I Went To Israel For A Month Here Is What I Learned About The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
For as long as I can remember my mother would take me to the brick building near town, for Shabbat. I would sit on her lap as the cantor sang, and I would hear my mother’s soft singing in my ear. As I got older this tradition dwindled, and soon I was no longer on her lap, but next to her singing, and praying all on my own. When I would go to synagogue on Sundays for religious school I would see the big Israeli flag right across from the American one. After the American national anthem we would sing the Israeli national anthem called Hatikvah, which in English roughly translates to,“The Hope”. At Hebrew school we would also celebrate Israel’s birthday, and dress up in white and blue. We were handed little plastic Israeli flags on wooden sticks, and waved them around like a prized possession. Maybe this was the innocence of childhood, but I did not know that Israel was a large political debate, and had been long before I was born.
Going to Israel for me, and many other Jewish teens seems inevitable. Yet with most things with a lot of hype, it can be hard to see the downsides. Before going to Israel, I was very much aware and wary of the ways in which Palestinians were treated. In a lot of ways the conflict in Israel reminds me of the ways in which countries like America, treat the most marginalized. Yet for my sanity, I decided to push these feelings aside and go, in order to see things out for myself. Over the course of five weeks, I went around Eastern Europe, saw Auschwitz, and spent four weeks traveling in Israel. I was able to see many important religious sites relating to my people, swim in the Mediterranean, eat falafel, and learn all about Israel from our Israeli counselors. When it came to talking about the conflict, we were taught in the most unbiased way possible, (yet this was difficult since our counselors were Israeli and former IDF soldiers). I learned that this issue, like most large political issues, is very very very complicated and that there are many different sides. We also had the opportunity to talk to a Palestinian man who lived in Bethlehem, and who was one of the very few people in his village who could go outside of his village because of his special permit. I learned a lot from this man, including what being Palestian in an Israeli State means. Besides the obvious life lessons, he talked about why many youth turn to Hamas as an outlet for their frustration. A lot of the youth in Palestine, he said are angry at the older generations for not doing enough, for not fighting for their land. Although Hamas is a violent, awful terrorist organization I was able to see why many young people turn to Hamas, due to the stability the organization markets to provide.
When I was in Israel, because we were American tourists we weren’t allowed to go into Palestian areas. Although, we were permitted to go and see a wall that separated an Israeli settlement from a Palestinian village. What struck me the most was how on the Israeli side there were all these palm trees and flowers, that you could see from the Palestinian side. Yet, on the other side there were no trees to be seen over the wall and it looked almost bare. That really spoke volumes to me about the difference between the two sides. For me I found it almost haunting, because what is a world without trees, like?
Overall, my trip to Israel was life changing. I was in a country where I could be who I wanted to be openly and express my religion without fear. I saw ancient ruins, and slept in the desert under the stars. At the same time, my trip to Israel showed me a tiny glimpse into the life of what a non Israeli person living in Israel is like. There are hardships, and it is no secret that the Israeli government has violated multiple human rights laws. Although I was able to see the Israeli-Palestian conflict from a more up close point of view, I still left with more confusion on the issue than I did before. Issues like this one are complicated, and can not be solved with easy solutions. I did however come to this conclusion; I love Israel but I do not love the way the government treats Palestinians and other minorities. I plan to stick to that choice until I see a reason not to.