A wave of violent protests and deadly attacks have put the city of Jerusalem on edge in recent weeks. Amid the hostile atmosphere between Palestinian and Israeli residents, a spate of hate crimes has further unsettled the city.
Yet, there are activists speaking out against the growing divide. Since July, a small group of Israeli volunteers has patrolled the streets of Jerusalem to look out for racially-motivated attacks on Palestinians and report them to the police.
"When I walk in the street I feel safe, but there's a lot of people who feel unsafe and unprotected because of their language and because of the way they look," Lail Patishi, a 27-year-old student who helps organize the "City Guard" patrols, told freelance journalist Emily Wither.
Wither followed the group on patrol in late October. "Behind the negative headlines of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict there are so many inspirational characters on both sides who want to live in peace," Wither told The WorldPost.
City Guard started its patrols in the aftermath of the July killing of a Palestinian teenager in retaliation for the kidnapping and murder of three young Israelis. Shortly after, war broke out in Gaza and protests escalated in Palestinian neighborhoods of Jerusalem. A series of deadly attacks on Israelis, as well as tensions over the status of the Jerusalem holy site known to Muslims as the Nobel Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount, further escalated the unrest.
"We thought we'd only be out for a few days but then things got worse, and more people joined us," Patishi said. They now have 15 core volunteers, with others helping out from time to time.
Patishi said the group would like to step up street patrols after a deadly attack by two Palestinian cousins on a Jerusalem synagogue last week. Public anger over the synagogue attack is "translating into more hate and more racism," Patishi warns.