29 Jul 2014

In Jerusalem, the Gaza war is touching everyone

It may be far removed from the fury of Gaza, but even in Jerusalem a clawing sense of foreboding is never far away, writes Inigo Gilmore. And there is one tell-tale sign: the streets are almost empty.

At a time when this ancient city is usually bustling with tourists during the peak summer season, it is eerily quiet. Driving around the city along near empty roads, you can almost imagine people huddled behind their doorways, fearing, perhaps irrationally, what might suddenly erupt just beyond.

A stray rocket? A protest? A counter-protest? A random, sectarian attack?

In the streets encircling the old city, tourist buses are nowhere to be seen. Many are staying away. Fear hangs over everything.

‘This war is worse than others’

Down by the Damascus gate, there was just a sprinkling of people around the souvenir shops and kebab houses. At a phone shop one Palestinian man lamented: “There’s almost no business, people are in fear. We’ve been hit badly. Somehow this ‘war’ is much worse than the others. Everyone is really worried.”

He lamented too about the sense of intolerance now seeping through Israeli society and how this is impacting on Palestinains in Jerusalem and the West Bank. A school nearby I discovered had been dawbed with graffiti proclaiming “Death to the Arabs”.

Even in the early 2000s, when there were a rash of suicide bombings, I do not remember this sense of unease.

It’s strange because many more Israeli civilians died in that period. Gaza is a world away from Jerusalem – but the impact of this war is touching everyone, Palestinian and Israeli alike.