I realized today that I have built a barrier between my mind and my emotions. I logically ingest the information I hear, but I have little to no emotional response. There are several reasons for why this happening: I am an outsider to the situation, I have very little if any power to impact the conflict in a noticeable way, and the emotional gravity of what I’m observing is so great that I am choosing to put it off. This feeling changed a bit when, tonight, I talked openly with peers on the trip about what I have been experiencing. Their views were quite similar. It is difficult to have a lot of information thrown at you and not know what to do. Like steam with no vent, my emotions have built up pressure and, given no way to escape, they threaten to break out at any inopportune moment. I am worried that my frustration might lead to unfair opinions formed out of anger.
Today we visited the town of Barta’a. This village, located on the Israeli side of the separation barrier, is unique in many ways. For starters, everyone who lives in Barta’a has the same last name and is from the same family. Another key point is that Barta’a is located directly on the green line meaning that half of the town is located inside Israeli borders and the other half is under Palestinian authority. We literally walked from the Israeli side across the green line to get lunch on the Palestinian side of town. I was most able to see the effects of the separation into two states has had on Israel when I saw Barta’a. While all Palestinians, whether under Israeli or Palestinian authority, challenge the justice of the wall and the ideology behind it, many Palestinians have benefitted from being under the Israeli infrastructure rather than their own Palestinian government. This was demonstrated in cleanliness of their part of Barta’a, their yellow license plates (which allow them to go through check points), the architecture of their homes (the signature Israeli red clay roofs have become a symbol of status in Palestinian culture), and many other factors. While ideologically both halves of the village/family are on the same page, strategically those who are citizens of Israel are far better off, and display this contrast in standard of living clearly. I had never entertained the notion that some Palestinians may benefit from the wall, even though they reject the purpose it was created for; separation. Has this separation seeped between the Palestinians as well?
Twice while I was in Barta’a, I saw Palestinian children holding guns. At least that’s what I thought until I realized that one was fake and the other was actually the nozzle of a hose. I still found the appearance of weaponry threatening and disturbing even more so than the real guns of Israeli soldiers. The fact that these children’s idea of power, safety, and security comes from having the ability to take lives is frightening, but I guess that’s just how they’ve learned to understand control. After all, their occupiers use these tools to make changes to meet their needs, so the children have been raised observing that power lies in weaponry. Maybe they believe that the only way that they can meet their own needs is through violence and the power gained from fear. Or maybe they were just children playing with toy guns.