Joel Mowbray

   To an American on his first visit here, Israelis can seem unflappable.  But talk to anyone long enough, and emotions ranging from apprehension to angst come to the fore.  “What most Jews don’t want to verbalize,” notes an Israeli man who emigrated from the U.S. over twenty years ago, “is that they know, deep down, this is never going to stop.”  The high-ranking official in the Jerusalem police force continued, “This has been going on for thousands of years.”  At a jazz nightclub in Tel Aviv Thursday night, an American Jew on his fourth visit here said, “The Holocaust was not of a different kind, but of a different degree.”  The two Israelis at the table with us nodded solemnly in agreement.

  In the United States, parents’ greatest fear for their children is a senseless car accident.  Here it is senseless and savagely brutal mass murder.  One Israeli father told me told me that he gave his 5-year-old son a cell phone as a way to soothe his nerves. “Sometimes, if my son hasn’t called after he should have arrived at school, I call him up, just to hear his voice.” 

  Skepticism is the norm on the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.  Almost no one really believes peace is imminent.  They’ve been teased with the promise of a truly normal life too many times before.  Israelis are, if anything, less amenable to compromise after having been willing to give up so much in the past.  Younger Israelis are slightly more sanguine, but it seems superficial, dissipating if the conversation progresses beyond casual chatting.  When asked if Bush’s visit would accomplish anything, a 23-year-old Israeli woman who works at a beachfront hotel answered, “I hope so.”  After a few minutes, though, she expressed the same sentiment as many others: “Can peace really come?  I doubt it.”

Joel Mowbray

Joel Mowbray, who got his start with, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.

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