As the staff of the Baltimore Jewish Times furiously put the finishing touches on last week’s edition — the realities of a midweek civil holiday pushed up our printing deadlines — a bomb ripped apart a public bus in the Tel Aviv suburb of Bat Yam.
We ran nothing about the attack that week; there were no casualties, and our publishing schedule would have made such a last-minute addition a herculean task.
You will, however, read about the blast in this week’s edition. As it turns out, the Bat Yam explosion, thwarted from causing loss of life because of quick-thinking passengers, their driver and the dedication of first responders, heralded a spate of three attacks against Israelis in less than a week. As Linda Gradstein reports in this week’s JT, a fatal Palestinian sniper shooting that claimed the life of an Israeli civilian contractor, the stabbing of an Israeli policeman outside of Jerusalem and the Dec. 22 pipe bomb attack in Bat Yam recall the wide-scale Palestinian terrorism that characterized the late 1990s and early 2000s.
But the negotiations between the Israeli government and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, nudged forward by Secretary of State John Kerry, continue. When they’ll conclude and to what consequence for Israel and the Palestinians is anybody’s guess. What cannot be denied, though, is that the status quo of attacks, reprisals and loss of life on both sides of the border, followed by international condemnation of Israel, has resulted in anxiety and fear for all involved. Add to that the notorious mismanagement of the Palestinian economy and what you have is a recipe for despair — among the Palestinians who live in abject poverty and among the millions of Israelis who either live in the direct range of Hamas-fired rockets or rely on public transportation.
That’s what makes the JT’s cover story this week so prescient. What our reporter discovered during her time in Israel was the reality of life in the midst of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the anger of the Jewish motorists targeted during their commutes into Jerusalem and the frustration of the Palestinians coping with intermittent power and substandard sanitation.
We find ourselves in an era when many Jewish Americans are starting to re-examine their connections to Israel. As Israelis continue a dialogue more critical of their state than ever, younger Jews here are calling into question Israel’s multigenerational handling of the conflict.
Personally, I feel that when push comes to shove, protecting the lives of my own family members — whether or not you believe that the modern State of Israel is the promised homeland of the Jews, the fact is it now is home to millions of our co-religionists whom we are duty bound to support — must take precedence over strengthening the welfare of a people officially at war. But I can’t help but feel pity at the current state of affairs.
A good friend of mine in Jerusalem once told me of a Palestinian who was a classmate of his in ulpan. They struck up a friendship and started to talk about the conflict. What my friend, who is now studying to join the rabbinate, realized was that the average Palestinian has been dealt a bad hand in life. That doesn’t change the reality, however, that it just might take a miracle for both peoples to occupy the same land.
Joshua Runyan is JT editor-in-chief — firstname.lastname@example.org