What is What?

Today we talked a lot about Israeli stereotypes and what it means to be Israeli. Israel was established as a religious homeland for the Jews, right? So next we have to decide: “what does Jewish mean?” According to the Israeli government you have to be at least 1/8 Jewish because that was the rule for Nazi persecution of the Jews during the Holocaust. For some it means you have to study the Talmud and devote yourself to Judaism. And for others it might mean you go to temple once every week. The definition for what is a religious Jew varies from person to person. Some people in Israel aren’t religious at all and use Jewish as a racial identifier. From that racial identifier stereotypes are developed; Jews have big noses, curly hair, etc. Then I can’t help but think “was Israel established as a state for a specific race?” That doesn’t seem fair to me. No where else in the world is there a state for a specific race that isn’t perceived as an oppressive society. This type of conversation continued throughout the day. How is Israel so radical and stubborn about its own policies towards another people when they don’t even know who they are? The man that we met and talked with about all this, and more, today was named David Mendelsohn. He is a professor at a local university and teaches linguistics. His voice and opinion was amazing and opened up more doors to the conflict than I had previously considered.

The next question that was forced upon me was “What is Palestinian?” Many, as they are called, “Israeli-Arabs” live in Israel with full Israeli citizenship even though they would consider themselves Palestinian. They were “trapped” in Israel when the wall was constructed in 2002. Palestinians had to choose between their current families on one side of the wall and their extended family on other side. Even today there are villages split on the green line. One half of the town is considered West Bank and the other Israel, but there is no wall between them. Today we visited a village Barta’a where this situation is most prevalent. Half of the town is in Israel with Palestinians living in it. The streets are clean and the houses have tiled roofs. We literally walked over a water grate and passed into the West Bank and the change was immediate. The roads were bumpy, there was trash everywhere, and the houses were rather undeveloped. The Palestinians on this side of the water grate were in quite the predicament. They were technically still in Israel based on the borders created by the wall, but also technically in West Bank based on the border set by the green line. So here were these Palestinians who were living in limbo. The village was in fact a hub of stores because they don’t have to pay any taxes. The Palestinian government can’t get to them to collect taxes and the Israeli government is too lazy to collect taxes because they technically aren’t Israeli citizens. So here were these Palestinians who didn’t know who they were. Once again I cannot stress how hard it is to describe what I’m learning in words and my time restraints. So the question that I was left with was who is who and what is what?

-Sam

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