DAVID GREENE, HOST:
The Israeli-Palestinian stalemate is known for both short, hot wars and long, violent periods of uprising. Over the last decade, there have also been significant periods of calm, at least by Israeli standards. But even in these so-called quiet times, the low-level violence continues. One reason is revenge. But that is not the only reason, as NPR's Emily Harris reports.
EMILY HARRIS, BYLINE: Israeli Chaya Wasserman can't forget the date her husband was killed, April 25.
CHAYA WASSERMAN: It was my birthday.
HARRIS: Her 52nd birthday. This was 2008, a time of relative calm in the conflict. The second Palestinian uprising had long faded. Israel was not fighting a war with Hamas.
WASSERMAN: My husband asked me if it's OK to celebrate in a restaurant.
HARRIS: She liked that idea. The celebration was planned for the evening. But early that morning, news broke of a terror attack. Immediately, Wasserman called her husband.
WASSERMAN: And he didn't answer me. And we had an agreement that if I call him, he must answer me. And when he didn't answer me, I understand that he is not alive.
HARRIS: She was right. Eli Wasserman worked security at an Israeli industrial zone in the West Bank. A Palestinian gunman fatally shot him as he started his shift, early on his wife's birthday. Let's take a look at another death. An Israeli soldier killed a Palestinian teenager who'd been throwing rocks at a military post. This was July 2015 - again, a period of relative calm. But the night before, Israeli settlers had set fire to a Palestinian home, killing a baby and his parents and badly burning another child. This outraged 15-year-old Palestinian Laith Khaldi, says his mother Samira.
SAMIRA KHALDI: Laith was very much angry in the morning. And he told us - Mama, why did they burn the whole family? And he put the picture of the baby on his profile on Facebook. And he write over it, God can help us, (speaking Arabic) in Arabic.
HARRIS: Later, Laith went with friends to an Israeli military post, a lone concrete tower. They threw rocks at it and ran, Laith's mother says.
KHALDI: He was running away when they killed him. He was shooted (ph) in his back.
HARRIS: A Palestinian autopsy found the bullet went in Laith's back and out his stomach. The Israeli military says Palestinians threw fire bombs as well as rocks. To tally the deaths in these so-called quiet times, NPR got numbers of Israelis killed from the Israeli Foreign Ministry and numbers of Palestinians killed from the United Nations.
We looked at over a decade in Israel and the occupied territories, filtering out times of war and uprising. Minus all those hot periods, the death toll does drop. Still, during the generally quiet periods between early 2005 to the end of September 2015, Palestinians killed about 200 people in attacks on Israelis. That includes a dozen non-Israeli visitors or laborers. Israelis killed about 2,200 Palestinians over the same time. Another way to look at it - in a little over 10 years, there were only four months in which no one on either side died due to the conflict.
MOHAMMED DAJANI: I see it like somebody sitting next to a volcano.
HARRIS: Palestinian political scientist Mohammed Dajani says anger rumbles and will periodically erupt as long as fundamental Israeli-Palestinian problems are not solved. Ongoing killings, he says, perpetuate the feelings driving the conflict.
DAJANI: It is this feeling of hatred for the other and this feeling of enmity for the other. And from time to time, it will spill over and destroy lives and property.
HARRIS: Dajani blames politicians for exploiting those losses, adding more fuel to the fight.
DAJANI: They're trying to feed fear of the other and feeling of revenge from the other.
HARRIS: But it's not just revenge, says Israeli political psychologist Gilad Hirschberger, It's also fear.
GILAD HIRSCHBERGER: I specialize in fear of death and existential concerns and how they affect political attitudes.
HARRIS: Repeated exposure to killing reminds people, you'll die. So a constant trickle of fatal violence, Hershberger says, makes people seek survival in numbers. They glom into groups based on religious, cultural or national identity, something that will continue even when individuals die. And when that group holds such a significant role, Hirschberger says, differences with other groups take on an enormous importance.
HIRSCHBERGER: It's no longer a clash between two parties that disagree over concrete issues. There's something very deep going on here that needs to be acknowledged.
HARRIS: Behind fights for security and territory in this conflict, it's the depth of existence - will my people survive? For Jews, this harkens to the Holocaust and centuries before. For Palestinians, it rationalizes collective resistance to Israel's military occupation and control. So there's revenge. There's the heightened importance of the group. A third way persistent death perpetuates the conflict is the routine of it. American political scientist Dov Waxman of Northeastern University has studied the effects of violence on the daily life of Israelis.
DOV WAXMAN: They essentially come to accept that, to some extent. And rather than think of it as something that they can change through some sort of political solution, instead they see it as almost an inevitable feature of life. And so that saps the political will, if you like, to try to change the situation.
HARRIS: He's talking about Israelis. Many Palestinians also don't think things will change. These are the big, societal impacts of persistent violence. You see the same dynamics play out in individual lives. A year after an Israeli soldier killed her son Laith, Samira Khaldi feels no happiness. But at least, she says, Laith stood up with other Palestinians to protest unjustified deaths.
KHALDI: When they burned the whole family alive at night, my son say no.
HARRIS: Israeli Chaya Wasserman, whose husband was killed by a Palestinian gunman, says different relatives have used his death to back up their different political views. She has focused on how to cope. Eight years on, she's tried many therapeutic techniques, including laughter.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken).
HARRIS: Neither woman sees the loss of a person she loved as routine, even though they both assume the killing will continue. Emily Harris, NPR News, Jerusalem.
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