17 September '15..
It's a beautiful evening on the eve of the holiday, and I am walking back from dinner through Jerusalem, where the dust has barely settled. I would have stopped to admire the view from the hill, but I was making my way from my friends' house in Nof Zion to my apartment in Abu Tur, which means crossing the village of Jabel Mukaber. I'm walking briskly in spite of the steep incline, attempting to look relaxed and self-assured, but my heart is racing as I realize this may not have been the best idea. Cars pass, someone throws a can in my general direction, yelling something I fail to understand. The people I pass speak to me but I stay silent, keeping my pace as I race for the Haas Promenade.
Over the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, there have been repeated clashes between Israeli police and Palestinians on the Temple Mount. Palestinians have been stockpiling rocks and firecrackers to throw at non-Muslims visiting the holy site. This is after months of escalating intimidation, with radical Islamic groups flocking to the Temple Mount to harass and even physically attack non-Muslims at the site. Since just before Rosh Hashanah, the State of Israel has been, finally, cracking down on these highly illegal tactics, attempting to protect everyone's freedom of religion, and as a result, the Muslim extremists have been stepping up their game.
Upon entering Al-Aqsa mosque, where rioters were barricading themselves, Israeli police found not only rocks, firecrackers and concrete, but also pipe bombs designed to blow up the entrance to the Temple Mount should non-Muslims try to enter.
But the violence is not contained to, or solely focused on, the Temple Mount. On Monday evening, a family traveling back from a holiday dinner was attacked by rock throwers in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Talpiot. The assailants, believed to be Palestinian residents of the nearby Sur Baher neighborhood, reportedly hurled rocks at the moving car, causing it to crash into a pole. The driver, 64-year-old Alexander Levlovich, later died as a result of the terrorist attack, while the two passengers riding with him sustained minor injuries.
My friends told me not to walk through Jabel Mukaber alone, but I did anyway. Not to be cocky, not to act a fool, but because I couldn't accept that I needed a bodyguard just to walk back from dinner. The precautions taken by me and by us, the Jews walking the streets of Jerusalem, are already too many and too accepted, gradually turning into normalcy when they should be anything but. While many countries and many cities have areas where one does not necessarily want to go, Jerusalem is unique in that we have areas where Jews cannot go without risking their lives, whereas our attackers are not beholden to such limitations. What is theirs is theirs, and what is ours is theirs, as well.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday, during a visit to the site of the recent terrorist attack in Jerusalem, that he intended to "declare war" on rock throwers, increasing minimum sentences for such attacks as well as giving greater leeway to police and the military to intervene. However, during the same impromptu press conference, Netanyahu reiterated Israel's commitment to the status quo on the Temple Mount, which allows Jews to visit but not pray there.
The problem with addressing one, while ignoring the other, is that the signal of strength Netanyahu is attempting to send comes off as little more than an empty gesture. Either he and his administration are committed to keeping the Jews of Jerusalem safe or they are not. The stones thrown on the mount are connected to those thrown in the streets, and by ignoring the first, the government is exasperating the second, cherry-picking on issues of life and death.
Before I left my Abu Tur apartment that night, my friend insisted that I shouldn't walk alone. You are walking from one Arab village to another, she said, and making a point just isn't worth the risk. As sad as it is, she was right, and as angry as it makes me, it was probably the last time I make that particular journey. A 10-minute walk should not be a statement, just as praying on the Temple Mount should not be activism. But they are, and we allow them to be, forgetting that human rights apply to Jews and that coexistence means being met halfway rather than fruitlessly going the distance.
My heart was beating through my chest when I got to the promenade, and while I may have gotten home unharmed, the damage was done long before I got there. A man died this week, as others have before him, at the hands of terrorism and complacency. Because terrorism isn't merely the attack; it's the aftermath, leading to a slippery slope from normalcy to adaptation. Giving up on normalcy is giving up on life, and compromising freedom to avoid a war means you're already in one, playing an endless game of catch-up to save your life.
Annika Hernroth-Rothstein is a political adviser, activist and writer on the Middle East, religious affairs and global anti-Semitism. Follow her on Twitter @truthandfiction.