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It was an ambush of sorts. The orange Opel 1900 was cruising along the highway into the Gaza Strip about two hundred yards ahead of our car, when a Palestinian boy sauntered into the middle of the road. The Opel's driver slowed down to avoid hitting the boy and, as soon as he did, other Palestinian youths hiding in the brush by the side of the road jumped up and pelted the car with stones, totally knocking out its front windshield. The Israeli driver, a stout little fellow wearing blue jeans, white tennis shoes, and a ski vest, was hopping mad. His anger was not just political- Jew versus Arab; it wasn't just that the stone could have killed him or the flying glass blinded him; and it wasn't just that he felt this was his road and no one had a right to assault him on it. It was that some son of a bitch had just broken his windshield, his $250 windshield, and he wanted him dead.
When we pulled up behind his car, we found him in the process of locking and loading an M-16 rifle he had in the trunk, and heading off to hunt down the Palestinian youths, who had evaporated into the adjacent village. But as the man stalked from his Opel up the dirt path on which the Palestinians had fled, he was suddenly confronted with a scene that forced him to freeze in his tracks. Down the path trudged three Palestinian women dressed in long black robes and beating two dozen sheep with canes. It was the most biblical scene one could imagine, the shepherdesses and their flock walking past mud huts framed in palm trees and cactus plants. It easily could have been 1888, or 1288, or 1088
B.c. Nothing much had really changed since the days of Isaac and Ishmael-not the stones and certainly not the passion; only the Opel and the fancy rifle were new. Israeli soldiers on the scene eventually talked the man out of going into the village. We left him sweeping shards of glass off his front seat and muttering to himself, as a young Palestinian woman riding a donkey-driven cart rolled by-no doubt quietly savoring the scene behind her blank stare.
This encounter, which took place early in the intifada, popped into my mind months later when Aluph Hare ven, a prominent Israeli social analyst who specializes in educating for Arab-Jewish coexistence, told me about a conversation his daughter had had with an Israeli taxi driver. His daughter had been discussing with the driver how Israel should respond to the uprising and the driver told her, "You know what we should do? We should take our clubs and hit them over the head, and hit them and hit them and hit them, until theyfinally stop hating us."
The Palestinian intifada set off an equally intense explosion of rage on the Israeli side of the fault line. Unlike the Palestinian explosion, however, the Israeli outburst never acquired a name, but it was there nonetheless. You could see it in the X-rays of the hundreds of Palestinians who had their arms or legs or ribs broken by Israeli soldiers; you could see it in the Palestinian shops, whose doors and windows were kicked in by Israeli soldiers when the owners refused to open during the hours set by the Israeli authorities, and you could count it in the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli soldiers, who were supposed to be shooting at their legs.
The anger that went into the Israeli clubs and bullets was, like that of the Palestinians, fed by several different sources. On one level, many Israelis felt like the homeowner who wakes up one morning and discovers his live-in maid standing in the master bedroom, playing the stereo at full blast, and announcing to the boss that she is not just a faceless object that can be ordered around but that she is an equal-with an equal claim to his house.