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Saturday, 15 September, 2001, 10:30 GMT 11:30 UK
Divided nation: Divided response
Israeli Moran Cohen, 23, whose younger brother Shai was killed while stationed as an Israeli soldier in the West Bank
The Israelis openly showed their emotion at the tragedy
By the BBC's Jerusalem correspondent Orla Guerin

If the world has been watching America in shock, anguish and disbelief, Israel has felt something more - a profound sense of identification, a feeling that Israel was there first.


No nation has suffered like America this week, but Israel has had a taste

At the newsstands, in taxis, in the local coffee bar, I've heard it said many times this week - not with smugness, but with weary conviction: "Now the rest of the world knows how we feel".

Here at the BBC bureau in Jerusalem, we have a new address this week. Instead of Jaffa Street, our road has been renamed. The Israeli authorities have decided that, for seven days, this will be New York Street.

No nation has suffered like America this week, but Israel has had a taste. Landmarks in Jerusalem aren't always noted for their beauty or their history. They are often distinguished by blood.

My route to work takes me past the Sbarro pizza restaurant, scene of a large bomb attack last month, and close to the French primary school where Jerusalem's latest suicide bomber blew himself up.

Frequent attacks

When America was struck, the Hebrew press pronounced that this was "Israel's tragedy - writ large".

Esther Wachsman, mother of Nachshon Wachsman, who she says was murdered by a Hamas militant in 1994
Many Israelis feel a sense of identification with American grief
The Israeli working week begins on Sunday. By 1130 last Sunday morning I was standing in the stifling emptiness of the Jordan Valley beside a minivan drenched in blood.

It had been ambushed. "We used to say this was the only safe road left," a local Israeli official told me. As we spoke I was called about another attack - a suicide bomber at a train station in the northern town of Nahariya. A few hours later we were there.

The Kadisha were still at work, on their hands and knees. They are Orthodox volunteers who search for each body part so that victims can be buried complete, in accordance with Jewish tradition.

One of the Kadisha came to speak to me. That conversation too was interrupted by a call. There had been another suicide bombing.


Israel now expects to get a lot more sympathy and a lot less criticism

After that attack we finally headed for home. On the car radio an Israeli living in the Jordan Valley was being interviewed.

"How are we supposed to travel in this country," he asked. "Cars with Israeli plates get shot at. Van are getting ambushed. Suicide bombers are waiting on the platforms for trains to pull in. And don't talk to me about the buses."

Climate of fear

One of my colleagues, in the car, had his own story to tell. He'd been on the beach near Nahariya recently with his wife and some friends.

It was night and they saw a torch in the distance. Eventually a policeman appeared, asking if they had seen anyone running their way.

Palestinian school girls stand for a moment of silence in the West Bank
Many Palestinians reacted with shock and horror to the tragedy
Sensing their fear, he told them to relax. "Don't worry. Its just an ordinary criminal, not a terrorist," he said.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Israelis see themselves as permanent victims. And it was as fellow sufferers that they reacted to America's tragedy this week.

They gave blood, they lit candles, they wept and they mourned. But the Israeli establishment did something else. It began a campaign to convince the world that America and Israel are fighting the same fight.

Israel now expects to get a lot more sympathy and a lot less criticism.

Palestinian reaction

Did the Palestians rejoice this week? Some did but by no means a majority. In the squalor of some refugee camps, guns were fired in the air and sweets were handed out.

There was a larger celebration in the West Bank town of Nablus, but you won't have seen that on your TV screens.

There was only one tape, and it is now known that the Palestinian authorities seized that, having warned the cameraman that his safety could not be guaranteed if he broadcast it.

Palestinians rejoicing at the news
Others celebrated when they heard the news
But many Palestinians didn't need to be told to stay home and keep quiet. Many shared the grief of the world. Others were in no mood to celebrate - too worried about what America's nightmare might mean for them.

Mohammed Khalil Shakbua thinks he knows already. I found him sitting outside his house in the West Bank town of Jericho. Israeli tanks had been in the night before - invading Palestinian territory.

During hours of shelling and gunfire, Mohammed's home had been damaged. He showed me the marks left by the Israeli bullets. "We were sleeping on the roof," he said, "and the bullets passed over our heads."

Like many Palestinians, Mohammed believes Israel will now be doing far more of this, and the world will now be looking the other way.

How did he feel about what happened in America, I asked. He didn't hesitate for a second. "The Americans support Israel," he said. "I wish to Allah that more of them had been killed."

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Orla Guerin reports from Jerusalem
"Israelis see themselves as permanent victims"
See also:

12 Sep 01 | Americas
World shock at US attacks
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