While demonstrators in the north and south were trying to cross fences and borders yesterday, I stood in the shadow cast by a tree that overlooks the Silwan neighborhood in East Jerusalem. The valley below me burned. Smoke from burning tires bellowed angrily. The roads I traveled to reach this berry tree were strewn with stones.
On this site, beneath the tree, Milad Ayyash was killed on Friday, perhaps the first victim of the third intifada. Somebody opened the barred window of the third floor of the marauder house, "Beit Yonatan," situated on the slope beneath us, pulled out a rifle and shot bullets into the boy's stomach from a distance of 20-30 meters. A few minutes before, some boys had tossed Molotov cocktails at "Beit Yonatan." Hours later, Ayyash, 17, drew his last breath in the emergency care unit of Al-Mukassad Hospital. East Jerusalem seemed ready to explode yesterday. Thousands of policemen were poised for action on every hill and beneath every tree. A group of Border Policemen wearing black, threatening uniforms, and covered from head to toe with weapons (tear gas canisters, pistols, metal helmets ) was deployed near me. Atop "Beit Yonatan," the building ordered evacuated long ago by Israel's High Court, roamed several security personnel.
Masked youths throwing stones brought back images of difficult, forgotten days from the first and second intifada uprisings, the third one perhaps just around the corner. Between Silwan and Ras al-Amud there were stretches of road in which our Palestinian chaperones from the B'Tselem human rights organization had to abandon their cars and walk on foot, as though they were human shields. A photographer from the CBS News 60 Minutes program waved his camera to ward away the stones from the masked rock-throwers. This was an intifada moment in Jerusalem.
The mourners canopy was set up outside a pleasant stone house in Ras al-Amud, on a hill overlooking the Temple Mount mosques. Sitting in the canopy were grim-looking men, including Said Ayyash, 57, the victim's father. A thin, dignified man with a moustache, he has a riveting life story: He belonged to a Fatah cell that penetrated Israel from Lebanon in 1975 and planned to carry out a terror attack at Kibbutz Ayalon. He was sentenced to a 25-year prison term and served 10 years behind bars before being released in the Jibril prisoner exchange agreement. In prison, he joined the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and learned to speak fluent Hebrew. After his release, he decided to devote his life to translating books and articles from Hebrew into Arabic. In recent years he has translated for the Israel Palestine Center for Research in Ramallah.
As he sees it, the most important book he ever translated was Yair Sheleg's "The New Religious." For years, on Fridays, he would go fishing in Jaffa with his son Milad. Last Friday, he went fishing alone - Milad decided to stay in Jerusalem to prepare for Nakba Day. That afternoon, friends called Said to tell him that his son had been shot. Yesterday he told us: "It doesn't matter who killed my son. In my eyes, the government of Israel has sole responsibility - the government supports and funds settlers entering the heart of poor, neglected Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem."
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