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Front Page |  In Depth |  Middle East |  Voices from the conflict 
Voices from the conflict
Introduction
Yonatan Yagodovsky
Israeli emergency worker
Ron
Israeli army reservist
Mohammed Bakri
Israeli Arab doctor
Yehuda Aslan
Israeli restaurant owner
Abu al-Abed
Palestinian militant
Gila Svirsky
Israeli peace activist
Rifka Goldschmidt
Israeli settler in Gaza
Map indicating Jerusalem and Bethlehem

Mahmoud Shahin
Mahmoud Shahin is a 36-year-old Palestinian who lives in Irtas, a village just outside the West Bank city of Bethlehem. He is married and the father of a baby boy. In peaceful times, Mahmoud commutes from home to East Jerusalem to his job as a head waiter in a hotel.

Living in Bethlehem and working here in East Jerusalem means that for the last year and six months I have gone home to see my family for one night a week at best. It is so difficult, with the closure and road blocks, to get back and forth. It is not worth my while.

Several times, I have tried to go home through the main checkpoint and been held for four or five hours. Now I prefer to take the long way round, a long walk over the hills which takes more than two hours. The fact that they let us do this, but won't let us through the checkpoint is one of the forms of oppression we suffer.

It is possible to live together or side by side. Before the intifada I had Jewish friends who I used to visit and we used to go out to cafes together. I've been to Tel Aviv to visit.
Listen to audio
(in Arabic)
Real 28k
At the moment I don't go home at all. I have not been home for 27 days. I've forgotten what my baby boy looks like. During the last operations in the West Bank he was ill, so I took the risk and took him to hospital. After a day there, the Israelis shut everything down and banned any movement. I was stuck at home. My wife and boy were stuck at the hospital which was less than 10 minutes away from home by car, but impossible for me to reach. They stayed for a week in the hospital, and after that three days with the Red Cross. They were able to get us about four kilometres from my village. Then we walked along a river bed for half the way, until we could be picked up by a car nearer home.

I have to work here in East Jerusalem because at the moment there is no work in Bethlehem at all. There are no tourists. Even where I am working now there were about 100 people employed in the hotel. Now we are down to 25.

An Israeli tank in Manger Square in Bethlehem At the moment I take home half the salary I did before the intifada, but I'm better off than many. I am responsible for more than my direct family. I have two brothers who have no work at all and three sisters who are widowed. So there is a lot of pressure on me and with my work I am able to help here and there.

I can't see how things are going to get better. Before the intifada, there was hope but things deteriorated. And with the current Israeli Government they are not going to get better. Of course we can't blame everything on the Israelis. I was one of those who had great hopes for the Palestinian Authority when it came here, but frankly they have made so many mistakes we have made so many mistakes.

One of the failures of the Palestinian Authority is that there is no central planning controlling the intifada. The authority has allowed all these groups to do their own thing. I personally am absolutely against the killing of civilians. We really should be behaving more like human beings - that is what all our religions tell us.
Listen to audio
(in Arabic)
Real 28k
The main one is that with all the shootings and bombings we have convinced the world that we are an army. The intifada should have been about stone throwing and protest against the occupation. It was a terrible mistake to let the young men carrying guns wander about just for show. There is all this talk of the Palestinians declaring a ceasefire, but that is ridiculous when we are so weak and the other side has planes and tanks and we have guns. We are in this position because the world perceives us as an armed people, which of course we are not.

Another of the failures of the Palestinian Authority is that there is no central planning or authority controlling the intifada. The authority has allowed all these groups to do their own thing. I personally am absolutely against the killing of civilians. We are all human beings. If my son or brother or sister were to be killed I would not accept that either. We really should be behaving more like human beings that is what all our religions tell us. Fighting against military targets, I believe, is right. That in itself can be seen as resistance, which we have a right to do.

Maybe both leaders need to go I don't any more believe in the Palestinian Authority. Yasser Arafat has made so many mistakes and the Israelis won't deal with him any more. There are 50,000 people employed by the authority. Millions of dollars come here from foreign donors and we see nothing of them.

The vast majority of Palestinians are now in the position of accepting that there will be a two state solution in which we share Palestine with the Israelis. The problem is that the Israelis don't want to share it with us.

It is possible to live together or side by side. Before the intifada I had Jewish friends who I used to visit and we used to go out to cafes together. I've been to Tel Aviv to visit. It is possible to live together and work together. The situation completely changed when Sharon went to the Haram al-Sharif [Temple Mount] and then was elected. Hatred increased and that led to the intifada and then to the suicide attacks. These had a great effect on the attitudes of the Israelis and the word as a whole. But they don't see our point of view.



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