The stabbing attack of a woman outside of the Rami Levy supermarket in the Etzion Bloc on October 28, 2015, will require a special investigation.
According to Western logic, including Israelis’, Palestinians have a vested interest in keeping their jobs in stores and factories near the Jewish settlements in the territories. Common wisdom generally believes that cooperation between Palestinians and Israelis must be a role model and encouraged, not a target for attack.
But some Palestinians – including the Palestinian Authority – see things differently. They fear that being involved in economic cooperation with Israelis will alienate the Palestinian people from “the struggle” and therefore must be prevented. This includes the Rami Levy stores.
It is important to recall that as soon as the Etzion Bloc complex opened, Palestinian police put up checkpoints, confiscated the shopping bags of Palestinians and chased the workers. The Palestinian Authority is also opposed to workers who work in Israeli industrial zones in the West Bank.
Therefore, Israel’s policy of positive economic gestures may convince the West of its good intentions, but the Palestinian Authority itself is opposed to these gestures and sees them as an obstacle to maintaining their struggle against Israel.
Five years ago when the Rami Levy supermarket opened in the Etzion Bloc, my wife and I published an article, Middle East Coexistence? On Aisle Two, Next to the Cornflakes.
We wrote then:
Every customer – Jew, Christian, Muslim – gets “wanded” with a metal detector by a security guard on the way into the store. Once through the door, though, I’ve experienced an occasional “traffic jam” of grocery carts. Some Arab families – often a whole family on a sightseeing trip in their holiday finery – just freeze while they take in the sight.
Press accounts … portray the situation in the West Bank as bleak and insoluble. Perhaps that’s why I was in awe on my first visit, when I saw Palestinian families and Israeli “settlers” mingling in the aisles, thumping the watermelons and squeezing the plums. My checkout cashier was a Jewish woman from Kiryat Arba of Moroccan descent, on the cash register next to her was a blue-eyed Muslim woman from Halhul, and working the register behind me was a member of the Bnei Menashe tribe from India who had formalized her conversion to Judaism.
Today, the Etzion Bloc junction has become a major shopping area for Jews and Palestinians. It is located on a key road linking Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Hebron, and Palestinian and Israeli cars share the road and parking lots. Besides the Rami Levy supermarket, there are restaurants, a gas station, a nursery, camping store, used car lot, appliance store and more. I was at my car repair garage there today where Palestinians and Jews work together. Arab and Jewish businessmen meet for coffee at English Cake Café next door. Another section of the shopping complex will open soon with a Super Sol market and several clothing stores.
Arabs and Jews work together and shop together; the latest violence will keep both communities wary for a while – as it did after three Israeli teens were abducted and shot nearby in 2014 – but they cautiously return.
Five years ago, a Palestinian official in charge of boycotting economic cooperation with Israel visited the Rami Levy market to view her enemy. She found all her relatives, neighbors and acquaintances there purchasing their needs for the week.
As Jewish homemakers prepare for the Sabbath, some will return to the meat counter to ask the Arab worker with the sharp knife for the best cut of meat for the traditional cholent dish.
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Lenny Ben-David is the Jerusalem Center’s Director of Publications. Ben-David served 25 years in senior posts in AIPAC in Washington and Jerusalem. He served as Israel’s Deputy Chief of Mission in the Embassy in Washington D.C.
Pinhas Inbari is a veteran Arab affairs correspondent who formerly reported for Israel Radio and Al Hamishmar newspaper, and currently serves as an analyst for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.