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

Yehuda Aslan
Yehuda Aslan is a 43-year-old father of three. He and his brother own and manage a café and restaurant in West Jerusalem. His businesses would normally be full of all kinds of young Israelis and Israeli Arabs. But in the current climate of fear of suicide bombers, customers are fewer and fewer and it is a struggle to keep cafes and restaurants going.

Just after a suicide bombing or during a period of bombings, there can be a drop in the number of customers of between 90% and 40%. I don't know why it varies so much. One day recently, the café was full. Then there was a bomb nearby. Everybody left apart form one table. They left because they were afraid, because they wanted to be home to safety, to check that their family were okay.

I am philosophical. If a suicide bomber comes he comes, it is just the luck of life. When a stranger comes in, people look, but what can you do."
We hire a guard because if we didn't nobody would come. It can cost more than 20,000 shekels a month, and many places cannot afford this, so they close, maybe for a while, maybe they just close. Recently, our guard couldn't come, so I just closed the café for a day. We have a guard, but I don't really believe that he will save us if a suicide bomber comes here. The terrorist might get past the guard, or just shoot him. I am philosophical. If a suicide bomber comes he comes, it is just the luck of life. When a stranger comes in, people look, but what can you do?

There was a terrorist bombing at the Café Moment recently here in Jerusalem. This touched the people who come here, and my brother and I very much. They are the same customers – my customers also go there. And the café moment was our first café. I named it. That was very bad for us, very close.

With business suffering, I am trying to get together with other restaurant, café and bar owners to form a group to pressure the government, probably the prime minister's office, to offer financial aid to these types of businesses so that they don't close. It is a point of principle with the government and Israelis that places in Jerusalem should not shut. This would be defeat, would mean the terrorists win.

I have nothing against Palestinians. I have employed many. Anyone who comes in peace is welcome here. My Palestinian workers have not been able to come to work recently. My brother and I had a choice. We could get new people - Israelis - or he and I could work more often in the kitchen and hope that the situation changes and our Palestinian workers come back soon. We have been working in the restaurant and kitchens a lot.

The Palestinians have to stop attacks in Israel. These are cowardly. They have a right to fight the soldiers in the territories. If they stop attacks in Israel, even for a short time, Israelis will know that they have to make a move to settlement.
It is not true that people, young Israelis are becoming more right-wing because of the violence and bombings. Most people support the operations in the West Bank because we had to do something. There were too many bombings and Israel is at war. But they do not believe that there is a military solution. They know that there has to be political solution with the Palestinians.

I think people have to be optimistic. I believe there is a solution, a very easy one that can happen in a short time. The Palestinians have to stop attacks in Israel. These are cowardly. They have a right to fight the soldiers in the territories. If they stop attacks in Israel, even for a short time, Israelis will know that they have to make a move to settlement.

Sharon is a soldier and right-winger, but look what Begin did. When he was elected, it was the first election I voted in, everyone thought we are going to war. But look what happened - exactly the opposite.

The solution that I imagine is one where I can go to Ramallah for lunch or to Hebron to see the holy places, and the Palestinians can come here.

Twelve years ago I went to Milan to see an exhibition. At that time I was in the army and needed a permission from my unit to travel abroad. When I was there, a friend of mine said I know a very good restaurant in Lugano. Now Lugano is in Switzerland, and my permission was for Italy only. But he told me to get in the car and we drove to the border. At the border the Italian guard just waved and smiled at us. On the Swiss side there was nobody. When we drove back after dinner, there was nobody at all at either border - they had gone home to their families. That is my idea of two countries at peace.

But for now, Israelis must remain unified. If a reservist is called up, he must serve wherever he is asked to. To be divided at a time like this is bad.



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