Olive groves, long a symbol of peace, have become the unlikely focus of a debate about morality in a time of war that has intensified in recent days in Israel.
It’s a clash that pits the little-known Rabbis for Human Rights — founded in 1988 to speak out for social justice, equality and humanity — against a dissident group of rabbis who argue that morality must be compromised in wartime.
Residents of Jerusalem, still reeling from two Palestinian terrorist attacks in six days that killed three Israelis and injured dozens, were anxiously awaiting implementation of a plan proposed this week to increase security in Israel’s capital city.
“The Zionist enterprise cannot survive if Israel becomes the most dangerous place for Jews [to live],” Housing Minister Natan Sharansky ominously told Jewish American leaders here Tuesday.
Jerusalem — Diana Normatov, a Queens College junior, signed up last summer for her first visit to Israel this month. Then she had second thoughts about taking part in the program sponsored by birthright israel. The intifada raged, in Israel and on CNN. Scenes of Palestinian carnage throughout the country scared her and other prospective tourists.
“I was almost not going,” she admits.
Her mother had an opinion. “My mother said ‘no.’ ”
But Diana’s father had the last word; he told her to go.
Israel has embarked on a new strategy in its effort to convince Palestinian President Yasir Arafat to end the violence and return to the negotiating table — seize or destroy Palestinian property. It also positioned tanks to forcibly end regular Palestinian shooting at the residents of Gilo in southeastern Jerusalem.
Clashes erupted this week for the first time between radical Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority, a sign political analysts see as a weakening of Palestinian President Yasir Arafat’s hold on his people even as the popularity of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon rises among Israelis.
In a development that marks a new escalation in the 8-month-old intifada, Palestinians were caught smuggling sophisticated weapons, including anti-aircraft missiles, into Gaza this week, prompting Israeli authorities to take precautionary steps at Ben-Gurion Airport.
All airplanes using Ben-Gurion are being instructed to remain above 7,000 feet until only seven miles from the airport because of the threat from anti-aircraft missiles.