Emily Harris

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The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is relatively quiet right now. After several months of attacks and killings that started last October, Israeli officials say that wave of violence has tapered off.

If this trend stays on track, it could mark yet another time that intense, headline-grabbing violence has surged, then waned, in this decades-long conflict. In other words, it looks like things are returning to a period of relative calm with no war or uprising.

In recent years the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been playing out on a battleground that's barely a couple square inches in size. It's the labels of consumer goods produced in areas under Israeli occupation.

Last year the European Union, for example, instructed member countries to not allow imports of products from Jewish settlements in the West Bank to be labeled as, "Made in Israel." The European Union, like the U.S. considers the settlements illegal.

At a long table in the Level Up restaurant, 11 stories above Gaza City, Basil Eleiwa got a cake with a sparkling candle on top — to honor his eatery's second birthday.

"We opened two or three weeks before the 2014 war," Level Up's founder and co-owner notes, referring to the conflict that began in July 2014 between Israel and Hamas, the militant Islamist group that runs the Gaza strip.

The restaurant had closed during the seven weeks of fighting.

"The building was hit a number of times," Eleiwa says. "It didn't fall down."

Driving instructor Mohammad al-Hattab, 33, remembers very well when police pulled him over last fall.

"It was a Sunday, about 1:30 p.m.," said Hattab in the office of the al-Jarajwa driving school in Gaza City. "I remember two guys on two motorcycles. They were in civilian clothes. One stopped in front of my car. He started shouting, 'Stop, stop, we are police.'"

Khaled Ali Hassanin opens his silver minivan and pulls into Cairo's busy traffic. He is a freelance driver. He used to ferry foreign tourists all around Egypt as a staff member of a tour company. It was a great job.

"There was so much work. I never worried about money. If I spent one [Egyptian] pound, I'd get two back. We had more work than we could handle," he says.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

After the regular Friday prayers at Cairo's Sultan Hussain Mosque, it was time to say prayers for the dead.

Worshippers outside for the overflow service stood in neat rows through four calls of "God is great." They said silent prayers in between.

Afterward, Khalid al-Kassam, 67, received hugs and claps on the back from many friends. His brother and sister-in-law, plus their son and his wife, were all on EgyptAir Flight 804.

Crispy fried sardines. Spicy labneh dip for sweet bell peppers, cherry tomatoes and sliced cucumbers. Chilled arugula lemonade.

The top U.S. diplomat in Jerusalem, Counsel General Donald Blome, served Gaza-style cuisine at a garden party Monday night. Sound like the old-fashioned society pages? Nope. This is U.S. policy at work.

The event was designed to promote the potential of agribusiness in Gaza and tout new U.S. government investment in that crowded, narrow strip of Palestinian territory on the Mediterranean Sea.

Shahd Al-Swerki still lives in the place she was born: that crowded rectangle of land along the Mediterranean called the Gaza Strip. Swerki knew she wanted to raise her children differently than she had been raised in the conservative Palestinian society. Especially her first child, a girl.

"My father made me lose a chance to travel to Italy when I was 14," says Swerki, now 26. "Although my father allowed my two brothers to travel, to Turkey and Germany to continue their studies."

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