JERUSALEM — There are no walls, no physical boundary that separates East Jerusalem from West Jerusalem, but the barriers are building. Fear and hate are dividing this city as certainly as any electrified fence.
The last two months of Palestinian uprisings against Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip have spread into this city and all but destroyed what had become a favored myth of the government: that Jerusalem was united, that it was a place where Jew and Arab could live--if not side by side, at least nearby--in peace.
In the last two days, a Palestinian refugee camp in the city was closed by a total curfew; all Arab schools in East Jerusalem were shut down indefinitely; the National Insurance Institute stopped sending claims adjusters into the Arab sections, where water and electric services have been disrupted; bus and taxi service in and out of East Jerusalem were halted, and, for the first time, police began using rubber bullets to break up demonstrations in the city.
After a brief respite last week in which stores in East Jerusalem opened for three hours a day, a total commercial strike has resumed as a symbol of unity with the occupied territories and as a sign of defiance of Israeli officials who want commerce returned to normal.
"It was always a myth, that we are different from the Palestinians on the West Bank and in Gaza," a prominent businessman said in an interview outside the locked door of his establishment. "We are not Israelis, we are Palestinians, and we want what all Palestinians want: an independent state under the Palestine Liberation Organization."
If the Israelis ever believed differently--Mayor Teddy Kollek made a worldwide reputation promoting Jerusalem as united, distinct from the strife of the occupied areas--their complacency has been destroyed in the past two days.
And if the strikes, school closings and other disruptions had turned sections of East Jerusalem into a desolate zone of rock-cluttered streets where masked youths lurk under broken street lights with piles of stones nearby, life for the city's Jews had continued in a routine fashion. Until Sunday night.
For the first time since the uprising started Dec. 9, Palestinian youths in large numbers invaded a Jewish neighborhood, breaking windows, barricading streets and battling the police.
Stones Thrown at Houses
According to residents of East Tapiot, a neighborhood adjacent to an Arab section, about 200 men covering their faces with checkered kaffiyeh headdresses marched to a major street and threw large stones at houses and blocked the roadway.
"These weren't children who dashed in and tossed a few rocks," a woman said outside her house in East Tapiot. "These were young men, and there were a lot of them. They carried big PLO flags (banned by the authorities) and wore red kaffiyehs (favored by the PLO). And they weren't afraid."
They also attacked a Jewish religious school in the neighborhood before the police drove them back with tear gas and rubber bullets. Several Palestinians were injured and hospitalized.
Jews accustomed to going to East Jerusalem for Arab food or for Saturday shopping when the western parts of the city are closed for the Jewish Sabbath find that everything is closed--or fear that they could be the target of an attack.
Goods Gathering Cobwebs
Jewish store owners who had been enjoying unexpected business from Arabs during the strike by East Jerusalem merchants have found that the additional merchandise they stocked for their new customers is gathering cobwebs.
A recent leaflet by leaders of the uprising said that Palestinians seeking to avoid the strike by shopping in West Jerusalem were traitors to the cause, a sufficient enough warning to keep Arabs home.
The result is that a city united in 1967, after nearly 20 years of war-caused division, is almost as divided now as it was before Israeli troops drove out the Jordanian defenders and razed the walls and fences that had separated east from west, Arab from Jew.
"I used to drive right through the middle of East Jerusalem to see friends in Abu Tor (one of Jerusalem's few mixed Jewish-Arab neighborhoods)," Ray Levin said in a recent dinner-party discussion of the fate of the city. "But now I have to take back roads. It adds many minutes to what had been a short drive."
'Too Much Trouble'
Other Israelis simply don't go to East Jerusalem at all. "I stay over here," Anna Alan said. "I don't even like to go into the Old City anymore. There's too much trouble." She was referring to the walled city within East Jerusalem that contains places regarded as holy by Christians, Muslims and Jews.
Another Israeli woman, Barbara Amit, said that until now she just did not believe all the accounts of violence in the occupied territories.