Just like how I don’t understand why there are some Palestinians who want to harm us, I don’t understand why my younger brother has to go watch over a 12 family settlement in the West Bank instead of being with his family in Passover. I must admit, I don’t have a solution, but I do think that it has just gotten to a point where all I can say is “enough.” Both sides are suffering, our children are dying for no reason, Palestinians develop hatred toward us because they feel helpless and turn to Hamas for support, the world looks at us as the wrongdoers and blood spills on our ground. It would take two days for me to write and you five hours to read all that needs to be said, but I just want you to know, see, empathise, feel what it’s like to live in such a crazy place.
Israel-Palestine, Firsthand. An Israeli Girl, former intern at elephantjournal.com, tells of her cup of coffee this morning with a Palestinian “enemy.”
So here’s the story in brief.
As my friend Eran and I were driving back from the Dead Sea this morning, we didn’t realize what we were getting ourselves into when we stopped at a Bedouin tent to buy a sleeping pad.
We were greeted by a Palestinian man, who immediately offered us a seat and a cup of coffee. When you are offered coffee, it’s quite disrespectful to deny, so we sat down on the nice cushions, drank some black coffee and talked a bit. It’s not an everyday scene that you get to sit face-to-face with your so-called “enemy.” We talked about what we share in common, including, as it happened, the land we live on, and tried to understand each other.
We talked about what life was like during the Intifada in the mid ’90s when everyday a bus would blow, a bombing would occur in a central location, or you would hear about people you knew who just like that disappeared from our world. During this time, if I may remind those of you who forgot and those of you who didn’t know, Palestinians had work permits, were making their living working in Israel, making a good living and it seemed as if everyone was prospering. During that time some people decided to take advantage of those rights and freedom and Palestinians with bad intentions entered Israel and exploded themselves in public areas, killing many innocent Israeli civilians. Like any other country trying to protect itself, we were forced to close our borders, become a lot more strict and consider Palestinians as a whole as the enemy.
In 2005 Israel unilaterally decided to leave Gaza and move all the Israel settlers and citizens from the area. This was an extremely painful process, but we did it and left Gaza clean from any Israeli settlements, giving the local Palestinians the opportunity to control their own destiny. Israel left behind intact all the infrastructure that was built throughout the years. What happened shortly after may be already forgotten by the free world, but instead of taking advantage of this unilateral departure and invest in developing their own lives, hundreds of missiles were directed toward Israeli cities and towns in the southern part of Israel, shattering the lives of the local community.
For almost three years Israel tolerated this aggression with a lot of resolve. Ultimately, Israel was forced to react and to protect its citizens, and act as any independent country would have done. It seems as if the media shows only how we oppress the Palestinians, but what about the other side? Do you think we like sending our children to sit at border crossings, checking papers all day? Since the fence was built we have had some bombings and even rockets fly over our borders, but overall it has been quite some time (depending who you ask and where they are from).
After a cup of black coffee on a hot day we reached a conclusion: There are extremists on both sides, both the Jewish fanatics who live in illegal settlements, and there is the Hamas and their people who do not recognize Israel’s right to exist and will do anything in their power to destroy us.
Places like Qiryat Arba, where many Israeli extremists live, is not any better if you ask me. But what I can say to their defense is that no matter how extreme they are, most will not blow themselves up and killing many civilians.
My friend Eran is an above knee amputee who lost his leg in the second Lebanon War just a few years back. He was telling me today that during his military service while guarding these areas, he would get stones thrown at him not only by little Palestinian children but also by the other side, our side, the settlers. Just imagine our 18 to 20 year old soldiers being put right in the middle of this battle: what do they think to themselves? I can tell you that most of them say the same thing, what do we need this for? And what can we do? This conflict dates so far back that both sides have developed rigidly opposing views. Just like how I don’t understand why there are some Palestinians who want to harm us, I don’t understand why my younger brother has to go watch over a 12 family settlement in the West Bank instead of being with his family in Passover. I must admit, I don’t have a solution, but I do think that it has just gotten to a point where all I can say is “enough.” Both sides are suffering, our children are dying for no reason, Palestinians are developing hatred toward us because they feel helpless and turn to Hamas for support, the world looks at us as the wrongdoers and too much blood spills on our grounds. It would take about two days for me to write and you five hours to read all that needs to be said, but I just want you to know, see, empathise, feel what it’s like to live in such a crazy place.
Our friend with the coffee, this morning, told us that he hasn’t been in Israel (Tel Aviv) in 15 years. Just the other day he got a one-day permit to travel and see Israel. He told us that most of the time he was on the bus and by the time they got to Tel Aviv and went up north a bit, he had a curfew he had to follow. His life is not easy—originally from Halhul a village near Hebron, he moved to Jericho, one of the biggest Palestinian cities situated close to the Dead Sea.
I must say that writing this article took me a long time, because I myself don’t know it all. There is so much to say and writing words down doesn’t come close to telling it all. Hearing him tell me all this made me feel torn. From one side, I think it is sad that he lives such a strict life where there is always someone controlling where he can go and when…but on the other side, I agree with my country that since it is hard to filter person from person, there are rules and that is the only way we can all have some silence and live peacefully and with less fear. We want peace and we are willing to make big sacrifices to sustain it. We are willing to give so much just to get recognition of our existence in return.
Both sides deserve to live in peace and freedom, so it’s up to us to listen to one another and look at each other as human beings.
…(at left) studied Sociology at University of Colorado at Boulder, and interned at elephant journal back when we were a magazine. She now lives in Tel Aviv, Israel.
A few random photos I dug from back in the day, when Tal was one of our interns. ~ ed.
~ The below video doesn’t come from Tal, but was posted on her FB Wall by an acquaintance. I’m sharing it here, by way of perspective and conversation. ~ ed.