Let me just start out by saying that the two days since I last blogged have been emotionally exhausting and it is past ten at night here, so my train of thought may be a little off. We have been staying a Ramat Hashofet Kibbutz in Israel, and talked to mostly Israelis about their perspective on this conflict. Yesterday we spent the day with a man named David. He was not born in Israel, but has spent a large portion of his life here. He works with an organization called Givat Haviva which is a learning center in Israel that works with both Israelis and Palestinian to break down cultural barriers. David is a brilliant man and I learned so much about cultural history of the Jews. He also took us into a town called Barta’a which is an Arab town that was split in half by the green line in the late 40’s, making half the town citizens of Israel and half citizens of Jordan. This, of course, creates an interesting dynamic within the town and taught us a lot about the tensions for Arabs with Israeli citizenship between both Israeli Jews and Palestinians.
Today we visited a Kibbutz about ten minutes away called Mishmar Ha’emek. We spent our time there with a woman named Lydia who has lived in Israel for 45 years and also works at Givat Haviva. We toured the Kibbutz and learned that a Kibbutz is basically an intentional socialist community. All members live on the Kibbutz, the work they do is to benefit the Kibbutz, and all the money they make must be given to the Kibbutz. In some ways, it is similar to communes that we hear about in the U.S., but a Kibbutz is much more accepted and part of the Israeli culture than communes are in the U.S.
Since I began learning about the conflict, I have also looked to Israel for blame. And here I am, in the middle of Israel proper, spending two days with Israelis who very much believe in the State of Israel. One of them served in the Israeli army and would willingly go back if called to protect Israel, and one is a self-identified Zionist. You can imagine my initial rejection of their ideas. But getting to know them and listening to their ideas showed me that it wasn’t so easy to paint them into this stereotypical “bad Israeli” corner. Both spend a large amount of time working with Arabs in both Israel and the West Bank. When we visited the town of Barta’a with David, we met someone who he considered his brother. They both clearly care about Palestinians, and are actively working towards peace and equality among Israelis and Palestinians.
You may be able to imagine my confusion. A whole new side of this conflict was opened to me in just two days time. I wrote the following paragraph a second ago to describe how I have been feeling. It came out as a blabbering mess, but I am going to leave it in that form to show you what has been going on in my head for the past two days:
Of course Israel should exist! The Jews need and deserve a homeland! But at the same time, I don’t think what Israel is doing is right. The Palestinians were already here. Someone can’t come and take someone else’s land. Israel has no right. But they do! They have been oppressed for thousands of years. Hell, six million of them were murder less than 100 years ago! They need a place where they can express their own culture in beliefs safely. This is where their origins are. Of course they would be called to move back to this land. But, it isn’t safe here. No wonder they have been the aggressor. But that doesn’t excuse their actions. They have still pushed thousands of people out of their homes.
And it goes on…
Hopefully now you can see how, after two days, I am thoroughly “pooped”. There was a point this afternoon where I wanted to go back to my room, watch a stupid movie, and not even think about the words “Palestine” and “Israel” ever again. It is just so overwhelming. I never thought that it would be like this. I knew I would be challenged, but I honestly couldn’t foresee just how pushed I would be. Just imagine taking something that you think you understand pretty well, and having it flipped completely upside down in the course of 48 hours is mind blowing. Before coming here I didn’t consider myself “anti-Israel”, but I did mostly side with Palestine. Now, I have been exposed to the richness of the Jewish culture. It is truly impossible to understand without experiencing it firsthand.
While I am totally confused and turned around by my revelations of the past 48 hours, I have nothing to say to David and Lydia but “thank you”. Without them I would still be blind to half of this conflict, and I am extremely grateful that they opened my eyes.
Now that I have rambled on for a really long time I am first going to apologize for doing so (sorry) and then I am going to sleep.
לילה טוב (good night),