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Saturday, 4 August, 2001, 11:03 GMT 12:03 UK
Generations of violence in Jerusalem
Palestinians throw things at Jewish worshippers
Hostilities break out again
By Jerusalem correspondent James Reynolds

I came here hoping for a quiet start. But that hasn't happened.

A few days after I arrived I went to Jerusalem's Old City for a demonstration. A Jewish group was planning to lay the foundation stone for a third Temple - on its original site.

Jews leave the Western Wall
Jews leave the Western Wall
But for the last 1,300 years the place has been occupied by the Dome of the Rock and the Aqsa mosque - sacred to Muslims.

It didn't take long for violence to break out. Palestinians started throwing stones down onto Jewish worshippers praying at the Western Wall.

The Israeli police moved in with teargas and stun grenades. More than 30 people on either side were injured. It goes to show that in this country and in this city - where there is worship, violence often follows.

Then the Israelis shelled a building in the West Bank town of Nablus. Eight Palestinians were killed in the attack - six were activists from the radical Islamic group Hamas.

The other two were young children. Palestinian groups promised revenge for the attack. Israel will pay the price - one leader said - our blood does not come cheap.

Looking back

This has been my reintroduction to a country I used to know well.

In the mid 80s I lived in Jerusalem when I was a boy. At the time my father was the BBC correspondent here. He, my mother, my sister and I spent two years in this city.


They say that Jerusalem is a city in which the dead are much more important than the living.

Jerusalem was quieter then than now. But it was never very relaxed. At school, as well as fire drills we would have air raid drills. The school clock had been damaged during the 1967 war - and it was left broken as a reminder of war.

I remember being surprised and frightened to see groups of soldiers and civilians walking round the city with machine guns.

Now, almost 15 years later, I'm back. Machine guns no longer look surprising here.

In West Jerusalem armed soldiers now routinely guard busy street corners.

And groups of young men in t-shirts carry rifles through shopping streets.

Jerusalem has become a very edgy place. There are warnings of potential attacks on the city - of suicide bombers. Many here try to stay away from crowded places - many avoid taking the bus.

This is a city in which all loud noises sound like they're bombs. Sometimes they are - but sometimes not.

protest
Palestinians protest regularly
We got word that there had been an explosion outside the prime minister's office - everyone first thought was that it was a bomb. But it wasn't. It was just an aerosol can bursting.

But on one of my first days here a small bomb did go off - in a supermarket off King George Street in the centre of Jerusalem.

I filed a report on the explosion for the radio news. A short time afterwards I received a phone call at the office from a listener.

"Sorry to bother you," she said, "But are you related to Paul Reynolds?"

"Yes - I'm his son," I told her.

She paused.

"I remember he did a report about a bomb in King George Street many years ago," she said, "Now you're doing the same. Same story, new generation."

Weddings and funerals

And it seems to me that many here feel this story will outlast them. That bombs will still be going off here beyond our own lifetimes.

They say that Jerusalem is a city in which the dead are much more important than the living.

That may be true of this whole land. It is a place where tombs have become battlegrounds, where the dead have become martyrs. And where funerals have become political events.

A few days ago, however, there was a pause. And I went to a wedding. Some Israeli friends from my first time here were getting married. The wedding ceremony took place at sundown just a few hundred yards from the walls of the Old City.

"Tonight we won't talk about the violence," the bride's mother told me.

And for a short time we didn't. And for a short time I forgot about the bombs and the killings.

I watched the couple take their vows. But I left while they were in the middle of their first dance. I had to get back to the office - I had to finish off a report about the day's funerals.


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See also:

02 Aug 01 | Middle East
02 Aug 01 | Middle East
03 Apr 01 | Middle East
30 Jul 01 | Middle East
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