’There is a mood of catastrophe, many people are stunned’

Rockets fly from the Gaza Strip towards Israel. © picture alliance / ASSOCIATED
Rockets fly from the Gaza Strip towards Israel. © picture alliance / ASSOCIATED PRESS | Fatima Shbair

Katrin Kogman-Appel is currently in Israel - how she assesses the situation

Since the radical Islamic Palestinian organization Hamas attacked Israel last weekend, the country has been under a state of emergency. In an interview with André Bednarz, Dr. Katrin Kogman-Appel, professor at the Institute for Jewish Studies at the University of Münster, describes the mood among the population and what the Islamist terror means for everyday life. She is currently staying near Jerusalem.

In Jerusalem, Israelis and Palestinians live in close proximity to each other. How does that affect the current situation?

I don’t live directly in Jerusalem, but in a town about 20 kilometers to the southwest, and I can’t judge that at the moment, because right now you only leave your house in special circumstances. You only go into the city if you have to. Contacts between Israelis and Palestinians only occur when normality prevails, for example in stores or at the workplace. Since the situation is not normal at the moment, there are few encounters. In addition, the Jewish population is on edge at the moment, and suspicion is high. According to the reports of what took place on Saturday in the kibbutzim and places around the Gaza Strip, noises at the door, the banging of a hammer or the like immediately make red lamps light up in the head. The question, however, is how the two groups will live together after this war.

What is the general mood among the population?

I can only speak for the Jewish population, which is currently distraught and panicked. There is a mood of catastrophe, many people are stunned. Apart from that, the Jewish population is divided into two groups: those who are critical of the government, who are extremely disturbed by the fact that the government and the army have not done a good job. From within the army, meanwhile, there are voices of higher officers who accept responsibility. This is not the case among politicians. And there are, secondly, those groups that support the government and scapegoat those who criticize the government. All of this is naturally a consequence of the events and demonstrations surrounding the so-called judicial reform, which has plunged the country into turmoil for months. According to a recent poll, however, only 11 % of the population currently believe that the current government should remain in office as it is.

In addition, there are the daily reports about the steadily increasing number of dead...

Since yesterday, the press has been publishing lists of murdered citizens and fallen soldiers. In such a small country, the probability of coming across familiar names is very high. The worst are the names, pictures and stories of the hostages: a three-year-old boy, a disabled and over 80-year-old woman in a wheelchair, an 84-year-old grandmother and great-grandmother, a Shoah survivor who must be around 90 years old. However, most of the hostages are between 20 or 30 years old.

In view of the tense situation, can you go about your work at all at the moment?

It avries from moment to moment. Last Saturday, we were woken up by sirens. At first we thought it was a false alarm, but shortly afterwards we could already hear impacts, so we went to a shelter. There have been rocket attacks again and again in recent years. However, few missiles usually stray where we live - so the first alarm alone didn’t make us nervous. However, when the sirens sounded so frequently that we ended up spending the entire morning in the shelter - fortunately we have our own shelter - we were alarmed. In between, however, I sat down at my desk as I did on other days. However, when the first news about the invading terrorists started coming in on my cell phone one by one, it was the end of my concentration. And the news got worse and worse as Sunday and Monday went on. Updates from one of the local dailies appear on my cell phone every few minutes, and of course you read them immediately. The concentration level is accordingly low. However, work is also distracting, and that’s an important point: time passes more quickly, and you’re forced to think about something else, too. But you can’t speak of normal work. First of all, I try to keep acute deadlines in mind, it’s more difficult with creativity at the moment.