© St. Petersburg Times, published April 18, 2002
JERUSALEM -- Many foreign journalists covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict stay in full-service hotels such as the King David, in the city's Jewish section, or the American Colony, in the Arab part of town.
But some, like photographer Paolo Vince Gerace, opt for hostels so they can do their own cooking.
"I am Italian, so I need the food," explains Gerace, who is free-lancing for a large daily newspaper in Milan, Corriere Della Sera.
Even after a long day's work, Gerace returns to his hostel in the Old City of Jerusalem and fixes spaghetti with tomato sauce. The Arab markets nearby "have very fresh vegetables," he says. But showing he isn't more partial to one side than the other, Gerace prefers the heftier Israeli bread to the flat Arab variety.
Speaking of food, you have to be careful how you pronounce certain words in this very tense region. A case in point: hummus, the Middle Eastern dish made of chickpeas, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice and a paste derived from sesame seeds.
Israeli troops have blocked all roads leading into Bethlehem, where some 200 Palestinian gunmen are holed up in the Church of the Nativity. The only way to get into the city is to go to nearby Beit Jala, where there are no soldiers on the main road, only a big pile of debris blocking the way. Journalists have to climb over the mound and catch taxis on the other side to take them to Bethlehem.
Among the residents who have started their own taxi services is Ramses Kayseea, locally renowned for his exceptionally tasty hummus.
"Ramses, you make hummus?" an American photographer asked.
Kayseea, who is Christian, looked aghast. He thought the photographer was asking if he was a member of Hamas, the Islamic terrorist group that has killed dozens of Israelis.
A translator quickly straightened out the confusion, and a relieved looking Kayseea had a good laugh. And, yes, he makes excellent hummus.
Although the second intifada has thrown many Israelis and Palestinians out of work, demand for scratch-off lottery tickets is as strong as ever. (The lottery here is run by a private company, not the government.)
"I sell dreams," says Kamel Mughradi, whose shop near the Old City gets plenty of customers willing to pay up to 30 shekels -- about $6.25 -- for a chance to win up to 500,000 shekels (about $105,000).
And dreams sometimes come true. A month ago, a customer won 250,000 shekels -- and gave Mughradi a 25,000 shekel tip.
Is the term "suicide bomber" a misnomer?
Yes, says an expert on Hamas, the terrorist group.
"With so-called suicide bombers, all three aspects of these attacks are exactly the reverse of what would be expected in a true suicide," says Raphael Israeli, a professor at Jerusalem's Hebrew University.
First, he said, the bombers don't seem to suffer from depression or have overwhelming personal problems that would drive them to kill themselves: "Instead, they want to kill others and maximize the number of deaths."
Second, the bombing is not solely the act of an individual, but one that is planned and financed by an organization.
And third, the bombings bring no shame to the family. "Instead, the family receives a lot of visitors," praise and even money, Israeli notes.
"Suicide bomber" was initially used by the Israeli government after the 1993 Oslo peace agreement with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Afraid of sabotaging Oslo by suggesting Palestinians were continuing carefully planned terrorist attacks, Israel's leaders decided to paint the bombings as the work of "half crazy, unpredictable" individuals, Israeli said.
"If they admit it was an organization, why not go after them and dispatch them?"
What changed Israel's attitude was President Bush's reaction to the Sept. 11 suicide hijackings. With the hijackers themselves dead, Bush decided to target al-Qaida, the organization that had trained and financed them.
"Then it clicked here," Israeli said of his own country, "that we have to go after the organizations that are sending these people to kill us." Hence, the Israeli military offensive in the West Bank to stamp out the "infrastructure of terrorism."
If they are not "suicide bombers," then what to call them? White House spokesman Ari Fleischer came up with an alternative last week: "homicide bombers."
-- Susan Taylor Martin can be contacted at email@example.com.