Despite the fact that I am so new to the formal study of the Middle East, this is a region that has been in my heart and soul for as long as I can remember. Growing up in a very traditional Jewish home, Israel was not just a distant land to me, but a land that was another home and haven for me; the land of my people. In high school God pushed me directly into what would become the true love of my life, the Arabic language, and that widened my connection to this region. From then on this area wasn't just a place that I was connected to through my Judaism, but a region that I was connected to through the deepest of loves and respects for a different language, culture, and people than my own.
I don't think people really understand just how connected I feel to the "other" semitic language and culture, and I don't think it is so far off to say that I was an Arab in a previous life (that is what my Ulpan teacher likes to tell me). I speak the language more convincingly than my own (Hebrew), I love it more than my own, and when I hear anything Arabic, or witness anything dealing with Arab life and culture (even to a certain extent practices of Islam), my soul is moved beyond expression. For example, when I hear the call to prayer, though it is not my religion, I am so moved that I have a desire to get down on the floor and pray to God, for in all honesty, though I am not of the Islamic faith, and we have fundamental differences in terms of belief, we do pray to the same God; the only God. And so, it seems natural that their prayers and practices move me just as my own do.
It is this overwhelming connection to two very different sides of an ever growing conflict that puts me in a position to view this conflict in a very interesting way. I won't go into the specifics of my beliefs on the conflict here, since they are long and detailed and I'm still forming new opinions every day, but I will say that weeks like the one Israel and Palestine have seen in this week, discourages and saddens me beyond belief, and makes me want to work that much harder to try and come up with something that could maybe help bring about a solution for peace between these two regions.
Two very important things happened this week on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides. When I returned home from Jordan I was inundated with news of rocket attacks coming from Gaza and devastating towns such as Ashkelon. Schools had to close, an innocent man lost his life, and Israel suffered major damages. When a resistance movement resorts to violence they do it knowing full well that Israel will retaliate to protect her citizens. This is as it should be and there is no denying or getting around that. Most developed countries would respond to an attack with a retaliation; this is just what makes sense. However, when violence begets violence no one is any closer to peace or a constructive solution, and the cycle of hatred, violence, murder, and devastation continues. The extremists in Gaza make it seemingly impossible to pacify this region, and provocation of Israel is something the do all to often.
Now, on the other hand, Israel has just approved building more settlements in both East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and this is almost as detrimental to peace as Gaza's rockets. The Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are losing more and more of their land everyday so that Israeli settlers, many of whom resort to practices such as taunting and chastising little Palestinian children on their way to school, or burning and uprooting precious olive trees, can expand and grow. I have seen Palestinians in the West Bank chased and tormented by soldiers for no reason other than they are trying to live life day to day under occupation (now don't confuse my meaning of "occupation" with "apartheid" because I don't agree with that saying, but I do agree that the West Bank is occupied territory). Regardless, it is a heartbreaking situation that is hindering peace as much as the rocket's of Gaza.
Peace has to start somewhere. Will it be with the halting of rockets? Will it be with the halting of settlement building and expansion? Who knows, but something desperately needs to happen and soon. Tensions are rising, votes are happening, and the world is now completely tuned into this issue, so it is time for us to start working together to solve this crisis. I will conclude with one last thought, and a thought that is a bit critical on my own beloved United States. I feel that, especially with the USA, countries feel that if they show the slightest bit of support for the Palestinians then they are Anti-Israel. In the case of the USA it is looking more and more, especially with their cutting of UNESCO funds, that they must be either for one or for the other. Why should showing support for the Palestinians to attain statehood (as long as it is in a peaceful way) mean that they are turning on Israel. I would be the first to die for Israel's right to exist as the Jewish state, but I also feel just as strongly that the Palestinians should have their own state as well. I am PRO-ISRAEL/PALESTINE and hope that more people jump on this bandwagon in the future. We need to start thinking of "both" sides, instead of one or the other; only then can there be forward progression (in my humble opinion).
Aside from all of the rantings, I am so happy with the quality of my seminars this semester and plan on learning a great deal about this amazing region. I have narrowed my region of focus to Jordan and Israel/Palestinian Territories and hope to do some amazing study and research of this area (from the conflict to the issue of the Palestinians living in Jordan). It is sure to be an extremely exciting and informational semester! Other than that I finish my move into my new apartment tomorrow and will get the pleasure of assembling everything I bought from Ikea... Stay tuned for that post because it is sure to be an interesting one... I am not the most handy person in the world so I'm sure I'll rack up some blog worthy stories. Thank goodness I'm living with 4 guys or I don't know what I would do!
Ma As-salame ya habibis <3,
I would like to take this time to fondly and lovingly remember my step brother David who was taken from us 4 years ago today. David, there is not a day that goes by that we don't think of you and miss you, and I hope you are watching over us every day (especially Pidy and Step Momma). We miss and love you forever <3 נוח על משכבך בשלום אחי