Sunday, October 31

Walking in Jerusalem

Walked and window shopped this evening with the wife in downtown Jerusalem. Bought a few frocks and such at the 19-29 shekel stores along Jaffa Road, the main thoroughfare and also the site of scores of terror attacks over the last four years.

Blase', huh? Nope. Not really. Actually, a pretty nice change from wondering if the next passerby in a bulky coat and leering smile, flicking a thumbswitch, was going to be the last thing I saw on Earth.

As Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat drools into a Parisian bib and gets sucked dry in platelet counts, as aides frantically try to get him to tell them where the 5-800 million dollars are stashed and Suha and daughter Zahawa wonder when the cash tap gets turned off, as Hamas & Co. keep their eyes wide to the skies for IAF-delivered wake-up calls, I realized, standing outside the former location of the Sbarro pizzeria (site of a singularly horrific suicide bombing, recently moved down the block and now a chic' coffee shop, packed with latte' sippers) that we - Israelis - have reached a turning point in this war. I’ve read that before; but really hadn’t quite sensed it – until this evening.

And we're still here. Standing, dammit. Dazed. But on our feet.

You, over there in the States, from now until Tuesday night - keep up that momentum to keep John Kerry out of 1600 you-know-where Ave.

In recent email discussions with friends and family in the States, I've noticed that many, who are otherwise staunch Democrats, are dismayed - did I say dismayed? Aghast is better, by the "too clever by half" Teresa Heinz-Kerry and her mouth. Apparently, it's a mother-son genetic thing.

Not to show my colors here, but the "51-State," as her son Chris puts it, is about to pack her and hubby a walloping bitch slap come Tuesday, at least going by numerous conversations I've held with very active US voters and party officials from both sides of the aisle here in recent weeks. Here's why:

Following is a representative segment of a letter I was Cc'ed on about Israel's security concerns, written by an individual running for Democratic office and who strongly supported, um… Howard Dean. Yeah. "Arrrrrrrhhhhgggh," and all that. He’s nominally Jewish and "progressive," natch' - and my reply:

"The mail from David Bender was interesting. He is a one issue guy and has been influenced by sound bites and fear. Both parties will support Israel as the only democratic government in the Middle East. However the Democrats will be more engaged in the peace process as was Clinton. Just based on the record Dubya deserves to be punished."

Well. I just simply could not countenance being dismissed so casually by someone who has no idea who I am or what life here is really about, just to make easy political points.

Right. More Clintonesque gestures to resuscitate Arafat and Sons. Just when we were starting to see, if not exactly daylight, then the glow on the horizon of an end to mass murder.

Actively working in the press at ground level for the last several years, as well as living and raising a family here nearly a quarter of a century, I have - in all modesty - amassed no small degree of fair, in-depth and compassionate interviews and reports with government minister and members of Knesset from across the spectrum; Palestinian Authority officials - both on and off the record, Israeli and US academic think-tank and military experts, and "just plain folk" from all walks of life both within Israel and PA areas.

"Before working in the press, I worked - literally - shoulder to shoulder with Palestinians and Israeli Arabs for a period in construction and the automotive repair field - far from cameras, microphones and the press. I have learned from many deeply personal conversations with them at workbench and jobsite, as well as from heart stopping/breaking personal experiences far too closely to scores of 9/11- equivalent terror attacks - along with family, friends and colleagues, just how they feel about Israel and Jews."

"Unlike him (the Democratic runner), I actually live here, walk the walk, and so, have the street cred far more than he does to talk the talk about the issues at hand."

I am hopeful for the future, (and not "driven by fear"), otherwise I would have simply packed up and left long ago, not daring to raise children in this part of the world.

There are Palestinians - at least those referred to as Palestinians (pre-1948, Jews here were referred to internationally as the "Palestinians," with the original name of The Jerusalem Post newspaper being "The Palestinian Post." Really - you can look it up!) who do want to live in peace with Israel. They, however, are in the vast minority, and do not presently present a viable talking partner for the time being.”

They hate and envy us. Israelis, Jews, Americans of any stripe.

And although a symbol, they hate Arafat, the Palestinian Authority and everything they represent even more. I have been told this personally, many times; once even by a mid-level Fatah member - an Arafat flunky, to boot - who told me this only behind closed doors and drawn window shades - and after the TV camera and minidisc were turned off.

Once, while building a house in a Jewish community near Bethlehem – but within the pre-1967 Green Line, a Palestinian building engineer I was working with checking the slab - a local resident - asked me how I felt about Israeli roadblocks, since he was stuck in Israel and couldn't get home for several nights.

We had kids the same age, and were sharing stories about raising toddlers. He missed his young son dearly. I understood his pain, but also understood the need for that roadblock. 14 female Palestinian suicide bombers have been nabbed this month alone. While that does not justify the stupid, violent treatment some receive at the hands of idjits in uniform, remember, Israelis are also checked numerous times daily as well. And I, for one am sick of those body checks and magnetometers. But, as they say, "When the terror ends, the wall falls." I asked him - and I will never forget this reply - "aren't you happy that we've acceded you freedoms unheard in the Arab world for Palestinians, not to mention arms (weapons for policing)? He looked at me and snorted, "Great. You've just armed the mafia."
To a man, they have said that they are riven with internecine violence, ravaged by the thugs in the PA and other groups, and are now saying more and more openly, "the intifada and Arafat have brought us to utter ruin and futility." And as far as Arafat goes, he, along with many other Arab leaders - most despots and tyrants - have come out foursquare for Kerry.

Now, what am I to make of that?

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