A return in so many ways. Back to NBC, this time as a correspondent, back to the Middle East, this time in the Persian Gulf area...just in time for....? Read about it in Gulf Expedition.
And by Middle East standards, it was a well-mannered public demonstration. There was the traditional burning of the American flag and stomping on the Israeli one. There were a few chants in support of the Palestinians. But on this day, the megaphones were louder than the people, who were more than happy to be herded along by a solitary uniformed policeman. There was something genteel in their outrage. As the crowd walked down the wide boulevard, they were followed by a couple of men in yellow suits carrying brooms and garbage bags.
Almost nearly twelve months to the day of my departure, I returned to my former home. Read about it in This Year in Jerusalem.
"Random" is the best word to describe life here now. The threat of violence in the most unlikely of places has created a deep-seated feeling of despair. You can try and insulate yourself against the probability of bodily harm by not going out and avoiding public places. Like the Mahane Yehuda market which is frequented more by security personnel than customers looking for a good deal on fresh produce and meat. On a Friday morning just prior to Shabbat, there is a remarkable amount of room to manoeuvre among the fruit and vegetable stalls.
The Dome of the Rock looked so fragile from where we were sitting. I felt as if it could blow up right there and then, and after that, the rest of the world would follow. The walls surrounding the Old City looked paper thin from up high. I had looked upon old Jerusalem hundreds of times before, but this was a perspective that I had never seen. The modern complex in front of the Western Wall stuck out obtrusively although it tried hard to blend in with its white façade and multi-domed roofs. For the first time, I noticed that there were a multiplicity of faded colors in the houses, shops and religious places of the Old City. Every time I had looked at it from atop the Mount of Olives, the harsh Jerusalem sunlight had bleached everything clean, allowing my eye to focus only on the shine off the Dome. Now with the cloudy gloom, I could see the pastel shades more clearly. See My End of Days in the Holy Land
While the Muslims prayed at al-Aqsa, below them, a handful of Jewish worshippers showed up at their sacred Western Wall. They were outnumbered by the hundreds of heavily armed police officers filling the plaza adjacent to the Wall. And then it happened. A loud roar, like an approaching tidal wave began to sound out from above. The prayers were over. Suddenly, rocks began to rain upon the open-air synagogue and everyone ran for cover. Two men appeared on the edge of the wall above, throwing stones at the police and waving flags.
The doctors were unable to figure out what was wrong with me, and will continue to conduct tests over the next few days. But the consensus is that the stress and fatigue that we have all suffered from since the end of September may be the culprit. Life during my three years here in the Middle East was never easy, but without a doubt, every day brought with it new and interesting people, sometimes accompanied by excitement and adventure, and often, by more tension.
Since the conflagration began, armed Palestinian men have rushed over to the site after each funeral to vent their fury at the loss of yet another one of their people's lives at the hand of the Israeli occupier. Today, their emotions are more muted, but the fury is still there.
"This is not going to stop," Feras Al-Bakri says. "Because this is our Intifada. There are thousands of martyrs. We are not going to stop. Ariel Sharon started it."
If diplomacy fails here, things could quickly get worse. But this place is like one huge Middle East bazaar where the prices aren’t fixed, negotiations are conducted with passion, loud volume and deceit. You’re never really sure if you’ve gotten the straight goods. We may be headed to a violent resolution of this problem that has festered for over 50 years, or it just may be yet another unpredictable stage in this ongoing oddity we call the “peace process.” Whatever it is, we should all look very carefully before leaping to rash conclusions
Our destination with a television feedpoint to meet up with some of our colleagues. It was on the roof of a five-story building. As we looked out onto the Ramallah cityscape, two Israeli helicopter gunships approached the center of town, and fired missiles at some pre-determined target. The sinister whine of the rockets being launched was far more frightening than the explosion from the
impact. I stood there in utter disbelief, wondering how it had gotten so bad. Two sides that had been discussing peace and co-existence were now wholeheartedly attacking each other.