- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 3, 2001

JERUSALEM Beneath the golden Dome of the Rock, one of Islam's holiest shrines, an odd scene unfolded: Young Israeli soldiers padded about in their socks, looking out of place but scarcely drawing a glance from the bearded Arab men seated on the floor, reading the Koran.

As part of army training, the Jewish soldiers were getting a lesson in Islamic history, politely leaving guns and boots outside to enter the 1,300-year-old mosque with its tiles of lemon and sky blue.

The military field trip in the middle of last year seemed a fitting gesture of cultural sensitivity while Israelis and Palestinians were trying to negotiate an end to a century of conflict.

But on Sept. 29, 2000, Israeli security forces were once again at the compound sacred to Muslims and Jews, this time facing thousands of Muslim protesters, seething over a visit a day earlier by Ariel Sharon, then Israel's opposition leader and now prime minister.

Israeli troops fatally shot six Palestinians and wounded about 200 in the clashes. Jerusalem, the eternal city of seemingly eternal conflict, was once again at the center of a Mideast conflagration.

Israel says the visit was used as a pretext for a planned assault aimed at winning more than was offered at the negotiating table. Palestinians say Israel's harsh repression of protests triggered a spontaneous uprising. A year later, a tenuous truce has been forged under American pressure, spurred by the massive terrorist attacks in New York and on the Pentagon on Sept. 11.

But Israelis and Palestinians remain sharply divided on the future of Jerusalem. Mr. Sharon claims the whole city as Israel's undivided capital, while the Palestinians want the traditionally Arab eastern sector for their future capital. And tourism, the lifeblood of the city's economy, has run dry.

"When there are no tourists, there is no work," said Palestinian Mohammed Kilani, 58, a hotel worker whose job has been scaled back to one day a week. "When there's no work, there's no money. And when there's no money, life here is very hard."

On a recent Friday, Mr. Kilani was among 5,000 worshippers who ascended the steps of the mosque compound Muslims call the Haram as-Sharif and Jews call the Temple Mount down from a typical 25,000 before the Palestinian uprising began.

On a stone wall, a faded poster offers tribute to Adnan Jaddeh, 23, killed on the first day of the riots. Beneath it, Mr. Jaddeh's brother Osama Jaddeh, 26, explained how that day changed his life.

At the time, Osama Jaddeh worked in an Israeli print shop, earning $1,200 a month. After his brother's death, he felt he could no longer work with Israelis.

The Israelis at the shop said they were sorry about his brother's death, but Mr. Jaddeh still quit. He now earns less than half his old salary delivering bottled water for a Palestinian company.

"I don't want to work with Israelis. I'm not ready to shake hands. I don't even like to see them," he said.

Outside the Old City, a few noisy blocks into Jewish West Jerusalem, stands the Sbarro pizzeria, where a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up Aug. 9 at the peak of the lunchtime crush, killing 15 persons.

In the days after, Israelis placed flowers and candles next to the blown-out windows, while workmen renovated the charred interior. A month later, Sbarro reopened.

"It's wonderful to see how quickly it's been rebuilt," said Sarah Journo, 19, a secretary who rushed to the scene when the bomb went off. She ate at the restaurant two days before the bombing and had no fear of returning.

Following the bombing, many restaurants placed security guards at their doors. Business at restaurants, bars and shops is down throughout the city, particularly in the crowded center.

A few blocks from Sbarro is a major police compound where officers are seated before telephones that seem to never stop ringing and radios that never stop squawking.

Every day, they receive some 400 calls from Jerusalem residents who believe they have seen a bomb or a suspicious person. That's up from about 150 a year ago, but each report is still checked by officers who often clear the area and neutralize bombs.

Often the panic is caused by someone who absentmindedly left behind a bag. Still, the police take no chances. They routinely close streets and set off a controlled explosion only to discover that they have blown up someone's lunch.

"The workload has doubled, but the number of police haven't," said Avi Sabag, the officer in charge of the center.

"47 Dead in Jerusalem Riot; Attacks by Arabs Spread." The headline is from the Aug. 29, 1929, edition of The New York Times, and the gray clipping hangs in the hallway of the American Colony Hotel in east Jerusalem.

That tempest began at precisely the same spot as the current upheaval, the mosque compound that is bordered on one side by the Western, or Wailing Wall. With a few minor changes, the story from 72 years ago could stand today:

"Centering on the ancient remnants of Solomon's Temple, known as the Wailing Wall, sacred shrine to Jews all over the world, trouble started at noon yesterday," the story begins.

"Rioting spread and soon got beyond control. Hospitals were crowded with the injured. The authorities, who proclaimed martial law, barred the populace from the streets after 6 o'clock tonight. Twelve were killed and 110 injured in the first phase of the fighting. …"

From the gracious old hotel, it's again just a short walk to Elia Photo Service, a small shop in the Christian quarter where black-and-white photos of Jerusalem in the 1930s hang in the window.

Kevork Kahvedjian, an Armenian immigrant, began taking pictures in the city in the 1920s and kept shooting for the next four decades.

His grandson Ruben has taken over the shop, and business was thriving last year after Pope John Paul II visited the city's holy sites, boosting tourism to record levels until the violence erupted.

"We never had it so good as the period from 1997 to 2000," Mr. Kahvedjian said. Now tourists have been scared off, and business is down more than 50 percent.

Mr. Kahvedjian opens a glass case and points to his grandfather's pictures from the 1930s. That also was a time of tension, but the photographer captured moments of cooperation. In one photo, a Jewish shoe repairman works on a pile of old shoes while an Arab customer waits patiently.

"These people were poor, and things weren't perfect, but people were living together," said Mr. Kahvedjian, who is retracing his grandfather's steps to take pictures at many of the same sites. "I don't see these kind of scenes today."

At the Western Wall plaza beneath the mosque compound volunteers from Cardio-Start, a British-based organization that has sent a team to perform two dozen open-heart operations on Palestinians, are visiting the famed sites of Jerusalem.

Dr. Aubyn Marath, a British surgeon, has diagnosed a diseased spirit in the holy city.

"This is the epicenter of three major religions this should be the most beautiful place on earth. But it's the opposite," he said. "I don't see any peace, or even anyone espousing peace. I see lots of angry, aggressive, hostile looks. Lots of glares. It's filled with violence and hate."

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