Jerusalem (AFP) – Rocked by weeks of deadly violence, Jerusalem is witnessing security measures not seen in years as residents try to maintain some semblance of normal life while awaiting the next attack.
Raheli, who is eight months pregnant, recently stopped travelling on the city’s light railway system, which she dubs “the train of fear”, after deadly attacks at roadside stops by lone Palestinians.
“The last time I took it I stayed pressed against the back wall of the train stop,” she says. “I had images in my head of a car ramming in to us or an explosion. It’s too stressful, I would rather walk.”
Earlier this month a Palestinian from east Jerusalem deliberately rammed his car into two groups of pedestrians, killing a border police officer and wounding another nine people, the second deadly car attack in two weeks.
Twin knife attacks outside Jerusalem this week killed an Israeli soldier and a young woman and wounded two others as simmering violence spread across Israel and the occupied West Bank.
In annexed east Jerusalem, Israeli passengers now get off the train and take the bus in a bid to avoid the hail of stones from Palestinian protesters that is becoming a daily occurrence.
Yoni, on his way to the Hebrew University, barely looks up from his book as he makes his way through the hotspot.
“That is what the Palestinians want. They want us to live in fear,” he says.
In west Jerusalem, in contrast to the darkest days of the second Palestinian intifada of 2000-2005, cafes, shops and restaurants carry on with business as usual.
In a pizzeria on Ben Yehuda street — infamous as the site of several suicide attacks at the time — Ahd, a young Palestinian student chooses to spend her lunch at the table furthest away from other diners.
“You can sense the aggression. That ranges from people looking at you aggressively to searching your bags at shopping malls,” she says.
Jerusalem’s new daily routine has even seen a return of the so-called “yellow jackets”, private security guards who search people’s belongings at the entrances to buildings.
– ‘Self-defence’ –
Faced with a palpable change in the air — which some have already dubbed the “third intifada” — some Jerusalem residents have taken matters into their own hands.
Yonatan, a salesman in a shop selling military equipment and self-defence gadgets, has been inundated by requests.
“We’ve totally run out in recent days of pepper spray. It’s our most popular product and you can blind an attacker with it from up to three metres (yards) away,” he says.
“We also sell batons and there’s been an increase in demand for tasers, which can electrocute and effectively paralyse. The ones we sell are less powerful than those used by the police,” he adds.
Israeli soldiers are still armed with their traditional M16 assault rifles, which they know makes them especially high-profile targets for attacks.
“We have received orders from our commanders. We have been told not to wear headphones in the street and to remain constantly vigilant,” says Ziv, a young Israeli soldier draped in a poncho.
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