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Behind the Headlines: After 5 Years of the Intifada, Israelis Have Learned to Adjust

Five years after the start of the intifada, it is impossible to find an Israeli whose life has not been touched by it in one way or another.

To what extent the Palestinian uprising has affected life in Israel differs from place to place and from person to person.

Not surprisingly, those who live in the West Bank or Gaza Strip have felt the fallout more keenly than residents of towns and cities within the “Green Line.” But even in pre-1967 Israel, the uprising has taken a toll on the national psyche.

Yet for most Israelis, living with the uprising has meant only subtle changes in the way they conduct their lives: bypassing a road that runs through an Arab village, no longer stopping for gasoline at an Arab-owned gas station.

“For the most part, living with the intifada has meant business as usual,” said Bob Lange, spokesman of the Yesha Council of Jewish residents of the territories. “At any rate, the intifada didn’t scare people away.”

To prove his point, Lange noted that “in December 1987, when the intifada began, almost 60,000 Jews lived in the territories. Today, that number has risen to 127,000.

“More than anything, this demonstrates Jews’ desire to adjust to the intifada,” he said.

Adjusting is not always easy, however. Following violent clashes between Palestinians and the Israel Defense Force in the Gaza Strip earlier this week, Jewish settlers there said they felt they were living in a war zone.

“More than anything else there is a feeling of war,” Datya Herskovitz, spokeswoman for the Gaza Coast Regional Council, told journalists Monday, following the death of three soldiers in an ambush. “How else do you describe a situation in which soldiers are being shot at?”

“There is no panic in Gaza,” said Lange, who is in constant phone contact with residents there. “There is a little more tension since the shootings, but everyone expected this week, the anniversary of the uprising, to be a week of heightened violence.”

The anniversary Wednesday “will be just like any other day for me,” Antony Ordman of Ma’aleh Adumim, a large West Bank settlement located a few miles outside Jerusalem, said Monday.

“There will be a lot of border police on the road, especially at the entrance to the Arab village of A-Tur, where I expect a roadblock,” he said. He added that he has “reinforced glass on my windows, so if someone throws a rock there shouldn’t be any problem.”

“I need to drive to the city tomorrow, and the fact that it’s the anniversary of the intifada won’t change that,” asserted Leah, a settler from Efrat, in Gush Etzion south of Jerusalem. “My windows are reinforced, as the law here requires, so I’m not afraid.”

“Sure, the violence on the roads is frightening, but there are terrorist attacks on kibbutzim and moshavim, too,” she said. “I believe that my children are more secure in Efrat than kids growing up in a city, and that’s a prime reason why we continue to live here.”

“I’m not really worried about getting a rock through my window,” said Yehudit, a resident of the mixed Jerusalem neighborhood of Abu Tor.

“People on my street worry more about having their cars torched. One side of the street is Jewish, the other Arab, and in the first years of the intifada, several cars went up in flames.”

Even with the torchings, she said, “I feel safe in my neighborhood. I don’t visit East Jerusalem if I can help it, but other than that, I don’t give the intifada much thought one way or the other.”

This view is shared by Lisa, a teacher in Tel Aviv. “Of course, I read about the uprising in newspapers and watch it on the 9 o’clock news,” she said, “but my own life hasn’t been affected, thank God. Sitting here, looking out at the beach, it’s hard to believe that there’s so much violence happening just a few miles away.”

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