The coronavirus pandemic has ended in Israel. And the new normal is old knowledge. After more than a year with Covid-19 hogging the news, which had brought images of empty streets amid severe lockdowns and the vaccination campaign with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, in recent days we have seen scenes violent clashes involving Israelis and Palestinians.
As usual, nothing that involves this conflict is formed by a single layer. The new escalation of tension includes factors ranging from legal disputes between a handful of families to unhealed historic social trauma. However, it has only exploded now because we are facing a perfect storm situation.
Starting by defeating the pandemic itself. This week, Israel recorded, for the first time since the start of the coronavirus crisis, less than 1,000 new cases, and the number continues to decline. With most of the population vaccinated, masks were no longer mandatory in open areas, public demonstrations and religious gatherings were once again allowed, and the population had the courage to leave home.
Summer is approaching in the northern hemisphere. Longer, hotter days and the end of the school year also contribute to a mass of young people occupying and staying in the city. The timing ended up coinciding with the month of Ramadan, in which the Muslim population becomes more visible to predominantly Jewish Israeli society.
The celebrations mix religious and political character, arouse fear and arouse suspicion from the police, which intensifies their presence, especially in Jerusalem, where the Al-Aqsa Mosque is located, in what is considered an affront.
On the Jewish side, on Monday (10), Jerusalem Day was celebrated, which in the official Israeli language marks its “reunification”. This is how the state refers to the conquest of the eastern part of the city, where the Temple Mount is located, the holiest place in Judaism, which took place in 1967, during the Six Day War. .
On this day, thousands of young religious nationalist Jews enter a territory where they do not normally circulate, mainly inhabited by Palestinian Arabs. Singing, dancing and carrying Israeli flags, in a gesture which is also seen as provocative.
Despite evoking “reunification”, the protest reveals, on the other hand, that the city remains deeply divided and is the site of conflict, involving not only Israelis and Palestinians, but also Jews and Muslims who live far away.
Added to this is the frustration of social sectors from one side to the other who aspire to change. On the one hand, the extension of the mandate of Binyamin Netanyahu for 12 years, and the deadlock in the formation of the new Israeli government, after four elections in less than two years, and, on the other hand, the postponement of the Palestinian legislature elections, announced by the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, after more than 15 years, they have led other political actors to compete for space.
The great tragedy is that the joint work of Arabs and Jews in hospitals across the country has been fundamental to the success of managing the coronavirus crisis. Joint efforts to mobilize the population have raised bursts of hope in the social sectors committed to democracy. It remains to be seen whether the pragmatism of Arab-Jewish ties strengthened last year that defeated Covid-19 will also be enough to defeat the growth of radicalism and rule out nationalist projects.