+972 Magazine » News http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Wed, 17 Dec 2014 14:19:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 ‘Activestills’ photographers featured in ‘Local Testimony’ competition http://972mag.com/activestills-photographers-featured-in-local-testimony-competition/100193/ http://972mag.com/activestills-photographers-featured-in-local-testimony-competition/100193/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 10:06:30 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=100193 Photojournalism exhibition opens in Tel Aviv. Works by Tali Mayer, Yotam Ronen and Oren Ziv of Activestills are among those being featured for their work in 2014.

Photographers from the Activestills collective, partners of +972 Magazine, Yotam Ronen, Tali Mayer and Oren Ziv are among the winners of the 2014 “Local Testimony” photojournalism competition.

The “Photograph of the Year” was taken by Yuval Chen of Yedioth Aharonoth, who documented the girlfriend of 20-year-old fallen IDF soldier Guy Algranati standing over his grave, surrounded by members of his army unit in the Kiryat Shaul cemetery. Daniel Tchetchik of Haaretz won the prize for “Series of the Year” for “Sunburn,” photos from around the country. Taking the prize in the “News” category was independent photographer Avishag Shaar-Yashuv.

Taking first place in the “Photographed Story” category was Dan Haimovich, who documented the homeless population of an encampment in Tel Aviv, parts of which were published in +972’s Hebrew-language sister publication, “Local Call.”

The competition is part of an exhibition that opened this week in the Land of Israel Museum in Tel Aviv, featuring photojournalism images from local and global photographers.

In the News category, Activestills’ Tali Mayer’s photographs were featured in the “Curator’s choice” selection:

The 2014 “Local Testimony” competition. (Activestills.org)

The 2014 “Local Testimony” competition. (Tali Mayer/Activestills.org)

Photos by Activestills’ Oren Ziv took second place in the same category for his series on the struggle of African asylum seekers in Israel:

Second place in the “Curator’s Choice” category. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Second place in the “Curator’s Choice” category. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Second place in the “Curator’s Choice” category. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Second place in the “Curator’s Choice” category. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Ziv’s photo from May 1 protests were also selected in the curator’s choice category for religion and community:

Curator’s choice in “Local Testimony” for Religion and Community. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

May Day, 2014. Curator’s choice in “Local Testimony” for Religion and Community. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

In a selection featuring photos of the violence this past summer, photos by Activestills’ Yotam Ronen were included:

Summer 2014 selection in “Local Testimony.” (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Summer 2014 selection in “Local Testimony.” (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Summer 2014 selection in “Local Testimony.” (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Summer 2014 selection in “Local Testimony.” (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Summer 2014 selection in “Local Testimony.” (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Summer 2014 selection in “Local Testimony.” (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Oren Ziv was also included in the same selection:

Summer 2014 selection in “Local Testimony.” (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Summer 2014 selection in “Local Testimony.” (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The 2014 “Local Testimony” competition. (Activestills.org)

The 2014 “Local Testimony” competition. (Activestills.org)

The 2014 “Local Testimony” competition. (Activestills.org)

The 2014 “Local Testimony” competition. (Activestills.org)

A version of this article appeared on our Hebrew-language sister site, ‘Local Call.’ See it here.

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WATCH: Olive harvest marred by arson, vandalism and violence http://972mag.com/watch-olive-harvest-marred-by-arson-vandalism-and-violence/100182/ http://972mag.com/watch-olive-harvest-marred-by-arson-vandalism-and-violence/100182/#comments Tue, 16 Dec 2014 22:39:18 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=100182 Palestinian farmers from the West Bank village of Yasuf are forbidden from accessing their olive groves for much of the year. When they are given access during the olive harvest, they often find their trees cut down or burned by settlers. But even when they turn to police, the vast majority of their complaints lead nowhere. Social TV looks at the most recent olive harvest.

Related:
PHOTOS: In West Bank village, Palestinian farmers go against the grain
WATCH: Israeli police let stone-throwing settlers walk away

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The wave of Jerusalem attacks Israelis don’t hear about http://972mag.com/the-wave-of-jerusalem-attacks-israelis-dont-hear-about/100165/ http://972mag.com/the-wave-of-jerusalem-attacks-israelis-dont-hear-about/100165/#comments Tue, 16 Dec 2014 10:41:56 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=100165 One hundred Palestinian bus drivers in the capital have quit their jobs because of such violence from Jewish racists.

Illustrative photo of an Egged bus (Photo by Kw0/CC 3.0)

Illustrative photo of an Egged bus (Photo by Kw0/CC 3.0)

If you’d asked me how many East Jerusalem Palestinian bus drivers in the capital had quit their jobs because of the violence they’d faced from Jewish assailants, I’d have said oh, maybe three. When I read in Haaretz on Sunday (truly a must-read) that the number is roughly 100 — or one out of three Palestinian bus drivers in the capital — I was amazed. East Jerusalem Palestinians, on the whole, are poor; driving for Israel’s giant Egged bus cooperative is a very, very good job for an ordinary eastside resident, paying about three times the average East Jerusalemite’s salary. When 100 of these drivers quit their jobs because of the menace of racist Jewish marauders, it means that that menace is overwhelming.

I had no idea. And I keep up with the news and I’m extremely alert to stories about Jews abusing Arabs. I knew from the Israeli media that on the nights after Palestinian terror killings, bands of young Jews would roam the streets on Jerusalem’s Jewish westside, attacking Arabs in their path and chanting “death to the Arabs.” After the death of Egged driver Yousef Hassan al-Ramouni a month ago — he was found hanged in his bus in what Israeli forensic pathologists ruled a suicide, but which Palestinians commonly believe was a murder — there was a story or two about East Jerusalem drivers complaining about Jewish attacks. But with those rare exceptions and the story of the murder by burning of 16-year-old Muhammad Abu Khdeir, the only Jerusalem violence you hear about in the Israeli media lately is Palestinian-on-Jewish — the murders by car and knife, the stoning of the light rail, the violent protests against the police.

But Jewish violence against Arabs in Jerusalem? As far as we Israeli Jews can gather from the news, these are not exactly isolated incidents, but they’re not a “phenomenon,” either. Nothing to make a normal Palestinian bus driver quit his job.

I didn’t know, we didn’t know. In Israel, any incident of Arab-on-Jewish violence is a big story, while a plague of Jewish-on-Arab violence has to be going on for years and years, like the “price tag” settler attacks, before it qualifies for sustained media attention.

Read also: Settler violence — it comes with the territory

The resignations, formal or effective, by the 100 Palestinian bus drivers have come only in the last month, since the driver Ramouni’s hanging death, said Tamir Nir, the Jerusalem city councilman in charge of local transportation. In a Sunday interview on TLV1 radio, he told me that Jewish attacks on Palestinian drivers have become a full-blown phenomenon in the last six months, growing especially intense in the last two.

Most of the assaults have been verbal, he added, but “about 40” were physical. However, a Palestinian attorney representing many of the former Egged drivers painted yet a much bleaker picture for Haaretz’s Nir Hasson:

“The situation is catastrophic,” said attorney Osama Ibrahem, who represents more than 40 drivers who have been attacked — mainly in the past four months. “Not a day passes without a physical assault,” he said. “I’m not talking about verbal assaults. They don’t even count those; that’s something they’ve learned to live with.”

Hasson reported that Egged buses are frequently stoned in East Jerusalem neighborhoods, regardless of whether the driver is Jewish or Arab. He also wrote that “Jewish drivers complain of passengers who suspect them of being Arabs and demand to see their identity cards before boarding.”

I asked Councilman Nir if Palestinian passengers were also attacking Jewish drivers. “No, I don’t know about it, I don’t think that they are,” he said. “But as you know there are attacks on the train.” Yes, about that we know.

“We also have problems with Arab taxi drivers,” the councilman continued. “They suffer too, from violence, and not only violence — some people don’t want to drive with them, don’t want to pay them.”

He said Egged plans to install security cameras in the buses, and that he’s lobbying to get barriers put up between drivers and passengers, but until now no measures have been taken to protect Palestinian drivers, who have been under ongoing attack for the last half year. “Unfortunately, I heard about the issue only about three weeks ago,” he said. “It came up only after the death of the driver. I didn’t know about it before, nobody told me about it.”

I believe him. That’s how pathetically in the dark Israeli Jews are about Jewish-on-Arab violence: even the head of transportation for the Jerusalem Municipality didn’t know that local Palestinian bus drivers had been getting attacked regularly until one of them was found hanged in his bus last month.

Read also:
WATCH: Israeli Jews attack Palestinian on public bus
A frightening new era of Jewish-Arab relations in Israel

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Three Palestinian activists exiled from Jerusalem for five months http://972mag.com/three-palestinian-activists-exiled-from-jerusalem-for-five-months/100100/ http://972mag.com/three-palestinian-activists-exiled-from-jerusalem-for-five-months/100100/#comments Mon, 15 Dec 2014 14:58:39 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=100100 Without explanation, three Jerusalemite Palestinians are given five-month bans from the city of their birth and residence. One is banned from the West Bank as well.

Text and photos by: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org

Daoud Al-Ghoul walks near graffiti painted by Israelis on properties taken over by settlers in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City, March 3, 2014. Many of these properties taken over by settlers are as small as a single room directly adjacent to Palestinian homes.

Daoud Al-Ghoul walks near graffiti painted by Israelis on properties taken over by settlers in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City, March 3, 2014. Al-Ghoul was recently issued Israeli military orders banning him from both Jerusalem and the West Bank for five months. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

In early December, three Jerusalem-born Palestinians received orders from Israeli authorities banning them from the city for a period of five months. Majd Darwish, Saleh Dirbas and Daoud Al-Ghoul first received phone calls saying that they were banned from entering the Old City. When they reported to the police station as requested they were given military orders banning them from all of Jerusalem until April 30, 2015.

The orders gave no reason for their exile. All three are prominent activists and community workers who have spent time in Israeli prisons.

In a Kafka-esque twist, Al-Ghoul received an additional military order a few days later banning him from the West Bank for six months. Al-Ghoul is a youth coordinator of the Health Work Committees (HWC), a Palestinian organization providing medical services. As a Jerusalem ID holder, he would normally be allowed to travel throughout Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Israel. Because Israel controls all borders, if he leaves the Palestinian territories, he risks being denied entry upon his return. This ironically means that Al-Ghoul’s only remaining option would be to stay inside the state of Israel. But according to the HWC, Al-Ghoul has returned to Jerusalem in protest of the various orders against him.

Daoud Al-Ghould talks with a neighbor of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan stand near a protest tent built by local activists, March 3, 2014. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Daoud Al-Ghoul talks with a neighbor next to a protest tent built by local activists in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, March 3, 2014. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

“We are not afraid. We are fighting for our future and we have nothing to lose,” says Al-Ghoul. “We refuse this decision. It is our homeland. It is our basic right to live in our houses in Jerusalem. We must stop Israel and their racist policies of ethnic cleansing, collective punishment and forced displacement in Jerusalem. I call on the international community to act.”

Al-Ghoul traces his family’s history in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan for four centuries. Now the Israeli settler-operated “City of David” tourist attraction and associated residential settlements have made it one of the most volatile neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. In late October, nine more settler families took over Silwan homes during a late-night operation accompanied by a heavy police presence.

Silwan resident Daoud Al-Ghoul documents damage to Palestinian property due to excavations by the settler archeology group Elad, East Jerusalem, December 16, 2013.

Silwan resident Daoud Al-Ghoul documents damage to Palestinian property due to activities by the settler archeology group Elad, East Jerusalem, December 16, 2013. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Al-Ghoul gives alternative tours of Silwan that have helped to raise awareness among internationals of the Elad settler organization’s efforts to remake a historic Palestinian neighborhood into a monument to Jewish religious and national identity. That Elad’s property acquisitions are of dubious legality matters little since they have the full cooperation of the Israeli Nature and Parks Authority and the Jerusalem municipality and police, which are also demolishing Palestinian homes and arresting Palestinian children in the process. Though annexed by Israel, the international community still considers East Jerusalem, including the Old City, to be occupied Palestinian territory.

“Such a strategy is indicative of the policy of gradual, systemic ethnic cleansing against the citizens of Jerusalem. More and more regulations, restrictive laws are being implemented against this population that is already denied its rights, in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention,” said Yousef Habash, European representative of the HWC in a statement.

Solidarity activists have launched online petitions about this case to the Canadian government as well as the EU in English and French.

A sign from tourist attraction, known as the "City of David", with a view of the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan, East Jerusalem, December 16, 2013. The archaeological excavations and Israeli national park on the site are administered by the settler organization Elad. Though annexed by Israel, the international community considers East Jerusalem, including the Old City, to be occupied Palestinian territory.

A sign from tourist attraction known as the “City of David” with a view of the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan, East Jerusalem, December 16, 2013. The archaeological excavations and Israeli national park on the site are administered by the settler organization Elad. Though annexed by Israel, the international community considers East Jerusalem, including the Old City, to be occupied Palestinian territory. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Related:
In Silwan, the settlers are winning – big time
WATCH: Police spray putrid water on Palestinian homes, schools

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IDF soldiers fire tear gas at West Bank school http://972mag.com/idf-soldiers-fire-tear-gas-at-west-bank-school/100115/ http://972mag.com/idf-soldiers-fire-tear-gas-at-west-bank-school/100115/#comments Mon, 15 Dec 2014 14:23:56 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=100115 Dozens of students suffer from tear gas inhalation; army claims stone-throwing youth fled into the school.

Tear gas being fired into the yard of a high school in the Palestinian village of Burin, December 15, 2014. (Photo by Zakaria Sadah/Rabbis for Human Rights)

Tear gas being fired into the yard of a high school in the Palestinian village of Burin, December 15, 2014. (Photo by Zakaria Sadah/Rabbis for Human Rights)

Israeli soldiers fired large quantities of tear gas into the yard of a high school in the Palestinian village of Burin, near Nablus on Monday. According to Rabbis for Human Rights, the incident took place during the morning roll call, and a number of students suffered from tear gas inhalation.

According to Ma’an, soldiers also fired bullets into the air.

An Israeli military spokesperson told Ma’an that stones and empty bottlers were thrown toward settlers’ cars in the area Monday morning, and the youths who threw the stones fled into the school.

It’s worth noting that if it were a Jewish school, it’s highly doubtful that dozens of children would be forced to suffer from tear gas inhalation at school based solely on soldiers’ or police claims that they saw a few youths suspected of some crime entering the premises.

The IDF Spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

This article was first published on +972′s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call. Read it in Hebrew here.

Related:
While you were sleeping: The systematic terrorization of Burin
WATCH: Police fire tear gas on Bedouin children; Israeli media is absent
WATCH: Police spray putrid water on Palestinian homes, schools

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Hundreds rally against racist group ‘Lehava’ in Jerusalem http://972mag.com/hundreds-rally-against-racist-group-lehava-in-jerusalem/99947/ http://972mag.com/hundreds-rally-against-racist-group-lehava-in-jerusalem/99947/#comments Sat, 13 Dec 2014 21:44:43 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=99947 The rally comes after three members of the group were arrested as suspects in the arson attack against a mixed Jewish-Arab school.

Hundreds of people rally against racist group ‘Lehava’ at Zion Square in central Jerusalem, December 13, 2014. (Photo by Activestills.org)

Hundreds of people rally against racist group ‘Lehava’ at Zion Square in central Jerusalem, December 13, 2014. (Photo by Activestills.org)

Hundreds of people protested in West Jerusalem’s Zion Square Saturday night against racism and called to outlaw Lehava, a racist, anti-misegenation group . Three of its members were charged several days ago with an arson attack against a mixed Jewish-Arab school two weeks ago.

The protest was organized by a group of activists who identify as: “Jerusalem doesn’t stay silent in the face of racism.” Protesters held signs in Hebrew and Arabic that read “Stop the racism” and “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies.” They called out chants like “Lehava’s racism begins in the government” and “Jerusalem will not be silent; outlaw racism.”

Hundreds of people rally against racist group ‘Lehava’ at Zion Square in central Jerusalem, December 13, 2014. (Photo by Activestills.org)

Hundreds of people rally against racist group ‘Lehava’ at Zion Square in central Jerusalem, December 13, 2014. (Photo by Activestills.org)

Among the speakers at the protest was Murad Mana, whose child attends the bilingual Arab-Jewish school in the city which was burned exactly two weeks ago. He said, “We will not allow any bully to burn down our coexistence.”

+972 blogger Orly Noy, whose children also attend the bilingual school, also spoke at the rally. “This type of violence does not take place in a vacuum,” Noy told the crowd and wrote in a post later Saturday night (Hebrew). “It sprouts from a bed of growing deligitimization of the Palestinian population in Jerusalem, both inside Israel and in the occupied territories.”

+972 blogger Orly Noy speaks at a rally against racist group ‘Lehava’ at Zion Square in central Jerusalem, December 13, 2014. (Photo by Activestills.org)

+972 blogger Orly Noy speaks at a rally against racist group ‘Lehava’ at Zion Square in central Jerusalem, December 13, 2014. (Photo by Activestills.org)

Three Israelis arrested for the arson attack on the mixed Arab-Jewish school in Jerusalem two weeks ago are active members of Lehava, Israel’s Channel 2 reported Thursday, after a Shin Bet gag order was lifted on the case.

One of the suspects is from Jerusalem and the other two are brothers from the West Bank settlement Beitar Illit. The three reportedly admitted in their interrogation by the Shin Bet that they carried out the attack because they object to Arab-Jewish coexistence and that they hoped their act of arson would “raise public awareness” against the phenomenon.

A burned first-grade classroom at Jerusalem’s bilingual school after it was the target of an arson attack, November 30, 2014. (Photo by Activestills.org)

A burned first-grade classroom at Jerusalem’s bilingual school after it was the target of an arson attack, November 30, 2014. (Photo by Activestills.org)

In addition to the burning of a first grade classroom and its books, graffiti found on the school included: “death to Arabs,” “coexistence is a cancer,” “no to assimilation” and “Kahane was right.”

All these messages are explicitly identified with Lehava, whose leader, Benzi Gupstein, is a disciple of the late Meir Kahane. Kahane’s Kach party was disqualified from participating in Israeli elections in 1988 for inciting to racism, and was banned outright in 1994. Kach is considered a terrorist organization by the United States.

Read also: Facing  right-wing violence, Israeli leftists learn to fight back

Since the summer, groups of Lehava activists have become a regular staple in downtown Jerusalem, where they go around making racist remarks against Palestinian pedestrians and taxi drivers, sometimes physically attacking them. And although the group claims to be strictly committed to advocating against Jewish assimilation and intermarriage in Israel, its activities are rife with incitement to violence and racism. Just last month they urged Israeli soldiers to shoot Palestinians in the head.

This is not the first time Lehava has been directly tied to acts of violence. In September, two Palestinians from East Jerusalem, Amir Shwiki and Samer Mahfouz, were beaten badly by a group of Jewish Israelis, several of them identified as activists with Lehava.

Related:
Jerusalem mixed school set on fire in arson attack
Palestinian-Jewish couple hires wedding security for fear of anti-miscegenation group
We will overcome: Arson and mourning at Jerusalem’s bilingual school

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[WATCH] The Druze in Israel: Resisting conscription (part 4) http://972mag.com/watch-the-druze-in-israel-resisting-conscription-part-4/100008/ http://972mag.com/watch-the-druze-in-israel-resisting-conscription-part-4/100008/#comments Fri, 12 Dec 2014 19:07:56 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=100008 According to the mainstream Israeli narrative the Druze population in Israel is loyal to and maintains an alliance with the state, the most famous element of which includes mandatory military service. But is that really the whole story? The fourth part of this series looks at a new movement of young Druze women and men who challenging both the state and their predecessors by refusing to join the army.

Watch parts one (‘A history lesson‘), two (‘Land expropriation‘) and three (‘Appropriating identity‘) of this series.

Related:
Druze conscientious objector Omar Sa’ad released from military service
Activists show solidarity with latest Druze conscientious objector

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The Beaten Path: Looking the other way at Masada (part 10) http://972mag.com/the-beaten-path-looking-away-from-masada-part-10/98874/ http://972mag.com/the-beaten-path-looking-away-from-masada-part-10/98874/#comments Fri, 12 Dec 2014 13:26:42 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=98874 Contrary to the strict Israeli narrative, Masada is really what you make of it: it can be the site of a majestic palace, the place where Jewish rebels committed mass suicide, a backdrop for an opera or a tourist attraction complete with the golden arches of a local McDonald’s. Part ten of Yuval Ben-Ami’s journey through the Holy Land’s most popular tourist sites.

A story for you all.

Several years ago, the Tel Aviv-based Israeli Opera decided to launch an opera festival at Masada. Its intention was to use the mountain (and the palace that sits atop it) as a dramatic backdrop. That way it could follow in the footsteps of opera festivals across the world that make use of historical and natural monuments. Clearly the climate on the shores of the Dead Sea is harsh, and the desert surrounding Masada is wild. But the Israeli Opera became committed to the cause, and determined to become the “first opera house in the world to ever pave a road,” in the words of Director Hannah Munitz, it set off into the wild.

The Society for the Preservation of Nature in Israel, however, imposed a restriction. The stage must be set approximately a mile away from Masada itself in order to prevent damage to the rare geological formations at the base of the mountain. The majestic backdrop appears a tad less majestic from the new location. As if they felt the need to compensate, the set-up of the festival grounds was actually quite majestic. With the support of Israel’s Discount Bank, the event’s prime sponsor, the opera company set up a huge reception area. Upon arrival spectators found themselves at a Discount Bank-fest, which resembled an Israeli outdoor wedding, replete with fine refreshments, soft music and promotional banners.

The first opera staged at Masada was, naturally, Aida. The second was Nabbuco. These are the only two operas in the canonical repertoire set in a desert. But Sevilla is a warm place too, so the third year saw the opera put together a production of Carmen. The following year organizers skipped the deserts and heat and just went for La Traviata. I was writing as a theater critic at the time, and went to review each one of those productions. By the time I got to Nabucco I was already over it, especially after riding the Discount-chartered bus for three hours while the bank’s commercials played incessantly on the video screens. I realized that at least artistically, nothing interesting was likely to happen that night. From a cultural perspective, however, the entire phenomenon – the meeting point of money, opera and a potent national-historical symbol at the lowest place on Earth – was quite interesting.

beaten-path-banner-2

And so I decided not to write about the performance but rather about the entire production. Rather than sit down on the bleachers and take in Masada as a stage prop, I would climb Masada at night and write about what I could see from that vantage point. And that I did. At one point a projector illuminating the entire mountain lit up directly below me, immediately casting my long shadow on the slope. I jumped and hid behind a rock. I don’t think anyone noticed. When it was all over I headed back to Tel Aviv, arriving just before dawn. I went to bed and was woken by a phone call from my angry editor.

“This is not what we asked for,” he said.

“This is what I saw.”

“Just so you know, we are looking for someone to replace you.”

I urged him to take a look at how well the article was doing online. The time was about 9:00 a.m. The piece was up for less than two hours and over 13,000 readers had already visited it. By Hebrew media standards this is insane, especially considering the subject matter. Nevertheless I was laid off soon thereafter under some other pretext.

The non-suicide

There is a specific way to “read” Masada that is seldom challenged by guides or books. But from an archaeological perspective, Masada is at the heart of a lively debate. There is no doubt that Herod had a palace here, and that the palace was used as a bastion by rebels during the Great Jewish Revolt. There is no question that the Romans besieged the mountain or that they broke in by constructing a ramp and driving a battering ram into the walls. The question is whether everyone inside was dead or not. The mass suicide at Masada is told to us by a single source: the historian Josephus Flavius, who may have had a vested interest in telling the story the way he did.

Josephus was a rebel, and he himself initiated a mass suicide at another bastion: Yodfat in the Galilee. Josephus manipulated the lots at Yodfat in order to remain the last man standing. He then failed to kill himself. Instead he turned himself in to the Romans before flattering their centurion so effectively that he was freed. This is not an appealing story, and certainly does not present the man in a very nice light. One way to divert attention from it would be to relocate it to Masada and tell it as a tale of heroism. No major human remains were found at the top of Masada, and many other details contradict Josephus’s professedly second-hand account.

Having said that, the Yodfat incident could well serve to support the Masada suicide story. It teaches us that such things actually happened in those crazy days. Either way, Masada calls for us to think openly. We no longer live in times of almighty builder kings such as Herod the Great, who commissioned a breathtaking stone palace in the middle of the desert. We no longer live in times when nearly a thousand people kill themselves so as not to be taken captive by an enemy army. I cannot even fathom such a thing happening in the current, brutal reality in Syria and Iraq.

Masada demands that we open our minds and use our imagination. Ironically, there is hardly any site in the entire country where visitors are more strictly urged to adhere to a specific narrative and to stick to a well-charted tour. The introductory film at the visitor center, narrated by a man who strongly reminds me of George Constanza, leaves no room for alternative scholarship on the site.

I always leave the screening thinking about this George Constanza fellow – about different models of the Jewish man, from Elazar Ben Yair, commander of the Masada Zealots, to Woody Allen, to the stereotype of the Israeli soldier. It may seem like a silly thought, but it is also a gateway to our issues of identity; I truly believe it is something worthwhile to ponder. Here then, is my tip for Masada: observe it differently. When told to look around you, look down. When told to look up, look around you. When told a story, think about who tells it. You will discover new things.

Looking up, looking down

Let’s give it a shot. You’re at the foot of Masada. Don’t look up – look around you. What do you see? A McDonald’s.

Yes indeed. There is McDonald’s at Masada. Should we blot it out in order not to spoil our experience of the landmark? Let’s instead contemplate it. Why are the yellow arches here? They are here because an ancient king felt a need to build a refuge in which to protect himself in the case of a coup. There’s one arch for every thousand years that has passed since. The past creates the present, and the present is always a reflection of the past. Who was Herod? He was not a Roman, nor was he a puppet king of the Romans. Rather, he was a franchise king, much like the local manager running this joint. Herod operated the local branch of an empire that spread its culinary tastes and cultural tendencies throughout what was then known of the world.

Read more: Yuval Ben-Ami time travels in Bethlehem

Let’s go on to the top. Looking around makes sense, since the palace is beautifully preserved. But look down and you’ll see something even more breathtaking. Remains of walls trail the bottom of the mountain, dotted with peculiar, stone squares. These are the walls of Roman camps. The desert that preserved the palace also managed to preserve the very drama of the siege. This is the land of the frozen moment, where not only eras or life stories are preserved in stone – so are events, punches, feelings. Masada is a monument made up of moments: the quarrying of the stones for construction, the single brief visit Herod may have paid here during his struggle with the Parthians (though there is no solid proof that he ever actually visited), the rebels, the siege, the Roman assault.

Look further at the Dead Sea. At the time of the revolt it was still a single, large body of water, and remained so until the late 20th century, when phosphate mining and diversion of the Jordan River’s waters caused it to shrink and split into two basins. This is the current moment, and it counts at least as much as the past. Look further at the desert: the fascinating geological history of this region submerged under water for eons, makes for a story at least as dramatic as the human one. This is the distant past. This is also the present. Processes are still taking place here. Masada is still being shaped.

Masada is about imagining. Don’t limit yourselves to one version of the tale or notions of scale and proportion, time and space that are not your own. Make your own Masada. Herod saw a dramatic geological formation and turned it into a palace, the rebels saw a palace and turned it into a fortress. Later came monks who saw a ruined fortress and turned it into a monastery. Finally, Israelis came and turned it into a symbol: a tourist attraction, an excavation site, a McDonald’s, an opera venue. Now we are here, on the world’s most fluid rock, and what we think of it is up to us.

Read parts onetwothreefourfivesixseveneight and nine of ‘The Beaten Path.’

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PHOTOS: Thousands take part in Palestinian minister’s funeral in Ramallah http://972mag.com/photos-thousands-take-part-in-palestinian-ministers-funeral-in-ramallah/99955/ http://972mag.com/photos-thousands-take-part-in-palestinian-ministers-funeral-in-ramallah/99955/#comments Thu, 11 Dec 2014 17:22:37 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=99955 Text by Keren Manor, photos by Yotam Ronen, Oren Ziv / Activestills.org

Palestinian Authority Minister Ziad Abu Ein is carried during his funeral procession, Ramallah, December 11, 2014. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Palestinian Authority soldiers carry the coffin of PA minister Ziad Abu Ein during his funeral procession, Ramallah, December 11, 2014. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Thousands gathered Thursday morning at the Palestinian Authority headquarters in Ramallah to participate in the funeral of PA minister Ziad Abu Ein. Abu Ein, who served as the Palestinian Authority’s settlement minister died the previous day during clashes with Israeli soldiers near the illegal West Bank outpost of Adei Ad.

Palestinian President Mahmous Abbas attended the funeral, and declared three days of national mourning. The attendees marched from the headquarters toward a cemetery in the nearby city of Al-Bireh, where Abu Ein was buried.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas looks on during the funeral of PA minister Ziad Abu Ein, Ramallah, December 11, 2014. (photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

PA President Mahmoud Abbas looks on during the funeral of PA minister Ziad Abu Ein, Ramallah, December 11, 2014. (photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

 

Members of Mahmoud Abbas' Presidential Guard look on during PA minister Ziad Abu Ein's funeral, Ramallah, December 11, 2014. (photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Members of Mahmoud Abbas’ Presidential Guard look on during PA minister Ziad Abu Ein’s funeral, Ramallah, December 11, 2014. (photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

 

Thousands march from Ramallah to the Al-Bireh cemetery during Ziad Abu Ein's funeral procession, December 11, 2014. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Thousands march from Ramallah to the Al-Bireh cemetery during Ziad Abu Ein’s funeral procession, December 11, 2014. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

 

Thousands march from Ramallah to the Al-Bireh cemetery during Ziad Abu Ein's funeral procession, December 11, 2014. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Thousands march from Ramallah to the Al-Bireh cemetery during Ziad Abu Ein’s funeral procession, December 11, 2014. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

 

Members of the Al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade fire into the air during Ziad Abu Ein's funeral procession, December 11, 2014. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade fire into the air during Ziad Abu Ein’s funeral procession, December 11, 2014. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Related:
Palestinian minister dies after reportedly struck by Israeli troops
Palestinian non-violent activists: Army violence won’t stop our resistance

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Majority of Israeli Jews support bus segregation, survey finds http://972mag.com/majority-of-israeli-jews-support-bus-segregation-poll-finds/99941/ http://972mag.com/majority-of-israeli-jews-support-bus-segregation-poll-finds/99941/#comments Thu, 11 Dec 2014 14:11:53 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=99941 Surveys by Israeli Democracy Index and Tel Aviv University find that most Israeli Jews prefer separate buses for Jews and Palestinians in the West Bank; one-quarter of Arab respondents support the torching of Jerusalem’s only mixed Jewish-Arab school. 

As Israel heads into election cycle, a shower of political punditry will yet again distract everyone from the issues that affect people’s lives. That is the main reason, in my opinion, why the prime minister wanted elections. He has exhausted all other means of doing nothing.

Yet it’s worth remembering the issues. The following is a selection of public opinion data from the two recent Israel Peace Index surveys conducted by the Israel Democracy Index and Tel Aviv University.*  I’ve chosen a few themes that will likely be, or should be, central to the coming campaign debates.

Crisis in U.S.-Israel relations

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry addresses reporters at the Presidential Palace in Cairo, Egypt, on July 22, 2014, amid a series of discussions with Egyptian leaders focused on creating a cease-fire for fighting between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. (State Department photo/ Public Domain)

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry addresses reporters at the Presidential Palace in Cairo, Egypt, on July 22, 2014, amid a series of discussions with Egyptian leaders focused on creating a cease-fire for fighting between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. (State Department photo/ Public Domain)

- Sixty-two percent of Israelis think that relations between Netanyahu and the Obama Administration are poor or very poor, and even more, 70 percent, among the Jewish population.

- Forty percent believe this is the fault of the U.S., but 30 percent also blame the Israeli side. Another 20 percent think both are to blame. Thus, half the population believes Israel is at least partly to blame.

- However, a strong majority apparently believes that the tension between Israel and the U.S. is a matter of ebb and flow, rhetoric and posturing, with few consequences. Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) disagree with the idea that continued deterioration of relations will lead to the U.S. no longer being a very close ally.

- Finally, Israelis were asked about concrete American policy steps to pressure Israel. Participants were asked their opinion if, “the United States no longer vetoes anti-Israel Security Council resolutions, greatly reduces its economic support for Israel, and stops providing Israel with the most advanced military equipment.” Nearly half of respondents, 48 percent, said these steps would harm Israel’s security, compared to just over 38 percent who said they could actually strengthen Israeli independence. There was minimal difference between Arabs and Jews regarding those who said it would harm Israeli security. However, more Jews, 40 percent, thought (or hoped) such measures would bolster Israel’s independence from the U.S.

Election time means heightened sensitivities. Taking such steps could easily cause a nationalist backlash against the U.S. that plays into the right. But getting Israelis to realize that harsh rhetoric is followed by actual policy could highlight what Israelis fear: that their country is becoming isolated, alienated and friendless.

Netanyahu: Policy for himself, not for the people

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Photo by Activestills.org)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Photo by Activestills.org)

A remarkable finding is the strong majority that believes the prime minister makes decisions of great national importance based on his own political interests, rather than those of the country.

- When asked why Netanyahu announced renewed construction in the territories in October, 62 percent of the public – 64 percent among Jews – said this was pandering to the Right.

- Just one-fifth (21 percent) thinks Netanyahu really believes construction serves the interests of Israel. Among Jewish respondents the portion was the same as the total (22 percent).

Similarly, the “Jewish Nation-State Law” triggered a premature NIS 3 billion election cycle, further poisoned the environment between Arabs and Jews, and drove an ultra-nationalist discourse with violent manifestations. All this, the public believes, was for Netanyahu’s personal gain.

- Nearly two thirds – 64 percent – say Netanyahu was mainly trying boost his popularity among the right wing and settlers. Seventy-seven percent of Arabs feel this way.

- Just 30 percent of Jews and only 18 percent of Arabs (27 percent of the whole public) think Netanyahu supported the law out of genuine concern for the issue.

- Most striking: nearly half the population (45 percent) think the law will damage the interests of the State of Israel, while only 28 percent think it will advance the state’s interests. Among Jews, 40 percent think it will do damage; another 22 percent think the law will have no influence. Together, a striking 62 percent of the Jewish population sees nothing good coming from this law. Among Arabs, fully 71 percent think it will do damage.

These findings represent an extraordinary rift between the will of the people and the elected representatives who are mired in a dark game of ultra-nationalist outbidding, at the expense of governance.

Too much support for separation and discrimination

Damage from an arson attack that targeted first-grade classrooms at a Jewish-Arab school near the Palestinian neighborhood of Beit Safafa in southern Jerusalem, November 30, 2014. Spray painted on the walls were racist slogans in Hebrew reading: "Death to Arabs" and "There's no coexistence with cancer". (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Damage from an arson attack that targeted first-grade classrooms at a Jewish-Arab school near the Palestinian neighborhood of Beit Safafa in southern Jerusalem, November 30, 2014. Spray painted on the walls were racist slogans in Hebrew reading: “Death to Arabs” and “There’s no coexistence with cancer”. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The good news is that for most of the questions, the majority rejects dramatic apartheid-like behavior. The bad news is that one of the most egregious and symbolic such measures – the Jim Crow-like separation of buses – is supported by a majority. Perhaps worse still, the minorities that favor other discriminatory actions are not single-digits or radical margins but large chunks of society. Some understandably wish that recent racist incidents were isolated exceptions. But the numbers show a large and ugly iceberg beneath the sharp peaks that break the water. Thus:

- Fully 51 percent of Israeli society – and 56 percent of the Jewish population – support the defense minister’s call to ban Palestinians from riding on the same buses with Jews to and from the West Bank.

- While 34 percent of Jews oppose such a measure, just 20 percent of the total sample are strongly against it – more than those who are moderately opposed (14 percent).

- Notably, 29 percent of Arab respondents also support the ban.

However, very few support the torching of the Jewish-Arab school last week.

- Just 10 percent support the vandalism and 86 percent reject it. Still, 10 percent? That represents 800,000 Israeli people who would burn down a school.

- Another disturbing finding: Over one-quarter of the Arab respondents support the action, compared to just over six percent of the Jewish respondents. (The small sample means a high margin of error, but even as an indication, it is worrisome.)

In between these two poles of high support for Jim Crow policies and majority rejection of violence against schools lies a middle ground of discriminatory actions against Arabs that are apparently more acceptable. About one-quarter to nearly half of Jews support such actions  (the questions were not asked of Arabs).

- Forty-three percent of Jews support calls not to employ Arabs in areas near Jewish kindergartens.

- Over one-quarter – 26 percent – of Jews oppose employing Arabs in hospitals and nursing institutions (Arabs represent an increasingly prominent portion of the medical staff in Israel at all levels).

These respondents probably do not view themselves as radicals or see these as extreme measures, but rather as pragmatic responses to an unfortunate situation. That is precisely the danger of burning schools. It is less about damaging Jewish-Arab education – the “Hand-in-Hand” initiative has seen an outpouring of support since the attack. But it makes expulsion from the workplace look legitimate. It makes racist policies look reasonable and helps self-described moderates embrace them. And everyone thinks he or she is a moderate.

_______________

*The two polls were fielded in early November and early December, among representative samples of 602 and 603 respondents, respectively. More information about the surveys is available on the Peace Index website.

Related:
‘We will overcome’: Arson and mourning at Jerusalem’s bilingual school
Segregating the evening commute to the West Bank

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