RAMALLAH — The billboards at the northern entrance to Ramallah offer city
residents particularly low prices for Hyundai 4×4 vehicles. The ads for the luxury cars make quite a contrast to the sight just a short distance away, on the road from the Israeli checkpoint to
what used to be the City Inn Hotel.
The entire road has turned black, far darker than the familiar color of asphalt.
Bits of burnt tires lie everywhere, and rising columns of smoke are visible when I pass. During the first days of the Second Intifada, in late September and early October 2000, this was the main
site of conflict between Palestinians and Israeli army troops.
Thousands of people, including armed men, came here every day. At first they threw
stones, but very quickly they began firing at the headquarters of the IDF’s Judea and Samaria Division. The Israeli army would respond with heavy gunfire and the crowd would disperse in all
directions. Snipers from elite IDF units took over the top floors of the City Inn in an effort to strike the armed men, but quite a few unarmed demonstrators were shot as well. Several weeks
later, not much was left of the City Inn. While the flags of many countries still flew at the entrance to the building months later, the hotel eventually closed down.
That was 15 years ago. The area has been rebuilt since then. More and more new
buildings, together with fancy shopping centers, were constructed in what used to be a war zone. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas lives just a few hundred yards from the junction. A
children’s amusement park was built here, together with an enormous monument. The City Inn building was sold and has been under renovation.