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Reesa Cohen Stone

Former Winnipegger Reesa Cohen Stone from Beer Sheva Israel: Dispatch #1 -- Sirens, Rockets and War in Israel

by Reesa Cohen Stone, May 12, 2021

“What’s going on in Sheikh Jarrah,” my daughter asked me a few days ago? “What exactly is the problem there, and why is ‘Israel-Palestine’ trending on Tumblr?”

I tried to answer her question, but the truth was I had only a rudimentary understanding of what, in fact, was going on in Sheikh Jarrah – a neighborhood in the eastern part of Jerusalem. I knew that there were weekly demonstrations that had to do with the fact that part of the neighborhood was called ‘Shimon HaTzadik’ (Simon the Just) and that there were property disputes.

I spent the next few hours doing some research. These are some of the facts that I found: The property disputes in Sheikh Jarrah go back 30 years or more; Shimon HaTzadik was one of the last members of the Sanhedrin before it was disbanded under the Romans and he is buried there; Jews had lived in the neighborhood for almost a hundred years before being displaced (aka ethnically cleansed) by the Jordanians in 1948; the foreign press lies.

The ‘demonstrations’ in Sheikh Jarrah morphed into ‘demonstrations’ at Damascus Gate, which morphed into ‘demonstrations’ on the Temple Mount, which became a clarion call for rioting throughout the country by Arab Israeli Citizens.  

As I followed these stories, both in the Israeli and foreign press, I was astonished at the discrepancies. The foreign press reports Damascus Gate as a popular spot where Palestinians gather to drink coffee and sing songs. It did not mention that the ‘songs’ were “With spirit and blood we shall redeem you, O Aqsa! Or “Jews, remember Khaybar, the army of Muhammad is returning,” or “Revenge...revenge...Oh, Hamas, bomb Tel Aviv!"

There were no reports of the many near lynchings of Jews by Arab mobs, nor were there pictures of the burned-out synagogues in Lod, which the mayor described as a Kristallnacht. There were no pictures of the stockpiles of concrete blocks and boulders that had been stored in the Al Aqsa Mosque. Instead, there were pictures of ‘worshippers’ being attacked by Israeli forces with tear gas and rubber bullets and descriptions of those worshippers armed ‘only with stones’.

What astonished me the most is the story making the rounds of social media about Jews celebrating the attempt to burn down the Mosque, with pictures of young people dancing near the Kotel with smoke in the background. Even Jewish groups and liberal Jewish friends got in on the act, condemning the act of attempted arson and saying that ‘it wasn’t the Jewish way’.

This was, of course, a lie made up of whole cloth – as Shalom Aleichem said in The Bloody Hoax.

Jewish youth were celebrating Jerusalem Day at the Kotel, an event that takes place every year. The fire on the Temple Mount was started when fireworks were shot off by Arab demonstrators at policemen and a tree caught on fire.

While there have been unending rocket salvos on towns and villages in the Western Negev for years, it’s seldom that Jerusalem or Tel Aviv are targeted. This time around, Tel Aviv has received literally hundreds of rockets. Jerusalem, while not experiencing hundreds, did have sirens going off in a city full of people celebrating Jerusalem Day. There have been stonings, by Arab Israeli citizens, on Israeli vehicles on Israeli highways, damage and widespread vandalism to private property in a myriad of Israeli towns committed by Arab Israeli citizens, near lynchings and rioting. Most of these atrocities has been committed by youth not older than 25.

The feeling in the country is that they are acting in this way not because of a number of evictions in Sheik Jarrah, not because Jewish kids are dancing in the streets, and not because they are ‘oppressed’. That’s just the cover story. The reason these kids are acting this way is because they can. They seem to be afraid of nothing; not the police who are not allowed to enter their villages or soldiers who are commanded not to fire; not international condemnation from organizations or governments who are either innately antisemitic or are themselves afraid of an Arab boycott à là 1973; certainly not the press who they know are biased in their favor in addition to being sloppy and lazy; and certainly not their own leadership who are maddingly silent as the our beloved country burns.

Israelis around the country have been spending long nights and hot days in bomb shelters. Towns near Gaza have 15 seconds to reach shelter. We in Beer Sheva have a luxurious 60 seconds. It stops being luxurious when you have to run down steps, or into the street with small children, as so many families do.

War is never pretty or exciting. It’s terrifying and sickening. We don’t know how long this will take or when it will end. We don’t know what exactly it will take to end it, but it will probably be very unpleasant.

Here is what we do know: Israel will continue to protect and care for its citizens (both Arab and Jew), and Israel will not stop being the Homeland of the Jewish People.

We hope and we pray that it will be over soon with as little loss of life as possible.

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