Many cities of the West Bank sound like a Bible lesson: Bethlehem, Jericho, Hebron, Nazareth. But peace on Earth is still out of reach, and today's children of Israel now find themselves on the other side of a continuing David and Goliath story. Palestinian youths are throwing stones at an Israeli Goliath dressed in army fatigues and carrying an Uzi.
Played out on the airwaves of the world, the Palestinian uprising is reversing Israel's image. Lt. Col. Arik Gordin, an Israeli Defense Force spokesman told a group of American journalists, "We are dealing not only with trouble on the street but with public relations, something we're not trained to do. When you have the army against people, you cannot get good stories - it comes out terrible on TV."Gordin explained what happens when Palestinian youths come up against Israeli youths in the army: "This is a generation born into the Israeli reality. A soldier is told stories about his sister in good Hebrew."
During the journalists' visit to the West Bank, the battalion commander at division headquarters in Ramallah, told about a typical day. Giving only his first name, Nuri, he said, "At half past three (a.m.) we visit villages and will visit four or five villages till half past six. We will wait then until they go to work so the PLO can't keep them in the village. At 8 a.m. the shops will open and we will patrol the main roads - especially where they last threw stones - until the last bus about midnight. Then we will sleep about two hours."
The soldiers might clean villages of the outlawed PLO flags and inscriptions and search for weapons. Nuri said the past Friday there had been a Molotov cocktail thrown, on Saturday a grenade. "This is no different than what we did in '67. It's another way of war," he said.
Where the city of Ramallah fronts the main road from Jerusalem, high fences have been erected to keep rocks from being thrown at passing vehicles. On most days, the streets are deserted with Arab shops shuttered tight as directed by the leadership of the uprising.
"They use children to distribute the announcement and some days there are conflicting instructions. So most open their doors halfway and wait to see what happens," Nuri said.
Kibbutzniks living in the West Bank watched closely how Jerusalem Arabs traveled. Arabs driving north from Jerusalem often traveled at night with one headlight out to identify themselves so their cars wouldn't be stoned. During the day, a keffiyeh or Arab headdress was placed on the dashboard. Israelis were soon driving with the same identification.
As the uprising goes into its second year, the pressure for settlement mounts.
Jerusalem attorney Zayad Abu Zayad, is the editor of Gesher, (Hebrew for `bridge') the only Palestinian publication in Hebrew. Zayad said, "There must be a Palestinian state alongside the Israeli state. I was born here, my family is here, don't deny me the right to have my own state."
The columnist for Ma'ariv, Joseph Lapid, stated the dilemma of the `territories' quite well: "Ultimately, we will have to give up the land. We can't have a democratic state ruling people who hate our guts and we can't have a binational state without losing our Jewish identity."
But it isn't as simple as just giving up the West Bank and Gaza Strip either. At its narrowest pre-1967 borders, Israel is 10 miles wide at Netanya just north of Tel Aviv. Israel would be militarily vulnerable if the entire West Bank is returned.
Solutions proposed range from the ultra-Orthodox's euphemistic "transfer" of the Arab population out of Israel entirely to "territorial concessions within the range of adequate security measures," as Labor's rising star Novik Nimrod stated.
Benny Begin, Menachem Begin's son who is now a member of the Knesset, reminded the American visitors, "One mistake and it's all over for us. The United States does not defend itself from its borders but from Europe, the Philippines and submarines."
"I don't want to see Arabs do to Jews what they are doing to Arabs," said columnist Lapid, referring to the the 20,000 Palestinians killed by Hussein in a PLO uprising in Jordan. "Would you allow an enemy state to be created across the Potomac River? Would you accept the risk you are asking us to accept? What are you going to do if it doesn't work?" Lapid queried. "Some of you would set up orphanages for our children."