Twenty years after an assassination changed the course of Israeli history, emigrants from the Pittsburgh region to the Holy Land live on all sides of the world’s most intractable divide.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Rich Lord and Larry Roberts are in Israel this week, supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, exploring the lives of ordinary people in this polarized place. Some of the people you’ll meet here believe that familiarity can ease the anger between Arabs and Jews. A few who came in peace now cry for justice. Others are standing firm on land where it often rains stones.

On Sunday, we’ll look at Israel 20 years after the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who famously shook hands with Palestinian Chairman Yasser Arafat at the White House in 1993. Until then, follow Larry and Rich here every day as they bring images and stories from Israel’s fault lines.

The handshake and the fists

On Sept. 13, 1993, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian Chairman Yasser Arafat shook hands at the White House, accompanied by President Bill Clinton, as part of the ceremony heralding the signing of the first Oslo Accord. Mr. Rabin was assassinated two years later. Last month current Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who signed the accord, told the United Nations that it had become unworkable because of Israeli encroachments. This month the Israeli government has tightened security in response to a wave of Palestinian attacks.

Click below to meet our interviewees

Page Title
Place in Israel or West Bank
Full profile
Local roots
Professional life
Place in Israel or West Bank
Daniel SassEfrat first two years in PittsburghOwner of Sass Video“No shmos are going to drive a half an hour into the territories unless they’re a real Steelers fan. … Any Steeler fan in the world is always welcome in the Mancave.”Efrat
Danny SchiffGerman Colony, West Jerusalem half of the year in ShadysideJewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh scholar in charge of adult education“When you’re in Israel, the air feels thick, the atmosphere feels heavy. People are downcast. ... Anybody in uniform is a target. That creates some level of tension. But that is part of what it is to be an Israeli.”German Colony, West Jerusalem
Dov BloomBeit Yatir up in Squirrel HillComputer science teacher“Is it going to turn you into a stay at home, or someone who hates every Arab? Are you going to be coward, or frightful, or be aggressive? I don’t think any of that happened to us.”Beit Yatir
Israel PickholtzPat, West Jerusalem up in Squirrel HillGenealogical consultant“The situation is not good. The not-good part of the situation does not affect me for the most part. We live cheek-to-jowl with an Arab neighbor, but that doesn’t seem to bother anybody.”Pat, West Jerusalem
Josh WanderMa'ale Ha-Zeitim, East Jerusalem in McKeesport, lived in Squirrel Hill through 2013Political consultant and volunteer paramedic“Many of the calls that I’m called out on have to do with the result of some sort of conflict, whether it’s due to terrorism or some sort of skirmish between the security forces here and local population.”Ma'ale Ha-Zeitim, East Jerusalem
Lori LagzielEven Menachem up in Greenfield, graduated from the University of PittsburghSocial worker“When your son or daughter is in the Army, it’s concerning. If, God forbid, there’s a war, you worry a lot. … You’re very, very sensitive when there are military problems, which happens a lot.”Even Menachem
Mark S. FrankAkko in Squirrel HillLawyer, chair of the Akko Center for Arts and Technology“When people don’t know anything about each other, besides the stereotypes, then it’s really easy to vilify.”Akko
Moshe FogelTalpiyot, West Jerusalem up in Squirrel Hill, graduated from University of PittsburghExecutive director of the Jerusalem Foundation“People act as if it’s normal to have these security rooms in which they can be protected from gas attacks, from missile attacks, and then go about their business as usual. But if you take a step back, that’s not a normal situation.”Talpiyot, West Jerusalem
Omar Yousef ShehabiKafr 'Aqab, East Jerusalem from Uniontown, grew up in Warren, OhioLawyer, runs nonprofit Palestine Works“It is a rich and dynamic place despite all of its problems.”Kafr 'Aqab, East Jerusalem
Saad KhatibKafr 'Aqab, East Jerusalem up in Warren, OhioBusiness consultant, member of Aix Group think tank“My daughter, who was born in 1999, has never had the opportunity to deal with Israelis that are not army people. The only Israeli she knows is an Israeli standing at a checkpoint pointing a gun at her father."Kafr 'Aqab, East Jerusalem
Sam BahourAl-Bireh up in YoungstownBusiness consultant, developer“To me, every single job we create in Palestine is an act of resistance to occupation,” he said, “because it keeps a Palestinian in Palestine.”Al-Bireh
Tina WhiteheadBeit Safafa, East Jerusalem half of the year in OakmontVolunteer for Friends of Sabeel North America“Everybody has feared for my safety. There’s a lot of people who disagree with what I’m doing and who I’m advocating for.”Beit Safafa, East Jerusalem
Varda Meyers EpsteinEfrat up in Squirrel HillWriter for Kars4Kids"We outlived our enemies. … We’ve preserved our language, and our history and our literature. … And we returned, and it’s just incredible. It gives me goosebumps."Efrat

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