Joshua Wander was driving on the Jerusalem road he's always taken home from work this month when the vehicles around him screeched to a halt and blocked his path.
"It was an ambush," the 50-year-old medic said. "I managed to swerve around and break their blockade, but an Arab driver smashed straight into my car and the next thing I knew, 30 Arab rioters were surrounding me throwing rocks."
Wander, who lives in a mixed east Jerusalem neighborhood of Arabs and Jews, has grown accustomed to hostile stares, but not physical assaults, he said. That changed during the most recent violence, which shocked Israelis with its sectarian violence in multiethnic towns such as Lod, Acre and Haifa.
Mobs torched synagogues, mosques, homes and businesses and led to dozens of injuries and a handful of deaths. Early on in the conflict, Israeli police said they had arrested more than 400 people across the country in riots and civil disturbances.
"I believe something important has been broken here," Bassam Eid, a Palestinian human rights activist, said in an interview. "And it won't be repaired in a day or a year."
The cease fire between Israel and Hamas militants halted the 11-day exchange of rocket attacks and airstrikes, at least temporarily. At least 230 Palestinians have been killed, including 64 children, since the fighting began, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. In Israel, officials said 12 people, including a 5-year-old boy and 16-year-old girl, were killed.
Civilians said one of the most troubling legacies of the fighting would be the attacks that pitted neighbor against neighbor in areas where Jews and Arabs had previously lived together in relative calm, keeping alive a fragile vision of coexistence.
In a scene described by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin as a "pogrom," hundreds of residents in Lod marched through the city with Palestinian flags and set fire to cars, Jewish homes and a synagogue on May 10.
In an apparent revenge attack in the Tel Aviv suburb of Bat Yam, a group of ultranationalist Israelis pulled a man from a car who they thought was Arab and beat him until he lay motionless and bloodied. In another incident, Jewish extremists marched down the main street, smashing Arab-owned businesses and shouting "death to Arabs."
Violent rioting by Arabs also erupted in Jerusalem, Haifa, and other cities, and an Arab mob assaulted a Jewish resident of Acre, leaving him in critical condition. A Jewish man in Tamra was stabbed and almost burned alive in his car.
Rivlin urged local and religious leaders to "stop the madness" on the streets of Jewish-Arab cities. "We are dealing with a civil war between us without any reason," he said.
Approximately 21% of Israel's population is Israeli Arab, according to a 2019 estimate by the country's Central Bureau of Statistics. In interviews, Israelis said the events of the last two weeks have led them to think differently about their neighbors and the prospect of Jews and Arabs living peacefully side by side.
David Ben Moshe, an online personal trainer who emigrated from Maryland four years ago, said the latest spate of violence has left him worried for his family's safety.
"A rocket landed a few kilometers from my home on the exact spot where I had gone running just three hours earlier," he said of a trail in the Jerusalem forest.
Living under rocket fire "is like living with a constant awareness of impending tragedy," he said. "Instead of discussing the weather, we talk about the rockets raining from the sky." When he takes his two children to the park, he scans for cover and plans an escape route.
Yet the violence by Arab Israelis was more troubling than the rockets, said Ben Moshe. "We can only live in a state with citizens who respect each other, no matter what their beliefs are," he said. "It's unacceptable to allow anyone to march through our streets burning synagogues and attacking Jews."
"I hope the ceasefire brings peace," he said, "but I doubt it."
Ghassan Munayyer, a Lod-based activist, said the veneer of coexistence has concealed deeper disparities, including in housing and infrastructure. He compared local Arab neighborhoods to “refugee camps.”
“The Jews love saying there’s coexistence. They go out to eat in an Arab restaurant and they call it coexistence,” he said. “But they don’t see Arabs as equal human beings who have rights that they have to respect.”
The latest conflict followed Israeli efforts to evict Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in east Jerusalem as well as police raids into the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.
Hamas, which rules the Gaza strip but is designated a terror organization by Israel and the U.S., launched a barrage of nearly 4,400 rockets towards Israel. The Jewish state countered with airstrikes on Gaza.
Yossi Krichely, a Jewish businessman and longtime resident of Petach Tikva, said his mistrust has grown as a result of the violence. "The Arabs started the violence. They can come to our cities and nothing will happen to them. But if we go their cities, it could be the end of us. There's no symmetry here."
Eid, the Palestinian activist, said he now remains indoors after 2 p.m. in his east Jerusalem neighborhood to avoid any nighttime clashes.
"The relationship between Israelis and Arabs in Israel took almost 73 years to build, and Hamas succeeded in destroying within 10 days. The big loser here is the Israeli Arabs more than anyone," he said, though he added, "life for the Israeli Arab in Israel is better than it would be in any Arab country. Here their rights are protected by law."
The "unprecedented" fighting on the streets of Israeli and Arab cities will likely be the most enduring and damaging result of the latest clash, said Steven David, a political science professor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and author of several books on international security.
He attributed the uprising in part to long simmering Palestinian grievances that came to a boil.
"Palestinians felt their future was bleak," David said. "A number of Arab countries were now recognizing Israel, which is something they didn't think would happen until they had a Palestinian state. Many of them feel like second-class citizens."
While a cease fire will take hold, he said, "sadly, I think the mistrust and conflict will persist for years."
"When you have two separate nations intermingled together, in the same cities, and one group sees the other as a threat, it's not a formula for coexistence. It's quite troubling."
Uri Pilichowski, a Jewish educator who moved from Fair Lawn, New Jersey, to the West Bank town of Mitzpe Yericho, said he used to believe in grassroots cooperation. He had close friendships with Palestinians, he said. But during the latest confrontation, he lost friends because "I firmly believe that Israel has a right to defend itself."
"The riots in Israeli mixed cities was the straw that broke the camel's back for me."
"We watched Arabs we previously trusted march down Israeli city streets screaming 'Kill the Jews,' burning synagogues and dropping bricks on Jews' heads. We are sharing this land. It's better to share this land peacefully than to needlessly kill each other, but at the same time, I have to teach my children that they can't trust an Arab they don't know."
"I don't see a way to move forward from this."
Rays of hope
In spite of the recent violence, some Israelis remain optimistic, envisioning a future in which Jews and Arabs can live together in harmony.
Some took heart after a 58-year-old Arab Christian woman received a life-saving kidney transplant from the 56-year-old Jewish man killed in the brick attack in Lod. The woman said the victim's wife was “like family now,” the Jerusalem Post said.
Nasreen Haddad Haj-Yahya, an Arab native of another mixed Israeli town, Ramle, said “Jews and Arabs lived together in Israel before the riots and will continue to live together afterwards – no one is going anywhere."
“There are many rays of hope in the dark – awareness and solidarity expressed by leading corporations, and spontaneous initiatives by both Jewish and Arab citizens," said Haj-Yahya, the director of the Arab-Jewish Relations Program at the Israel Democracy Institute.
Rachel Sharansky Danziger, a Jewish educator in Jerusalem, said that while there's been a loss of trust, she also sees "expressions of genuine good will... So many Jews helped their Arab neighbors during the riots and vice-versa. So many Jewish and Arab nurses and doctors worked together to treat the wounded – all the wounded. So many friendships held."
These things remind her, she said, "that coexistence is not a dream but a reality of life here now."
This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: Israel, Palestine ceasefire: Hamas violence still exists