Haskel Greenfield, left, a University of Manitoba anthropology professor who is living in east Jerusalem for the year, has found himself in the eye of a storm as violent Arab protests have erupted on his street.
Greenfield is living in residence for the 2007-8 academic year with his
wife and young children at the W.F. Albright Institute of Archeological
The rioting began on March 3 when hundreds of Palestinian teens pelted Israeli cars, police and passersby with stones and rocks on Salah-ed-Din Street in east Jerusalem in the wake of Israeli reprisals in Gaza against Hamas terrorists. Hamas terrorists have been firing Qassam rockets into Sderot and the western Negev, and Grad missiles into Ashkelon.
“The institute is on Salah-ed-Din Street [the main artery in east Jerusalem], which is where the rioting has been occurring. Damascus Gate is right down the street from us,” said Greenfield, an anthropologist and archeologist who is this year’s annual professor at the Albright Institute.
“The riots appear to be co-ordinated and are not spontaneous. They are timed to start around 2 o’clock, just when the Arab teens get out of school. That way they can finish school and run to the riots. The shopkeepers down the street seem to know in advance when the riots will take place,” said Greenfield, who will be returning to Winnipeg in the summer.
The Greenfield family, as well as another family and two other fellows, are the only Jews living in the residences at the institute.
“We never wear a kippah in the area. It is considered dangerous,” he said.
Tina Greenfield, also an archeologist, says that on March 3, “there were two Jerusalem municipal workers who were attacked by east Jerusalem Arabs in rioting right across the street from us. If the municipal workers hadn’t been inside their car when they were attacked, they would have been dead.”
The car with the two city workers was blocked by burning garbage bins after it was pelted with dozens of stones and rocks by half a dozen teens, one of whom jumped on the vehicle and beat the window with a metal bar. The leaders of the attack were arrested by an elite unit of undercover Jerusalem police.
“We got a letter in our mailbox [on March 5] telling us that the American Consulate was warning us that we should be avoiding the area and we should not go near Damascas Gate as there may be more riots,” Tina said.
“The day the riots first broke out [on March 3], we didn’t know about them. None of the residents here knew anything, although the Arab shopkeepers in the area knew. My girlfriend walked into a shop and the Arab shopkeeper told her to turn around and go right back to the institute, as riots were about to break out,” she added.
“We heard some shouting, but that was it,” Haskel said.
Although there has never been a terrorist incident at the Albright Institute, the Israeli Ministry of Justice and the Jerusalem district court right across the street from it have been frequently targeted by Arab rioters, especially during the second intifadah.
“The electric gate to the Albright Institute was open the first few hours of the day that the riot broke out. As soon as the director was informed about the riot, the gates were closed. The institute is generally open to the public. The electric gates to the Israeli Ministry of Justice and district court are always closed and monitored,” says Tina Greenfield.
Founded in 1900, the Albright Institute in Jerusalem is the oldest American research centre for ancient Near Eastern studies in the Middle East. The entrance to the complex faces Salah-ed-Din Street, and the Greenfields drive their car down the street to get in and out daily.
In the aftermath of the riots and the terror attack at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva on March 6, Haskel Greenfield said his family will still continue to walk around Salah-ed-Din and the area, although they are cautious not to reveal their Jewish identity.
“[Palestinian terrorists] lash out at whoever happens to be available at the moment, and that is unpredictable and therefore dangerous. People on the street [in east Jerusalem] and shop owners are generally friendly, as long as you don’t display a Jewish identity. As Canadians, we are more welcome than as Americans. Our German colleagues are even more welcome.”
As for the environment on the Albright campus, Haskel added, “We have made several [Palestinian] acquaintances while here… But, we have only been invited to one home, and this belonged to an Israeli Arab.”
He said that when he first arrived, he tried to engage people on the campus in political conversation, but now he doesn’t bother, because it’s difficult to find “common ground.”