In the building where the Jewish Gabay family lives, some doorframes have a mezuzah posted on them, a capsule containing Torah verses to protect the family. Just a few doors down, Arab words are written on the wall. The four-story building is home to 16 families – nine Jewish and seven Arab.
All the neighbors used to meet in the staircase when the rocket sirens would go off. They would wait together, say several residents, for the siren to fall silent, meaning it was safe to return to their apartments. This time, though, it was different, they say. Everyone decided they would rather stay in their own apartments than run into each other in the staircase.
“I ran into one of my Arab neighbors,” says Gil Gabay. “He had a wound on his head from an Israeli police projectile.” She thought she could see recrimination on his face. “He looked at me furiously, as if I had something to do with his injury.”
Jews are now suddenly seen as representatives of the Israeli police, while Arab Israelis are looked at as an extension of Hamas.
“We neighbors have always had a good relationship,” says Muhamed Khalili, a 36-year-old Palestinian, who lives on the second floor of House 9 with his wife and four children. “But now, I told my family: Don’t go into the staircase when the rocket siren goes off. I don’t know what the Jews think of us.” Maybe, Khalili says, they think he is responsible for the burned-out cars outside. It’s safer, he says, to stay home.