Tomorrow evening is Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest. On shabbat, one says, “Shabbat Shalom”. “Peaceful Shabbat”. When I was in the store last night, I was talking to the woman at the register. Just a little small talk and at the end we both said, “Shabbat Shalom”. Usually one just says Shabbat Shalom on reflex, like hello or good luck. Last night it felt different. Important. Like perhaps one of the most common and oft spoken phrases in Israel could help stop the inevitable wave of violence and unrest that was going to roll forward the next day.
The day before yesterday President Trump issued a staggering announcement. That the U.S. embassy would be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, recognizing Jerusalem, after many years, as the capital of Israel. This has sparked protests and strikes in the West Bank and Jerusalem, perhaps more today, which is also the Islamic Sabbath for many Muslim Palestinians. After the 11 o'clock prayer at the Al Aqsa Mosque, we’re already seeing riots in Malaysia and Indonesia over the announcement. I’m not going to get into the politics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in this article. What I am going to say is that sometimes people can get so caught up in the moment, they feed a fire they claim to want to put out.
In the aftermath of the announcement I’ve seen 24/7 talk about how bad things are going to go. Whoever I talk to tells me about how bad things are about to get. It’s true that things are going to be bad for a while. But it might be even worse because of the way that people are hyping things. The chatter around this announcement is inflaming an already hot situation. Right now there is the direst need NOT to make things worse than they already are. Right now things need to be calmed down enough that innocent people won’t get hurt. People are so hot right now that regular, innocent people are going to get hurt, or possibly killed. Sometimes the short term solution is part of the long term solution as well. The more property that is damaged, the more people that are hurt, the harsher the response this weekend, the farther away that a solution is going to be.
There is no peace process at the moment. There are no substantial moves towards peace on either side. President Trump stated that this might be a move that pushes a change. That’s true, it might. But it’ll be a change from an uncomfortable silence into a possible third Intifada. That means bombings, that means possible rocket attacks, that means invasions of homes. It means that the situation is going to get worse, not better. And after the installation of metal detectors at the Al Aqsa mosque this summer and the already simmering situation from the past year’s worth of events, this might be what opens up the floodgates.
The Lebanese terrorist organization Hezbollah has called for a third intifada already and for the Palestinian people to rise up. Every news site i’ve visited talks about an upcoming intifada in almost certain terms. Right now I’d call for people to stop exacerbating the situation. Every FB post, every news article, every pundit that keeps talking about upcoming violence and unrest like it’s a certainty needs to stop. I’m not naive. I know that things aren’t going to be purely peaceful, and that they aren’t going to be calm and collected. There is a lot of unaddressed rage built up that many Palestinians have been waiting to release. But the important thing is to keep calm and carry on right now. Things won’t be entirely calm, but they can certainly be calmer. The swirl of rhetoric has to settle if there’s any chance to contain the violence that could rise up. At the end of the day, it’s not newscasters and outside onlookers that will be hurt by this event. It’ll be the inhabitants of Jerusalem, Palestinians, and Israelis.