It has been a while since my last post. To be honest, my mind was preoccupied with other things lately. Now I am back in Germany and feel I should share my experiences of the last weeks in Jerusalem. I suppose that many of the people reading this blog also follow the news on our particular place in the world. Over the last weeks, the atmosphere in Jerusalem has changed significantly due to recent events. I will not even attempt to give a thorough summary of everything that happened, but I would still like to share some facts.

On June 12th, three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped while hitchhiking in the occupied Palestinian territories, allegedly by Hamas (who have not taken responsibility for it). Israelis authorities then started a large scale police and military operation in the West Bank, searching for these teens. Over the next two weeks 350 Palestinians were arrested, dozens of houses demolished and five Palestinians killed in clashes between the IDF and protestors.

When the bodies of the three teenagers were found north of Hebron on June 30th, violence also spread to Jerusalem, when mobs of right wing Israelis roamed the streets looking for Arab workers. We coincided to walk past a rally, claiming “Kahane was right” and chanting “an Arab is a son of a bitch”. One of the places that was attacked, was the restaurant of our landlord for giving shelter to a Palestinian boy. On Facebook and other social media, campaigns started calling for revenge against the Palestinian people under #IsraelDemandsRevenge.

Two days later, the next despicable act followed, three Israelis kidnapped a 15-year-old Palestinian boy from the East-Jerusalem neighborhood of the Shuafat refugee camp, burned him alive and killed him in the woods outside the city. This act led to large scale protests in Shuafat, the West Bank and other parts of East Jerusalem. For more than two weeks now, parts of Israel and Palestine are burning every night. Every night we hear the sirens and the helicopters outside our apartment window, while Israel is preparing/carrying out the operation “Protective Edge”, which seems to aim at complete annihilation of Hamas in the Gaza Strip. By now, more than 120 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed and thousands injured.

The past events have made me question the use of the profession I chose. The indiscriminate hate for people based on their race I have seen in the faces of people makes me wonder whether there is any point in trying to find a just and peaceful solution. We came here five weeks ago, to document water issues in the West Bank and were given a first hand glimpse of the nature of the conflict. Our project here is over. People have other things to do than talking to us and the West Bank is not safe for us at the moment. On last Sunday we made the decision to leave the country, since it was completely unclear where this conflict is heading and we felt more and more useless, forced to sit at home and restricting ourselves to watching and reading the news. Personally it is a big disappointment. Ally and I were struggling a lot getting in contact with individuals willing to share their stories and now that we finally started to make some progress our contacts are being cut off. While I do not feel I was in danger, my family and friends were getting worried and urged me to come home. This also showed me how different the perceptions can be on the ground and far away only through the media. On Tuesday the first rockets hit Jerusalem and I for the first time in my life heard sirens telling me to look for shelter. However, everyone in the restaurant looked a little bit startled, but did not make any attempt to go anywhere and after a few minutes it was all over and people returned to business as usual. I guess people growing up and living in an environment of more or less constant conflict, experience these kind of things in a different way than us ‘outsiders’.

I left Jerusalem on Thursday with a bad feeling in my stomach. It is a feeling of giving up and leaving people behind. I knew when I came here, that I would not solve the conflict, yet the feeling stays. I am trying to tell myself that there was nothing I could have done and that leaving was the right decision, especially on hindsight.

For me, these events mean the end of my research project, for the people that stay there, it means a lot more.

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