Riots on the train tracks–watching the start-up to the war

By Kate Simmons

It was my eighth day in Israel.  And along the train tracks that I used almost daily, I witnessed the beginning of a national rage  that was soon to trigger a war.20140701_183338_51832 (4)

I watched as Jewish citizens in Jerusalem  stood on the tracks yelling in anger with hate in their eyes after the discovery of the three Jewish teenager bodies.

Eventually I was to witness rage boil over on both the Palestinian and Jewish side of the tracks.

At the Jaffa Center train stop, a group described as right-winged Jewish extremists lined the tracks chanting anti-Arab slogans and signaling threats to
Palestinians sitting inside the stopped trains.20140701_190435_146598 (1) (1)

The police were forced to guide Palestinians to safety as angry Jewish crowds threatened their safety.

Hours later, at the Palestinian Shuafat train stop, tensions rose even higher as the night turned into morning and a 15-year-old Palestinian boy was found murdered and burned. Palestinians immediately blamed the Israeli Jews.

Some of my journalism classmates began following the breaking developments on Twitter.  We were drawn to the scene and instinct told us to check it out.IMG_4035

The Shuafat train stop, which originally had been built to connect some of Jerusalem’s Palestinian villages with the Jewish city center, had suddenly become a symbol of Israeli occupation. The masked Palestinians first took their anger out on the train stop, destroying the terminal and signs around it.  Then they began burning tires and throwing stones at Israeli soldiers who were patrolling the area.

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With its train stop  destroyed,  we found ourselves forced to walk along the tracks in the heat of the day in order to get a better view of the anger spilling over into this Palestinian village.

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I admit to being nervous as we arrived. But I saw myself as an observer and allowed myself to get closer to the scene.

The action, that seemed intense and frightful before we got there, turned out to be a smaller group than I expected. There were 20 Palestinians, all male, throwing stones at the soldiers who were positioned in a distance.  Interestingly, from my vantage point, most of the rocks seemed to fall short of the soldiers’ position.

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None-the-less, every so often the tear gas and stun grenades could be seen flying in the direction of the young Palestinians. I was caught off guard as one landed closer to us than I expected. The loud booming sound shocked me to my senses. It reminded me that there was a violent protests unfolding in front of me.
We left the scene after an hour or so to regroup.  I left behind me a scene of gunfire, tear gas, injuries and arrests. This show of anger was taking place right in my own back yard.  It was just one train stop from our dorms.

The past two nights since the start of the riots I have gone to sleep to the sounds of gunfire and sirens, it is like they simultaneously go together one after another.  While those have become my daily sounds, I wait now and wonder if  they’ll one day be replaced by the sounds of the train stopping in Shuafat — taking its riders to the center of Jerusalem once again.

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