Frayed nerves: The local impact of the Palestine-Israel conflict

Restaurant partners and a translator take a look at the conflict from their personal point of view

Jalil Dabit (l.) and Oz Ben David run Kanaan in northeast Berlin.
Jalil Dabit (l.) and Oz Ben David run Kanaan in northeast Berlin.Boaz Arad

Berlin-Oz Ben David sounds sleepy on the phone. He owns Kanaan, a restaurant in Prenzlauer Berg, and is constantly watching the news on the escalation in his native Israel.

"I've hardly slept," says the 40-year-old, who is worried about friends and family in the Middle East. Many Israelis and Palestinians in Berlin - and Israel - feel the same way. "You can't talk to almost anyone who isn't affected."

Ben David is a local example of cooperation between the fronts: his restaurant partner is Jalil Dabit, a Palestinian who is also his business partner on farms in Israel. But the conflict doesn't hurt their relationship: "If anything, it makes us stronger."

The sudden escalation also caught Ben David by surprise.

Quedlinburg to Israel

"It was a spark that lit a fire, from zero to a thousand in two days," the restaurateur says, adding that this time it was different from previous conflicts: "It's about much more, even more than the situation of Palestinians in Gaza, Jerusalem and other cities, it's about many grievances in the country that need to be addressed."

In Germany, he said, people hardly realise how lucky they are to live in peace.

Translator Ruth Achlama lives in Tel Aviv. Born in Quedlinburg in 1945, the German-Israeli has lived in Israel since 1974 and has developed a certain routine.

"We had alarms three times last night and twice during the night," she says. "We then go to the protected stairwell, like the neighbours, and wait until you don't hear any more boom-boom."

Stop sharing propaganda

When leaving the house, she always keeps an eye out for protective doorways or rooftops. In Tel Aviv, most missiles are intercepted, but that's not always possible in settlements closer to the Gaza Strip, she says.

"The closest impact was in a neighbouring town," Achlama says. "What's even closer to us is the resurgence of hatred between Jews and Arabs." Even in cities where the two groups lived largely peacefully together, such as Haifa or Jaffa.

Ben David is concerned about the many videos currently circulating on social media that could incite young people on both sides.

"I also ask Germans not to share propaganda videos, no matter from whom, and to inform themselves thoroughly beforehand," says the Israeli. He reminds people on his restaurant's Instagram page to check facts  - and reminds Europe of its historical responsibility. "There are no good guys and bad guys in this story."

He's not worried about his restaurant.

"I feel safe here, my concern is more how to get this hatred out of people's minds again," he says. "Don't protest against Israel or for Palestine, but for peace."

His partner Dabit, who is currently in Israel, agrees.

"The situation is not new, but the reaction is," says the 39-year-old Arab, "on both sides people are reacting more and more extreme, and the normal people and political leaders don't say anything about it."

Although almost everyone has been vaccinated, many are worn down.

Ruth Achlama

He hopes the situation will improve soon: "We've been bombing each other for years."

Some were just waiting for a reason for violence, especially in cities with both Israelis and Arabs. In Ramla, where Dabit is staying, it is still quiet, he says, hoping that no radicals from outside will come.

In Israel, translator Achlama hopes the conflict could calm down within a week, after several religious holidays had passed, and that it will not be as hard as in 2014, when there were 50 days of war over Gaza.

"We hope this nightmare will subside. Culture had just restarted," she says. Her translations inclue Amos Oz and she has even been awarded Germany's Cross of Merit.

On Monday, she was at a Goethe Institut event, the first in 14 months, and now cultural happening are being canceled again. Among many political and social reasons, corona may also be to blame for the situation, Achlama says.

"Although almost everyone has been vaccinated, many are worn down. Nerves are frayed."

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