When it comes to the economy, more is usually better.
Bigger job gains, faster wage growth and more consumer spending are all, in normal times, signs of a healthy economy. Growth might not be sufficient to ensure widespread prosperity, but it is necessary — making any loss of momentum a worrying sign that the economy could be losing steam or, worse, headed into a recession.
But these are not normal times. With nearly twice as many open jobs as available workers and companies struggling to meet record demand, many economists and policymakers argue that what the economy needs right now is not more, but less — less hiring, less wage growth and above all less inflation, which is running at its fastest pace in four decades.
Jerome H. Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, has called the labor market “unsustainably hot,” and the central bank is raising interest rates to try to cool it. President Biden, who met with Mr. Powell on Tuesday, wrote in an opinion article this week in The Wall Street Journal that a slowdown in job creation “won’t be a cause for concern” but would rather be “a sign that we are successfully moving into the next phase of recovery.”
“We want a full and sustainable recovery,” said Claudia Sahm, a former Fed economist who has studied the government’s economic policy response to the pandemic. “The reason that we can’t take the victory lap right now on the recovery — the reason it is incomplete — is because inflation is too high.”
undo much of that progress.
“That’s the needle we’re trying to thread right now,” said Harry J. Holzer, a Georgetown University economist. “We want to give up as few of the gains that we’ve made as possible.”
Economists disagree about the best way to strike that balance. Mr. Powell, after playing down inflation last year, now says reining it in is his top priority — and argues that the central bank can do so without cutting the recovery short. Some economists, particularly on the right, want the Fed to be more aggressive, even at the risk of causing a recession. Others, especially on the left, argue that inflation, while a problem, is a lesser evil than unemployment, and that the Fed should therefore pursue a more cautious approach.
But where progressives and conservatives largely agree is that evaluating the economy will be particularly difficult over the next several months. Distinguishing a healthy cool-down from a worrying stall will require looking beyond the indicators that typically make headlines.
“It’s a very difficult time to interpret economic data and to even understand what’s happening with the economy,” said Michael R. Strain, an economist with the American Enterprise Institute. “We’re entering a period where there’s going to be tons of debate over whether we are in a recession right now.”
11.4 million job openings at the end of April, close to a record. But there are roughly half a million fewer people either working or actively looking for work than when the pandemic began, leaving employers scrambling to fill available jobs.
The labor force has grown significantly this year, and forecasters expect more workers to return as the pandemic and the disruptions it caused continue to recede. But the pandemic may also have driven longer-lasting shifts in Americans’ work habits, and economists aren’t sure when or under what circumstances the labor force will make a complete rebound. Even then, there might not be enough workers to meet the extraordinarily high level of employer demand.
Persistently weak pay increases were a bleak hallmark of the long, slow recovery that followed the last recession. But even some economists who bemoaned those sluggish gains at the time say the current rate of wage growth is unsustainable.
“That’s something that we’re used to saying pretty unequivocally is good, but in this case it just raises the risk that the economy is overheating further,” said Adam Ozimek, chief economist of the Economic Innovation Group, a Washington research organization. As long as wages are rising 5 or 6 percent per year, he said, it will be all but impossible to bring inflation down to the Fed’s 2 percent target.
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What is inflation? Inflation is a loss of purchasing power over time, meaning your dollar will not go as far tomorrow as it did today. It is typically expressed as the annual change in prices for everyday goods and services such as food, furniture, apparel, transportation and toys.
What causes inflation? It can be the result of rising consumer demand. But inflation can also rise and fall based on developments that have little to do with economic conditions, such as limited oil production and supply chain problems.
Is inflation bad? It depends on the circumstances. Fast price increases spell trouble, but moderate price gains can lead to higher wages and job growth.
Can inflation affect the stock market? Rapid inflation typically spells trouble for stocks. Financial assets in general have historically fared badly during inflation booms, while tangible assets like houses have held their value better.
Fed officials are watching closely for signs of a “wage-price spiral,” a self-reinforcing pattern in which workers expect inflation and therefore demand raises, leading employers to increase prices to compensate. Once such a cycle takes hold, it can be difficult to break — a prospect Mr. Powell has cited in explaining why the central bank has become more aggressive in fighting inflation.
“It’s a risk that we simply can’t run,” he said at a news conference last month. “We can’t allow a wage-price spiral to happen. And we can’t allow inflation expectations to become unanchored. It’s just something that we can’t allow to happen, and so we’ll look at it that way.”
speech in Germany this week, Christopher J. Waller, a Fed governor, argued that as demand slows, employers are likely to start posting fewer jobs before they turn to layoffs. That could result in slower wage growth — since with fewer employers trying to hire, there will be less competition for workers — without a big increase in unemployment.
“I think there’s room right now for inflation to come down a significant amount without unemployment coming up,” said Mike Konczal, an economist at the Roosevelt Institute.
The Fed’s efforts to cool off the economy are already bearing fruit, Mr. Konczal said. Mortgage rates have risen sharply, and there are signs that the housing market is slowing as a result. The stock market has lost almost 15 percent of its value since the beginning of the year. That loss of wealth is likely to lead at least some consumers to pull back on their spending, which will lead to a pullback in hiring. Job openings fell in April, though they remained high, and wage growth has eased.
“There’s a lot of evidence to suggest the economy has already slowed down,” Mr. Konczal said. He said he was optimistic that the United States was on a path toward “normalizing to a regular good economy” instead of the boomlike one it has experienced over the past year.
But the thing about such a “soft landing,” as Fed officials call it, is that it is still a landing. Wage growth will be slower. Job opportunities will be fewer. Workers will have less leverage to demand flexible schedules or other perks. For the Fed, achieving that outcome without causing a recession would be a victory — but it might not feel like one to workers.
LONDON — When Andy Byford ran New York City’s dilapidated subway system, fed-up New Yorkers hailed his crusade to make the trains run with fewer delays and lamented his premature exit after clashes with the governor at the time, Andrew M. Cuomo. He was a familiar, unfailingly cheerful presence on its often-restive platforms. Straphangers even took to calling him “Train Daddy.”
Nobody calls Mr. Byford Train Daddy in London, where he resurfaced in May 2020 as the commissioner of the city’s transit authority, Transport for London. But on May 24, when he opens the Elizabeth line — the long-delayed, $22 billion-plus high-speed railway that uncoils from west and east underneath central London — he might find himself again worthy of a cheeky nickname.
“That was fun in New York,” said Mr. Byford, 56, a gregarious public transport evangelist who grew up in Plymouth, England, began his career as a tube-station manager in London, and has also run transit systems in Toronto and Sydney, Australia. “But I’m really enjoying almost complete anonymity in London.”
Second Avenue subway or the extension of the No. 7 line, which are tiny projects by comparison.”
Mr. Cuomo resigned last year, his successor, Gov. Kathy Hochul, put a proposed $2.1 billion AirTrain project to LaGuardia airport on ice. That leaves the newly renovated airport without a rail link to Manhattan, to the enduring frustration of many New Yorkers.
Heathrow Airport has had a subway link for decades. When the Elizabeth line’s next phase is opened in the fall, passengers will be able to travel from Heathrow to the banks at Canary Wharf in East London in 40 minutes; that is a prime selling point for a city desperate to hold on to its status as financial mecca after Brexit. All told, the line has 10 entirely new stations, 42 miles of tunnels and crosses under the Thames three times.
“We’re jealous, it’s fair to say,” said Danny Pearlstein, the policy director for Riders Alliance, a transportation advocacy group in New York. “Imagining a new, full-length underground line here is not something anyone is doing. The Second Avenue subway, which people have been talking about for 100 years, has three stations.”
To be fair, Transport for London is not without its problems. It has shelved plans to build a north-south counterpart to the Elizabeth line, not to mention an extension to the Bakerloo tube line, because of a lack of funding. Still reeling from a near-total loss of riders during pandemic lockdowns, the system faces many of the same financial woes as New York’s subway.
Though ridership has recovered from a nadir of 5 percent, it is still at only 70 percent of prepandemic levels. Transport for London is also heavily dependent on ticket fares to cover its costs, more so than the New York subway, which gets state subsidies, as well as funds from bridge and tunnel tolls.
“My other obsession is sorting out the finances,” Mr. Byford said. “One way is to wean us away from dependence on fares.”
He is somewhat vague about how to do that, and it is clear that Transport for London will depend on additional government handouts to get back on sound financial footing. That is why the opening of the Elizabeth line is so important to London: It makes a powerful case for public transportation at a time when people are questioning how many workers will ever return to their offices.
Mr. Byford lays out the case with the practiced cadence of a stump speech. The new line will increase the capacity of the system by 10 percent. Its spacious coaches are well suited to a world in which people are used to social distancing. It will revitalize economically blighted towns east of the city, while making central London accessible to people who live in far-flung towns to the east and west.
While Mr. Byford does not expect ridership ever to return completely, he thinks 90 percent is attainable. If office buildings remain underpopulated, London could develop like Paris, with more residential neighborhoods downtown. (The Elizabeth line bears a distinct resemblance to the high-speed RER system in Paris.) The line, he says, is an insurance policy against the “siren voices of doom” about Brexit.
At times, Mr. Byford slips perilously close to a real estate agent’s patter. “These super-high-tech stations simply ooze quality,” he said. But emerging from Liverpool Street, with its spectacular, rippling, pinstriped ceiling, it is hard to argue with his basic assertion: “This is a game changer.”
BRUSSELS — After long indulging him, leaders in the European Union now widely consider one of their own, Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary, an existential threat to a bloc that holds itself up as a model of human rights and the rule of law.
Mr. Orban has spent the past decade steadily building his “illiberal state,” as he proudly calls Hungary, with the help of lavish E.U. funding. Even as his project widened fissures in the bloc, his fellow national leaders mostly looked the other way, committed to staying out of one another’s affairs.
But now Mr. Orban’s defiance and intransigence has had an important, if unintended, effect: serving as a catalyst for an often-sluggish European Union system to act to safeguard the democratic principles that are the foundation of the bloc.
Early this year, the European Court of Justice will issue a landmark decision on whether the union has the authority to make its funds to member states conditional on meeting the bloc’s core values. Doing so would allow Brussels to deny billions of euros to countries that violate those values.
a new media law that curbed press freedom. It overhauled the country’s justice system, removed the head of its Supreme Court and created an office to oversee the courts led by the wife of a prominent member of the governing party, Fidesz. Election laws were changed to favor the party.
External factors strengthened Mr. Orban as well, including in 2015 when a record number of migrants made their way to Europe and when the right-wing Law and Justice party of Jaroslaw Kaczynski came to power in Poland. He suddenly had an ally there, and his tough stance against migrants won him support elsewhere, too.
Mr. Orban quit the conservative alliance when it became clear that it was going to oust his party.
Mr. Weber still regrets the loss of Fidesz. “On one level, it is a relief,” he said. “But Orban leaving is not a victory, but a defeat” in the effort to hold the center-right together as “a broad people’s party.”
It has helped Mr. Orban that the European Union has few and ineffective instruments for punishing a backsliding nation. Even the Lisbon Treaty, which gave enhanced powers to the European Parliament, has essentially one unusable tool: Article 7, which can remove a country’s voting rights, but only if passed by unanimity.
according to studies by R. Daniel Kelemen of Rutgers University and Tommaso Pavone of the University of Oslo, the commission sharply reduced infringement cases after the addition of new member states in 2004. José Manuel Barroso, a former commission president, “bought into this to work more cooperatively with governments and not just sue them,” Mr. Kelemen said. Mr. Barroso declined to comment.
Attitudes have shifted. With taxpayer money at stake, the next seven-year budget in the balance and the disregard for shared values shown by Mr. Orban and Mr. Kaczynski on leaders’ minds, Brussels may have finally found a useful tool to affect domestic politics, with a mix of lawsuits charging infringement of European treaties combined with severe financial consequences.
A marker has finally been laid down, Mr. Reynders said.
The big moment comes this month, when the European Court of Justice issues its ruling.
If Hungary and Poland lose the case, as expected, it is unclear what will happen if both countries simply refuse to comply. The European Union will be thrust deeper into unknown territory.
KIRUNA, Sweden — The path to the reindeer herder’s spring home took him across four frozen lakes and countless snowy hilltops. Arriving to a light dusting of snow, the herder, Aslak Allas, switched off his snowmobile, and the overwhelming silence of Sweden’s Arctic settled in.
His reindeer, thousands of them, were nowhere to be seen. “They are very scared of noise,” Mr. Allas, explained, pointing to his vehicle.
He then motioned toward the distant hills dotted with birch trees, their buds swelling with the warming spring sun. “Now, the noise coming from there, that will be something else,” Mr. Allas sighed.
SpaceX. He and several competitors are planning to send up to 50,000 such satellites into space in coming years, compared with fewer than 3,000 out there now.
While the United States, China, Russia and several other countries already have spaceports, Sweden’s would be the first orbital launch site for satellites in Europe — capable of launching spacecraft into orbit around Earth or on interplanetary trajectories. Currently, the intergovernmental European Space Agency launches its traditional single-use Ariane rockets from French Guiana.
Several private European companies are designing spaceports in Europe to host a new generation of smaller rockets. Portugal is looking into building one on the Azores Islands, two remote sites have been allocated in Britain and Norway is upgrading its Andoya Space Center.
Esrange Space Center will be a testing ground for Europe’s first reusable vertical rocket in 2022, and it can conduct engine tests as well.
Swedish Space Corporation, which manages the site, is offering launch services to private ventures wishing to send satellites into space.
“We are a bit of a unicorn in the space business,” said Philip Pahlsson, vice president for strategy and innovation of the Swedish Space Corporation, referring to the government ownership of the site. “But we do plan on being the awesomest company in the government’s portfolio.”
being moved, as the city is slowly sinking into the excavated caverns below.
A 50-foot rocket stands at one of the main intersections, a testament to Sweden’s space ambitions. Space is woven into the fabric of the city.
The Swedish Institute of Space Physics is based in Kiruna, as is the Space High School for gifted teenagers. The space engineering program at Lulea University of Technology, also in Kiruna, attracts Ph.D. students from across Europe. An enormous satellite receiver dish, sticking out from the woods in a vast white valley, serves as a geographical landmark.
Esrange has many of the attributes of other space ports —high fences and warning signs, andsome used rockets on display. But it also has a church, a visitor center and the Aurora hotel, named for the northern lights that color the winter skies. Snow is everywhere, of course, and reindeer roam the terrain (no one knows how they get past the fences), but astronauts and moon landers are nowhere to be found.
Themis, after an ancient Greek Titaness who was the personification of divine order.
On this day, the main activity consisted of engine testing by two fiercely competitive German space start-ups, Rocket Factory Augsburg and ISAR Aerospace Technologies.
the fastest pod in Elon Musk’s competition for ultra-high-speed transport in hyperloop, or travel in a vacuum tube. That caught the attention of Bulent Altan, a former vice president at Space X, who decided to back Mr. Fleischmann and his friends.
Sami are the last Indigenous people of Europe and live in Finland, Sweden, Norway and Russia.
In 2019, after an appeal by his district, Mr. Allas managed to block some of the expansion plans for the base, and now his sights are set on the coming noise pollution.
“They might say we need to launch or else we lose our customers, but reindeer herding has been around here long as you can imagine,” Mr. Allas said, adding that a legal battle seemed inevitable. “For us, the Space Corporation is the oldest intruder of our lands, but we have much older rights.”
FRANZ JOSEF LAND, Russia — Chunky green trucks carry Bastion anti-ship missiles that can be prepared for launch in just five minutes. A barracks building, sealed off from the elements like a space station, accommodates 150 or so soldiers. And a new runway can handle fighter jets, two of which recently buzzed the North Pole.
Franz Josef Land, a jumble of glacier-covered islands in the Arctic Ocean named after a Austro-Hungarian emperor, was until a few years ago mostly uninhabited, home to polar bears, walruses, sea birds and little else. But thanks to a warming climate, all that is changing, and quickly.
Nowhere on Earth has climate change been so pronounced as in the polar regions. The warming has led to drastic reductions in sea ice, opening up the Arctic to ships during the summer months and exposing Russia to new security threats.
Arctic Council, a diplomatic club of nations, including the United States, that share interests in the region.
National Snow and Ice Data Center said last year. The ocean has lost nearly a million square miles of ice and is expected to be mostly ice-free in the summertime, including at the North Pole, by around the middle of the century.
wrote of Russia’s problem of disappearing ice.
Lt. Col. Balabeg A. Eminov is the commander of the anti-ship battery and other facilities on Franz Josef Land, called the Trefoil Base. “The main question in the Arctic is the limited accessibility for ships, because of ice,” he said. “Now the area of open water is increasing, and with it the area for ship activity.”
published last year. The latest U.S. military strategy for the Arctic, published in 2019, refers euphemistically to vanishing ice as the “changing physical environment.”
father of the Russian Navy, and oil paintings of sailing ships in battle.
Moored at its base in Murmansk Fjord, the Peter the Great was also visited by flocks of sea gulls, which flapped around its gray-painted radar masts and over the 20 launch tubes for anti-ship missiles. Sailors with side arms stood watch by the gangplank, seemingly oblivious to the cold rain lashing their faces.
Elsewhere in Murmansk Fjord, and not shown to reporters, is another dimension of the Russian military buildup: a secretive program to train seals and beluga whales for as-yet unknown missions. Satellite images have revealed their sea pens at a special operations site. Two years ago, a trained beluga wearing a mysterious harness, possibly an escapee, turned up in Norway and was nicknamed Whaldimir.
posted the footage online. The United States this month sailed the U.S.S. New Mexico, a Virginia-class submarine, into Tromso, Norway, for a rare call at a civilian port.
In the same vein, the tour for foreign journalists to some of Russia’s most remote and secretive military facilities in the Arctic Ocean seemed intended to highlight the country’s capabilities.
“Inviting journalists to come look at these modernized, reinvigorated Cold War sites is all about signaling,” said Marisol Maddox, an Arctic analyst at the Polar Institute of the Woodrow Wilson Center, a research organization in Washington.
Russia, she said, wants to keep up its “strongman persona” in an era of climate change.
An eviction in East Jerusalem lies at the center of a conflict that led to war between Israel and Hamas. But for millions of Palestinians, the routine indignities of occupation are part of daily life.
By David M. Halbfinger and Adam Rasgon
JERUSALEM — Muhammad Sandouka built his home in the shadow of the Temple Mount before his second son, now 15, was born.
They demolished it together, after Israeli authorities decided that razing it would improve views of the Old City for tourists.
Mr. Sandouka, 42, a countertop installer, had been at work when an inspector confronted his wife with two options: Tear the house down, or the government would not only level it but also bill the Sandoukas $10,000 for its expenses.
Such is life for Palestinians living under Israel’s occupation: always dreading the knock at the front door.
six Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem set off a round of protests that helped ignite the latest war between Israel and Gaza. But to the roughly three million Palestinians living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the 1967 war and has controlled through decades of failed peace talks, the story was exceptional only because it attracted an international spotlight.
For the most part, they endure the frights and indignities of the Israeli occupation in obscurity.
Even in supposedly quiet periods, when the world is not paying attention, Palestinians from all walks of life routinely experience exasperating impossibilities and petty humiliations, bureaucratic controls that force agonizing choices, and the fragility and cruelty of life under military rule, now in its second half-century.
Underneath that quiet, pressure builds.
If the eviction dispute in East Jerusalem struck a match, the occupation’s provocations ceaselessly pile up dry kindling. They are a constant and key driver of the conflict, giving Hamas an excuse to fire rockets or lone-wolf attackers grievances to channel into killings by knives or automobiles. And the provocations do not stop when the fighting ends.
Home on the Edge
No homeowner welcomes a visit from the code-enforcement officer. But it’s entirely different in East Jerusalem, where Palestinians find it nearly impossible to obtain building permits and most homes were built without them: The penalty is often demolition.
shot and killed a teenager who was wandering among the rock-throwers and spent tear-gas canisters.
Al Mughrayyir was one of the few villages still mounting regular Friday protests. They began after settlers cut off access to some of the villagers’ farmland. The boy’s death became a new rallying cry.
The army says it raids Palestinian homes at night because it is safer, and ransacks them to search for weapons, in routine crackdowns aimed at keeping militance in check.
But the raids also inspire militance.
Mr. Abu Alia seethed as he described seeing his son outside in the dark, “afraid, crying because of the soldiers, and I can do nothing to protect him.”
“It makes you want to take revenge, to defend yourself,” he went on. “But we have nothing to defend ourselves with.”
Stone-throwing must suffice, he said. “We can’t take an M-16 and go kill every settler. All we have are those stones. A bullet can kill you instantly. A little stone won’t do much. But at least I’m sending a message.”
Settlers send messages, too. They have cut down hundreds of Al Mughrayyir’s olive trees — vital sources of income and ties to the land — torched a mosque, vandalized cars. In 2019, one was accused of fatally shooting a villager in the back. The case remains open.
A Family Divided
For Majeda al-Rajaby the pain of occupation never goes away. It slices straight through her family.
A twice-divorced teacher, Ms. al-Rajaby, 45, is divided from her five children by the different ways Israel treats Palestinians depending on where they are from.
She grew up in the West Bank, in Hebron. But both her ex-husbands were Jerusalem residents, allowing them to travel anywhere an Israeli citizen may go. The children were entitled to the blue IDs of Jerusalem residents, too. Hers remained West Bank green.
Both her husbands lived in Shuafat refugee camp, a lawless slum inside the Jerusalem city limits but just outside Israel’s security barrier. West Bankers are not allowed to live there, but the rule is not enforced.
She had thought she was marrying up. Instead, she said her husbands “always made me feel inferior.”
After the second divorce, she was left on her own, with her green ID, to raise all five children with their blue IDs. The distinction could be life-threatening.
When a daughter accidentally inhaled housecleaning chemicals, Ms. al-Rajaby tried to race her to the closest hospital, in Jerusalem. Soldiers refused to let her in. As a teacher in Shuafat, she had a permit to enter Jerusalem, but only until 7 p.m. It was 8:00.
The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Her children are older now, but the distinction is just as keenly felt: Ms. al-Rajaby allows herself to be excluded from joyful moments and rites of passage so her children can enjoy advantages unavailable to her.
She stays behind on the Palestinian side of the security barrier while they head off to Jaffa or Haifa, or on shortcuts to Hebron through Jerusalem, a route forbidden to her. “West Banker,” they tease her, waving goodbye.
One daughter is 21 now and engaged and goes on jaunts into Israel with her fiancé’s mother. “I should be with them,” Ms. al-Rajaby said.
Last summer, Ms. al-Rajaby moved out of Shuafat to a safer neighborhood just outside the Jerusalem city limits, in the West Bank. That means her children could lose their blue IDs if Israel determined that their primary residence was with her.
“I’m not allowed to live there,” she said of Shuafat, “and my daughters are not allowed to live here.”
Constrained as she is, Ms. al-Rajaby wants even more for her children than freedom to move about Israel.
In 2006, her daughter Rana, then 7, was burned in a cooking accident. An Italian charity paid for treatment at a hospital in Padua. Mother and child stayed for three months.
The experience opened Ms. al-Rajaby’s eyes. She saw green parks, children in nice clothes, women driving cars.
“It was the moment of my liberation,” she said. “I started thinking: ‘Why do they have this? Why don’t we?’”
Today, she urges all her children to see the world, and holds out hope that they might emigrate.
“Why,” she asked, “should someone keep living under the mercy of people who have no mercy?”
Working for the Occupation
Try as they might to make their accommodations with Israel, Palestinians often find themselves caught in the occupation’s gears.
Majed Omar once earned a good living as a construction worker inside Israel. But in 2013, his younger brother was spotted crossing through a gap in Israel’s security barrier. A soldier shot him in the leg.
Mr. Omar, 45, was collateral damage. Israel revoked his work permit just in case he had ideas about taking revenge — something Israel says happens too often.
He sat unemployed for 14 months. When Israel reissued his permit, it only allowed him to work in the fast-growing West Bank settlements, where workers are paid half as much, searched each morning and supervised by armed guards all day.
Which is how he came to be the foreman on a crew that remodels Jewish homes and expands Israeli buildings on land the Palestinians have long demanded as part of their hoped-for state.
In a small way, it’s like digging his own grave, Mr. Omar said. “But we’re living in a time when everyone sees what’s wrong and still does it.”
Violence is often sudden and brief. But the nagging dread it instills can be just as debilitating.
Nael al-Azza, 40, is haunted by the Israeli checkpoint he must pass through while commuting between his home in Bethlehem and his job in Ramallah.
At home, he lives behind walls and cultivates a lush herb and vegetable garden in the backyard. But nothing protects him on his drive to work, not even his position as a manager in the Palestinian firefighting and ambulance service.
Recently, he said, a soldier at the checkpoint stopped him, told him to roll down his window, asked if he had a weapon. He said no. She opened his passenger door to take a look, then slammed it shut, hard.
He wanted to object. But he stopped himself, he said: Too many confrontations with soldiers end with Palestinians being shot.
“If I want to defend my property and my self-respect, there’s a price for that,” he said.
His commute is a 14-mile trip as the crow flies, but a 33-mile route, because Palestinians are diverted in a wide loop around Jerusalem along a tortuous two-lane road of steep switchbacks. Even so, it ought to take less an hour — but often takes two or three, because of the checkpoint.
The Israelis consider the checkpoint essential to search for fleeing attackers or illegal weapons or to cut the West Bank in two in case of unrest. Palestinians call it a choke point that can be shut off on a soldier’s whim. It is also a friction point, motorists and soldiers each imagining themselves as the other’s target.
Idling and inching along, Mr. al-Azza compared traffic to blood flow. Searching one car can mean an hour’s delay. The soldiers are so young, he said, “They don’t feel the weight of stopping 5,000 cars.”
He thinks only of those delayed. “When they impede your movement and cause you to fail at your job, you feel like you’ve lost your value and meaning,” he said.
A few nights each week, delays force him to sleep at work and settle for video calls with his three children.
On weekend outings, the checkpoint takes a different toll on his family.
“I try to keep my kids from speaking about the conflict,” he said. “But they see and experience things I have no answer for. When we’re driving, we turn the music on. But when we reach the checkpoint, I turn it off. I don’t know why. I’ll see them in the mirror: All of a sudden, they sit upright and look anxious — until we cross and I turn the music back on.”
Deadly scenarios constantly play out in Mr. al-Azza’s head: What if a tire blew out or his engine stalled? What if a young soldier, trained to respond instantly, misconstrued it as a threat?
“It’s not possible to put it out of mind,” he said. “When you’re hungry, you think about food.”
In the Bubble
No Palestinian is insulated from the occupation’s reach — not even in the well-to-do, privileged “bubble” of Ramallah, where Israeli soldiers are seldom seen.
Everyone Sondos Mleitat knows bears the scars of some trauma. Her own: Hiding with her little brother, then 5, when Israeli tanks rolled into Nablus, where she was raised.
In the dark, she said, he pulled all his eyelashes out, one by one.
Today, Ms. Mleitat, 30, runs a website connecting Palestinians with psychotherapists.
Instead of reckoning with their lingering wounds, she said, people seek safety in social conformity, in religion, in the approval gleaned from Facebook and Instagram likes. But all of those, she said, only reinforce the occupation’s suffocating effects.
“This is all about control,” she said. “People are going through a type of taming or domestication. They just surrender to it and feel they can’t change anything.”
After her uncle was killed by Israeli soldiers at a protest, she said, his younger brother was pushed into marriage at 18 “to protect him from going down the same path.”
But a nation of people who reach adulthood thinking only about settling down, she said, is not a nation that will achieve independence.
“They think they’re getting out of this bubble, but they’re not,” she said.
Mr. Sandouka earns about $1,800 in a good month. He hoped the lawyer could quash the demolition order. “I thought they would just give us a fine,” he said.
Then he got another panicked call from home: “The police were there, making my family cry.”
Khalas, he said, enough. He would tear it down himself.
Early on a Monday, his sons took turns with a borrowed jackhammer. They almost seemed to be having fun, like wrecking a sand castle.
Finished, their moods darkened. “It’s like we’re lighting ourselves on fire,” said Mousa, 15.
“They want the land,” said Muataz, 22. “They want all of us to leave Jerusalem.”
In 2020, 119 Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem were demolished, 79 of them by their owners.
When all was rubble, Mr. Sandouka lit a cigarette and held it with three beefy fingers as it burned. His pants filthy with the dust of his family’s life together, he climbed atop the debris, sent photos to the police and contemplated his options.
Moving to the West Bank, and sacrificing Jerusalem residency, was unthinkable. Moving elsewhere in Jerusalem was unaffordable.
A friend offered a couple of spare rooms as a temporary refuge. Mr. Sandouka’s wife demanded permanency.
“She told me if I don’t buy her a home, that’s it — everyone can go their separate ways,” he said.
He turned his eyes uphill toward the Old City.
“These people work little by little,” he said. “It’s like a lion that eats one, and then another. It eventually eats everything around it.”
JERUSALEM — After more than 10 days of fighting that has taken hundreds of lives and inspired protests and diplomatic efforts around the world, Israel and Hamas agreed to a cease-fire on Thursday, officials on both sides said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office announced that his security cabinet had voted unanimously to accept an Egyptian proposal for an unconditional cease-fire, which took effect early Friday morning.
A senior Hamas official based in Qatar confirmed in a telephone interview that the group had agreed to the truce.
The agreement, mediated by Egypt, is expected to conclude an intensive exchange in which Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza, fired rockets into Israel and Israel bombed targets in Gaza.
nine truces came and went before the 2014 conflict ended.
The agreement could at least offer a period of calm to allow time to negotiate a longer-term deal but the deeper issues are rarely addressed.
Even if the cease-fire holds, its underlying causes remain: the battle over land rights in Jerusalem and the West Bank, religious tensions in the Old City of Jerusalem and the absence of a peace process to resolve the conflict. Gaza remains under a punishing blockade by Israel and Egypt and the West Bank remains under occupation.
Although the conflict forged a rare moment of unity among Palestinians across the West Bank, Israel and Gaza, it remains unclear whether it will significantly alter their standing.
Adam Rasgon, Isabel Kershner and Gabby Sobelman contributed reporting from Jerusalem, Iyad Abuheweila from Gaza City, and Katie Rogers from Washington.
Gummy Bears, Epsom salts and $50 bottles of Champagne — if you were vaccinated at a pharmacy, we want to know what you impulsively bought while hanging out after your shot.
While waiting the 15 minutes to make sure there was no adverse reaction to my Covid shot, I felt the pull to browse the nail polish and makeup aisles. My colleague bought Cheddar and Sour Cream Ruffles and a bottle of Listerine. A friend and her partner picked up bags of candy and Ace bandages. While we landed on being practical, others have been more celebratory, bringing home bottles of bubbly.
As friends and family are swapping their “treat yourself” purchase stories after their vaccine appointments, we want to hear from our readers about what you bought. Did you buy something delightful, or were you more practical? A selection of stories will be reinterpreted by a Times photographer and presented as an essay about the small pleasures we’re finding as we slowly return to the world.
Sergei Chernikov, my guide, had a bolt-action rifle slung over his shoulder — in case we came across any polar bears, he said, or in case they came across us.
We were standing at the rudimentary dock in Pyramiden, a ghost town on the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, in the High Arctic. I’d heard that in 1998 the Russian government had tricked the town’s 1,000 residents into taking a holiday on the mainland, only to close the mine and forbid them from returning. According to the rumor, it had been abandoned ever since, frozen in time at the top of the world. Was it true? I asked.
Sergei shook his head before I’d even finished my question.
Barentsburg, which is still functional, and Pyramiden, long since empty — are Russian settlements.
The presence of Russian settlements stems from the fact that the Svalbard Treaty granted signatories — including Russia — rights to Svalbard’s natural resources. Eventually, Trust Arktikugol, a Russian state-owned coal company, took ownership of both Pyramiden and Barentsburg.
Pyramiden would go on to outlast the Soviet Union, finally shuttering its doors over a series of months in 1998. In truth, the place had been in pretty steep decline for years. Accidents in the mine, financial turmoil in Russia and a 1996 charter plane crash that killed 141 people combined to seal its fate.
At over 78 degrees north, Pyramiden is a place of records and extremes. When the sun disappears below the horizon each fall in late October, it isn’t seen again until mid February of the following year. Conversely, in summer, the sunlight is unyielding for more than three months.
And yet, walking around with Sergei, I couldn’t help but sense that things had moved quickly in the end. Manuals sat open, bottles of vodka were left on windowsills. There were scattered journals, photographs of men with impressive mustaches, a typewriter — even an old basketball, burst at the seams.
Perhaps most poignant were the children’s toys, scattered among what was once a schoolhouse.
In its heyday, Pyramiden provided its 1,000 residents with urban facilities and a high standard of living. The town’s offerings included a school, a library, an ice hockey rink, a sports hall, dance and music studios, a radio station, a cinema that doubled as a theater and a cemetery for cats.
If something exists in Pyramiden, then it is very probably the northernmost example in the world. (The settlement is around 500 miles farther north than Utqiargvik, Alaska, the northernmost community in the United States.)
The old cultural center houses what’s likely the northernmost grand piano and gymnasium. Nearby, Sergei and I walked around inside the long-emptied swimming pool — once heated, and the envy of the residents of Longyearbyen, the much larger Norwegian settlement to the south.
On a plinth outside that remarkable building stands an enormous statue of Lenin, his cold head sternly surveying the town, the sole remaining witness to the emptying of Pyramiden.
There’s real beauty here, too: the shimmering fur of a family of arctic foxes living under the hotel; sapphire blues laser-beaming out of the nearby Nordenskiold Glacier; low sun catching cracked windows in the canteen, kaleidoscopic light dancing on the floor; sunrise and sunset washing that extraordinary mountaintop in pinks and golds.
While much of the town now lies dormant, very slowly decaying, the Pyramiden Hotel — likely the northernmost in the world, of course — and the cultural center have been revived in recent years.
These are the only buildings in town that are still regularly used. While shifting permafrost has warped some of the wooden buildings, their sturdy structures stand firm.
It’s in the hotel that a small community of Russians and Ukrainians live and work, welcoming day trippers and adventurous travelers looking to spend the night.
During my visit, Dina Balkarova worked the bar. “Normally I live in Barentsburg,” she said. “But in Russia I don’t work in bars — I’m really an opera singer.” She told me that when she had time to herself, she’d ask one of the armed residents (no one can be without a gun this deep in polar bear country) to accompany her down to old oil drums by the dock. There, she’d test out her voice against the rusting metal.
This was the sort of eccentricity I’d hoped to find when, cruising around Svalbard earlier that summer, I’d first heard about Pyramiden. If anything, though, the place was less strange than I had imagined — the people were warm and proud of the town’s history, as they might be anywhere else in the world.
The few Russians and Ukrainians who have returned in recent years don’t dream of reviving Pyramiden as a functioning town. Instead, they told me, they’re hoping to preserve its heritage, which had so nearly been lost.
The buildings, they say, may be cold and lifeless, but at least they aren’t entirely abandoned.
LANY, Czech Republic — In a region long fought over by rival ethnic and linguistic groups, archaeologists in the Czech Republic have discovered something unusual in these turbulent parts: evidence that peoples locked in hostility for much of the modern era got along in centuries past.
A few yards from a Czech Army pillbox built as a defense against Nazi Germany, the archaeologists discovered a cattle bone that they say bears inscriptions dating from the sixth century that suggest that different peoples speaking different languages mingled and exchanged ideas at that time.
Perhaps fitting for a such a fractious region, the find has set off a furious brawl among academics and archaeologists, and nationalists and Europhiles, about what it all means.
The bone fragment, identified by DNA analysis and carbon dating as coming from the rib of a cow that lived around 1,400 years ago, was found in a Slavic settlement in 2017, said Jiri Machacek, the head of the archaeology department at Masaryk University in the Czech city of Brno. But in what is considered a major finding, a team of scholars led by Dr. Machacek recently concluded that the bone bears sixth-century runes, a system of writing developed by early Germans.
article by Czech, Austrian, Swiss and Australian scholars in the Journal of Archaeological Science.
The scratching, according to the Masaryk University team, turned out to be runic lettering, an ancient alphabet that was used by Germanic tribes before the adoption of the Latin script.
Inscribed on the bone are six of the last eight runes from a 24-letter alphabet known as Old Futhark, the oldest runic alphabet used by Germanic tribes during the first half of the first millennium.
Unlike Germanic tribes, who used runic lettering as early as the first century, speakers of Slavic tongues in places like Moravia, the site of an early Slav polity known as Great Moravia, were not thought to have had a written language until the ninth century.
“Suddenly, because of an archaeological find, the situation looks different,” said Dr. Machacek. “We see that people from the very beginning were connected, that Slavic people used runes” developed by early Germans, or at least had contact with them.
That Slavs also used or intermingled with people who used Germanic runes long before the arrival of the Greek monks who created Cyrillic, he added, upsets a conviction entrenched over centuries that Slavic culture developed separately from that of Germanic peoples and rests on its unique alphabet.
That was a major factor in the uproar that greeted the Masaryk University group’s findings.
Zuzana Hofmanova, a member of the Brno team who analyzes ancient DNA, said she recently received an anonymous message denouncing her and fellow scholars working on the inscribed sixth-century bone as traitors who deserved to be killed.
“Archaeological information can sometimes be misconstrued by people searching for ethnic purity,” she lamented.