Flash point. That’s what the Israelis call the places where Arabs are most likely to be hurling stones. See that intersection over there, I am asked. You are fine as long as you are on this side. They point and say, don’t cross that line.
Look, see that store? I am asked. A nice Arab man owns it. He wishes stones weren’t thrown next to his store. He likes the business from tourists visiting the Mount of Olives and the Jewish families in the area, but what can he alone do?
My guide for the morning points to a typical large green dumpster by the side of the store and tells me that piles of rocks are stored behind it so the Arab youngsters are always ready should something get started. If they see a bus or car full of Jews, they may not even bother to notice or they may begin throwing stones, which can very well lead to injuries and hospital visits.
The Israeli government has been asked to remove this dumpster, but so far, nothing, I am told. Everything is controversial in Israel. Removing this dumpster where Israeli Arabs live could start a riot, could lead to so many more problems than the occasional stone throwing, I am told.
Earlier, while riding in a taxi driven by an Arab who lives part of his year in Israel and part in Houston, we get to talking about the stone throwing. It’s just high school kids, he says. They are on summer break from school and don’t know what to do with themselves.
I am careful not to say too much, unsure of everything since I am just a one-week visitor to an area where I don’t speak the language and only understand the issues intellectually, not as a person who lives them daily. Still, in my own way, I make it known that it is hard for me to understand that one can brush off this stone-throwing as an acceptable way to deal with teenage boredom.
My driver shrugs, and our conversation moves on to how nice the weather is. He can’t be in Texas in the summer, and I am lucky to be away from the D.C. heat, he says.
He and my guide have given me yet another Mideastern life lesson to process as my trip draws to a close.