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Tuesday, 7 May, 2002, 14:54 GMT 15:54 UK
Fear remains in Jerusalem
Israelis visit the site of a suicide bomb attack at the entrance of the Mahane Yehuda market
Mahane Yehuda market: A target for suicide bombers
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By Jeremy Bowen
In Jerusalem
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When I lived here one of my favourite places to go shopping was Mahane Yehuda market.

It has the best fruit and vegetables in Jerusalem.

The food there has flavours you would never find in a European supermarket.

It has chickens, live fish, fabulous spices, fragrant bales of herbs ...I thought about it and everything else under Jerusalem's sun during the two long winters that I have been away.

For old times' sake

Mahane Yehuda market is a raucous, furious, uncouth celebration of a certain kind of Middle Eastern Jewish life.

The traders' families came here from the great crescent that runs from north Africa, through Egypt and on to Syria, Iraq and Iran. They don't trust the Arabs and they love their Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon.

Even in better times, Mahane Yehuda used to get bombed.

But I was tempted to fight my way through it last week, for old times' sake.


Jews bury their dead quickly. My dentist here told me about a colleague who was killed on her way to work. She was in her grave before lunchtime.

It was at fever pitch in the last few hours before the start of the Jewish Sabbath. Luckily I didn't.

Half an hour later a Palestinian suicide bomber - a teenage girl - blew herself up, killed six others and wounded more than 80 at a bus stop outside the market.

"Don't you see why we have to do what we're doing in the territories?" an Israeli acquaintance said afterwards. "It's so bad now that when we visit our son my husband and I think about going in separate cars in case one of us gets killed."

Jews bury their dead quickly. My dentist here told me about a colleague who was killed on her way to work. She was in her grave before lunchtime.

But walk through one of the wrecked towns on the West Bank and you might wonder how Israel's actions will give its people the safety and security that they deserve.

Human bomb

I don't think enough Israelis realise that Palestinians react exactly the same way that they do to pressure and to killing.


A Palestinian friend of mine, well educated and in his own way desperate about what is happening, says that suicide bombers have discovered the nuclear weapon of the poor

They want to fight back. And for desperate teenagers - like the girl who blew herself up at Mahane Yehuda - turning yourself into a human bomb is a legitimate form of resistance.

It is more than that. It is a way to become a hero. They do not care that many people around the world think suicide bombings of civilians are morally repellent crimes.

They think using a helicopter gunship, a warplane, a tank or a machine gun to kill their people is every bit as bad.

A Palestinian friend of mine, well educated and in his own way desperate about what is happening, says that suicide bombers have discovered the nuclear weapon of the poor.

As the Israeli forces pull back, the stories of what Mr Sharon's war against terror has entailed are coming out.

Here is the story of what happened at the home of some Palestinian friends of mine in Ramallah.

They had enough money to get out to Jerusalem when it became clear that the Israelis were coming.

While they were gone, Israeli soldiers blew the doors off to search the property. My friends tell me that they smashed all the windows and their glass chandeliers and ransacked a study full of books.

A message

Bizarrely, they hacked into the father's computer and sent e-mails to his children. To his twenty-something daughter they wrote, in English, subject "Cow":

Thank you for a pleasant tour of the house and for the keys left in a convenient place - we tried to do as little damage as possible (I am sure you can appreciate our position).

I think you could do better in your choice of nail polish.

Best regards

Israel Defence Forces

Now, worse things have happened. The smell of rotting corpses hangs over the rubble in Jenin. Nobody died in my friends' house. It will be repaired.

Several members of the family have British passports and they're going to write to their MPs at Westminster. Compared to the massive force used by Israel elsewhere my friends got off very lightly.

I know that Israeli friends of mine, patriotic citizens who do their military service in combat units, are having to listen to all sorts of allegations about what their army is doing.

Two young Palestinians in Ramallah
Israeli action has not made its citizens feel safer in Jerusalem
And some of them say they have mixed feelings but then they ask: "What else are they supposed to do?"

But is it sensible for Israel to make a entire people hate them, from the poorest of the poor who may even now be praying for a martyr's death, to the educated middle classes whose most violent response will be to write to their MPs?

Invisible wall

Here in Jerusalem, Israel's action in the territories doesn't seem to have made its citizens feel much safer.

Shops, bars and restaurants in the centre of the Jewish New City still attract only a handful of customers.

Jerusalem still has an invisible wall down the middle, along the so-called seam between the Israeli west and the Palestinian east.

Heavily armed police have set up checkpoints along the roads that face the places where Palestinians live.

All this, don't forget, in the city that the Israeli Government calls its undivided and eternal capital.

And Yasser Arafat, who went on television to say that he too wanted to become a martyr, is more popular among his people and across the Arab world than at any time since the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, the last time Ariel Sharon went to war against him.

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 ON THIS STORY
Jeremy Bowen
"I don't think enough Israelis realise that Palestinians react exactly the same way that they do to pressure and killing."
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