Wow. Alright. So. I will start by apologizing for not being able to write more often, but our time here is so budgeted down, it is almost impossible to sit down at a computer and actually draft something with any content at all. I hope that this will get easier in the second half of our trip, with greater access to computers, but we shall see. I promise that I will try to write a massive post at the end summing everything up and including anything which I am sure to have missed or not had time to cover.
Ok. So. I have to say, and the past few days have brought this to life, that one of the greatest strengths of what we are doing is how many different people and viewpoints we are hearing from. We have heard from an old Jewish Kibutsim (who had four sons and a husband serve in the IDF), a bright young Arab-Israeli (and Arab with Israeli citizenship) lawyer, a Palestinian schoolteacher, and old holocaust survivor and artist, a Rabbi who has dedicated his life to advocating for human rights, an Israeli settler, a family of Greek Orthodox Christians who have been in Beit Sadour (right outside Bethlehem) for eight generations (who also happen to be the host family, from whose house I am writing), and several high school members of a traditional dance troupe.
Looking at the above list, it seems almost impossible to even begin to articulate all of the different ideas and viewpoints expressed by them (it would take me many hours, and I do eventually need to get to bed as we have an early start tomorrow). Therefore, right now I will simply address what I see, as of right now, is the main most fundamental root of the problem, which can be glimpsed in various ways by what almost everybody had to say. That root is this: the dehumanization of the “other side” and the quite high level of ignorance to all aspects of the issue by almost every party (of course, the less you know the easier it becomes to be sure you know what is right… the more I learn, the more I have to think and question, and the muddier the waters become.)
In any conflict there is dehumanization/ignorance of the “other side”, from the conquests of the Romans to the Civil Rights Movement to the current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is much easier to stand at a checkpoint as an Israeli soldier and causally refuse passage to anybody if all you know of the “other” is the memory you have as a child of watching a bus on the opposite side of the street explode and 20 people die; just as it is much easier to blow up that bus if all you see is the soldier who allowed your baby to die in your arms as you are trying to bring him to a hospital in Jerusalem by heartlessly refusing your pleas to let you through. Ah, but wait: there in that very example you see the cycle; a cycle which only deepens the level of misunderstanding on either side and worsens the problem.
One thing is becoming clear to me: the more I learn, the better I understand how little it is I actually know, and how two weeks will only the a drop in the proverbial ocean of what there is to know, hear and see. That said, read what is about to follow carefully, as it may well be the most important thing I write about this trip: at the risk of sounding clichéd, I lay on you one task; that task is to NOT simply accept things at face value. Question everything you hear, because if you look closely enough you will find a contradiction and counterargument for everything, and it is only after sifting through all of the information available with the finest comb ever made that you will find the grain of sand that is your truth.
With that I shall leave you now, as I do need to sleep tonight. Thank you for reading (I do understand that it is probably frustrating to hear me tell you to go out and get many viewpoints and then not have time to share the ones I have seen, but please give me time, I swear I will do what I can to fix this over the next week or two). As always, any input (comments, questions, etc. etc. etc.) is greatly appreciated.
Assalamu alaikum (roughly: peace be with you)