News - November 15, 2019

War or flare-up of violence?

‘Rockets are on their way to Tel-Aviv’, said Resource blogger Angelo Braam’s roommate over breakfast last Tuesday. An update from Jerusalem about this unexpected plot twist during his Erasmus exchange in the Holy Land.

© Sven Menschel

Monday was like any other in the Holy Land. The conflict is noticeable every day, through things such as the presence of the army in every aspect of life and the distrust that exists between the different population groups. But it hasn’t been truly violent for years; the conflict seemed to murmur on passively. The previously described list of instructions (blog in Dutch only) that shows how seriously the Hebrew University takes the security situation therefore seemed rather exaggerated to me in view of the calm prevailing in the country since 2014. That is, until Tuesday morning…

‘Rockets are on their way to Tel-Aviv’, my roommate reported over breakfast. ‘The Israeli army killed the leader of the Islamic Jihad in Gaza last night, and retaliation was initiated.’ During the course of the day, it became clear how quickly the situation in the Holy Land can change from calm to intense. In 24 hours’ time, approximately two hundred rockets were fired at the centre of Israel. ‘Retaliation to retaliation’ also led to Israeli missile attacks on Gaza. The entire spectacle caused fifteen dead in Gaza and dozens injured in Israel. And the violence still continues.

While De Telegraaf headlines ‘Israel at war’, the Israeli media barely speak of a flare-up of violence, which can be extinguished like a small fire.

The above suggests that Israel is at war, as De Telegraaf headlined Monday – a quote of the Islamic Jihad, which De Telegraaf placed on the front page without perspective, which led to concerned reactions from parents and friends. There was certainly tension among the international students, but the Israelis emanated nothing but calm. The word “war” is absent from the Israeli media. There are mentions of successes of the Israeli army and a ‘flare-up of violence’ that can be extinguished like a small fire. As reported by an Israeli friend, the incidents represent little to the Israelis. ‘Of course it is bad, but we experience this every few years; we are used to it.’ The general attitude was best summarised by this tip given within the university walls: ‘The best thing to do is to bury your head in the sand like an ostrich, and it will blow over in a few days’, said our teacher of the Arabic language.

Harsh words
This “ostrich method” appears to be the preferred choice in Jerusalem, as the street life did not differ one bit from that on any other day. A past full of incidents like this one and a holy faith in the Israeli army make you think that everything will be over in a few days. In the meantime, in addition to the rockets, harsh words continue to fly back and forth between Gaza and the Israeli government. President Netanyahu promises to continue to bomb Gaza as long as rockets continue to be shot, and the Islamic Jihad promises the same as long as Gaza is bombed. With these harsh words, politics does not promise a swift solution. For the time being, there is nothing left but to hope that the positive expectations of the Israelis in my area turn out favourably and that the “peace” will indeed have returned within a few days.