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Middle East

Despairing outlook for young Israelis and Palestinians

As many worry that Israel faces a third intifada, less-heard voices fear the fallout of new conflict. Previous generations had hoped for a permanent resolution; young Israelis and Palestinians see that as less likely.

With clashes over the use of Jerusalem's Temple Mount and fresh violence in the Gaza Strip, fears are increasing that a new conflict could unfold just over a year after Israel's Protective Edge offensive in Gaza. And, though many Israelis and Palestinians are worried about the violence itself, several are also anxious about the potential consequences of a new conflict.

"It's less about the fear of getting physically hurt and more about fear of escalation, hatred and intolerance," says Shay Laadan, a 31-year-old student living in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba.

"I remember what happened here during Operation Protective Edge and the personal attacks I have experienced for expressing left-wing opinions," she adds. "I encounter all the Facebook posts by Israelis, to Israelis, wishing women to get raped because of their opinions or calling to murder children - I feel helpless."

Laadan says she knows people who have received threats for writing statements condemning violence in general, such as recent revenge attacks committed in Jerusalem's Old City by both Israelis and Palestinians. She, like many others, is worried about the future of the two peoples in their common home if no solution is found.

Great sense of insecurity

In the past few weeks, clashes between Israelis and Palestinians have increased. Tensions spiked in the West Bank after a Jewish couple were shot dead in their car in the north of the territory. In the wake of the killing, hundreds of Israeli troops were sent to the region to carry out a manhunt for the gunmen and maintain order following revenge attacks on Palestinians.

The violence has spread into the Gaza Strip, too, as hundreds of Palestinians marched toward the security fence around Kibbutz Nahal Oz in solidarity with West Bank residents on Friday. Seven Gaza residents were killed and 60 others were wounded.

Gaza Proteste Palästinenser Nahal Grenzübergang

Palestinian protesters stand amid smoke during clashes with Israeli security forces at the Nahal Oz border crossing

Though the government and military leaders are trying to reassure Israelis that the situation in the West Bank isn't a third intifada, many people on the Israeli as well as the Palestinian street beg to differ.

"Every time I leave home I feel unsafe," says Ori Padael, a 27-year-old teacher from Talmei Elezar, a small Israeli community located 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the West Bank. "I live very close to a lot of Arab villages, and today I went to a shopping center and turned around every few seconds to see who was walking behind me," she adds. "You can even see the fear in my pupils' eyes."

Others say it's the sudden and seemingly arbitrary atmosphere of the events that scares them. "The fact that all the attacks are spontaneous stabbings without advance intelligence creates a great sense of insecurity," says Eilit Rozin, a 23-year-old student from Tel Aviv. "These events are happening in central locations where thousands of people pass every day."

Declining hope

Officials in the Israeli army and Shin Bet security service stress the positive side of the recent uprising - that the Palestinian Authority, unlike in the 2000 intifada, isn't encouraging terror, and its instructions to its security forces to restrain violence are unambiguous.

This, however, doesn't change the sense of public despair. The recent events are perhaps a dangerous escalation, but, for many, this is just a small wave of violence in a bigger, never-ending war.

Nareman Mruwat, a 36-year-old teacher from Nazareth, recalls being attacked by an Israeli soldier 13 years ago.

"I took a bus from Nazareth to Haifa, where I was studying to get a teaching certificate," Mruwat says. "I got off the bus and started walking while an Israeli soldier was chasing me, mumbling 'death to all Arabs.' He threw me on the floor and pointed his gun at my head."

Jerusalem Ausschreitungen Gewalt

Police secure the area where a Palestinian stabbed Israeli policemen before he was shot dead in Jerusalem

Mruwat had an infant at home, and the only thing she could imagine was her 8-month-old daughter losing her mother. She told the soldier that, adding that she was not the one to blame for the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. "I looked at the soldier's eyes and told him I have a baby at home whom I have not yet hugged and kissed and raised," she recalls.

"Suddenly I found humanity in him, when he looked at me, shed a tear and said, 'Get up and run away from here - I don't want to be a murderer,'" Mruwat says.

Mruwat even found something positive in the encounter. "After 13 years I am grateful to that soldier," she says. "Thanks to him I knew this land contains both flowers and thorns. This soldier was no hero, but he had enough humanity in him to overcome his anger and hatred - and that gave me hope."

There seems to be less mercy from either side nowadays. On the streets of Jerusalem, far-right activists rallied on Thursday evening against what they called government inaction and capitulation in Israel's capital, chanting "death to Arabs" and "police state."

The activists were asking random people for the time and attacking those who answered with an Arabic accent. And scattered stabbing attacks by Palestinians have become a daily occurrence. People on both sides of the conflict have watched with astonishment at the savage and unexplained violence committed by people on the other.

The mainstream media didn't even bother mentioning some of the smaller incidents. A Palestinian construction worker was lightly injured when he was stabbed by an Israeli; an ultraorthodox bakery fired all of its Arab employees.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the 1990 protests on the Temple Mount that left about 20 Palestinians dead and 150 more injured. Today, much like 25 years ago, there is a wide chasm between how Israelis and Palestinians perceive the events as they unfold. Back then, however, both Israelis and Palestinians seemed to hold out hope for a permanent and positive conclusion to the conflict.

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