The gate at the entrance to the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design is a 90-second drive from the Israel Police's national headquarters. To reach Bezalel's building on the Hebrew University campus, where the best minds in architecture and the arts are developed, one must maneuver one's car among firebombs, flying cinderblocks and rocks on the road. It makes no difference whether you have round glasses, a love of vintage French cinema or are friendly with bereaved Palestinian mothers. You could still end up murdered on your way to school.
Since the beginning of the school year, the young people of the village of Issawiya have been holding a conceptual art exhibit using local stone and redesigning the space. In some incidents, they have blocked the road to Bezalel to make the exhibit still better. One report describes a near-lynching: a car was blocked from behind and "young people" gathered around it. In another incident, a car rolled down into a ravine after stones were thrown at it and the driver lost control.
Women who go out of the university gate on foot are vulnerable to sexual attack. Even after a long series of incidents, it is forbidden to reveal the attackers' national origins. The cellular phone application RuOK, which allows users to press panic button that alerts an employee at a service center, is a hit among students.
Last Thursday, a woman student was attacked near the humanities building, 30 meters away from the security guards' station. An Arab literature major leaving the dormitories for the grocery store was set upon by attackers wielding stones and clubs. Soldiers who dare to leave the nearby army base for the university encounter firebombs as a matter of course. Women students going to the campus gym walk in large groups and carry pepper spray, and a police car was set on fire there a few days ago.
Sixty-five years after the armored convoys of 1948, Mount Scopus is once more an enclave under threat. Recently, it was reported that by army orders, as soon as darkness falls, soldiers may drive to the Home Front Command's base in the neighborhood only in guarded convoys. A soldier bound for home must wait for an army escort. We are talking about a neighborhood in Jerusalem, about the entrance to the largest hospital in the capital, about the most important university in Israel.
This week, representatives of the police and the university's security department met with the village mukhtar, Darwish Darwish, to ask him nicely to put a stop to this situation. Darwish fittingly condemned the attackers, but added that if the municipality were to invest in a community center, a public park and a soccer pitch, "the young people would keep themselves busy playing soccer, not throwing stones." He forgot to mention the new gymnasium that the Jerusalem municipality built in his village at an investment of NIS 1.5 million, the playground that cost hundreds of thousands of shekels (which was destroyed a short while later), the new school building that was constructed and the improvements in infrastructure.
What do I want from your lives? After all, this is a natural phenomenon, no different from a hurricane or the sinkholes near the Dead Sea. On Facebook I saw recommendations on how to avoid this stroke of fate: "Drive through the gate of the School of Education, because for now nobody is throwing stones there. Turn right and then right again, and exit parallel to the tunnel. Also, don't park between Bezalel and the village." The media quoted the operations officer of the Shalem police station, in charge of the French Hill neighborhood, as saying, "We cannot reach a situation where there are no disturbances at all of one kind or another."
So what do I want? I want us to decide on the boundary of Israeli sovereignty. This is not just a matter of response and deterrent, but also of who is in charge. We are not building or issuing tenders in Amman or Damascus, nor are we supposed to chase stone-throwers there. In Jerusalem, we ought to be doing both.
The recent uproar over the planning of thousands of housing units over the Green Line in Jerusalem is linked to the insolent attacks within the city. If Jerusalem belongs to us, let us protect it and build housing units, issue tenders and arrest stone-throwers. If not, then to paraphrase the old song, "From the summit of Mount Scopus, I bid you farewell, O Jerusalem."