Photo by Mark Philbrick
Monday, August 4
There were two incidents in East Jerusalem during daylight hours today. In the first, a Palestinian drove a backhoe into some pedestrians, killing one, and then rammed a bus which was overturned, with some injuries but no additional fatalities. The driver of the backhoe was then shot and killed by Israeli police. The incident occurred on the seam between East and West Jerusalem neighborhoods immediately north of the Old City near a cluster of tourist hotels, but a mile or so from the Center. In the second incident, an Israeli soldier standing at a bus stop near the entrance road to the Mt. Scopus campus of Hebrew University was shot by someone on a motorbike. The soldier was injured, but not killed. The assailant escaped. This incident was within a quarter mile of the Center and on main thoroughfare that also provides automobile access to the Center. There were also scuffles betweeen Palestinians and Israeli security forces is several places in the Old City and nearby neighborhoods today.
Students were away from Jerusalem on a field trip to Masada and the Dead Sea when these incidents occurred. They returned to the Center in the early evening and were asked to remain at the Center this evening. Tomorrow (Tuesday) students will be in class until 11:00 a.m. Jerusalem time. A regularly-scheduled announcement meeting will follow. Decisions about travel restrictions will be made by the start of the announcement meeting once Center administrative and security personnel have better information on today's incidents.
Tensions are clearly high in Jerusalem. Preliminary indications are, however, that the violence is directed at specific targets, in this case Israeli military personnel and Israeli buses and not at tourists or, in our case, at the Center or Center-related personnel. And in any event, students have not been permitted to use public transportation, including Israeli buses, or to be at bus stops, since the outbreak of violence a month ago.
Thursday, July 31
Students will be returning to the Jerusalem Center today, Thursday, July 31 following an eleven day stay in Galilee. The situation in the Holy Land remains tense as both the fighting in Gaza and cease-fire talks continue. The ban issued by the FAA on flights by US airlines in and out of Ben Gurion International Airport (Tel Aviv) was lifted on July 24, less than 48 hours after being imposed and the airport is open, with regularly scheduled flights from the US and Europe arriving and departing. Jerusalem has been quiet, but tense, since the ground invasion of Gaza started.
Students have been asked to remain at the Center Friday and Friday evening. A further evaluation of out-of-Center travel will be made following Friday prayers at Jerusalem mosques, the first gathering at mosques since Ramadan ended. However, with the exception of Friday, the security situation in Jerusalem appears to be stable enough to warrant a return to out-of-Center travel regulations that were in place prior to the start of the recent conflict between Israel and Hamas. As such, it is expected that students will be allowed to travel in East Jerusalem and the Old City during daylight hours and that travel in West Jerusalem will be extended to mid-night. It is also expected that field trips between now and when the students conclude the semester and leave the Holy Land on August 14 will go forward as planned, but the Jerusalem Center Administration continues to monitor the situation and will update student travel and security restrictions as needed.