARY

Tim Franks 29 March
Views from Cairo

2008
 

2007
 


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