A Hopeful Cynicism – Mike

First off, I should apologize for not posting sooner. I came down with some kind of nasty infection about 3 days ago, and while I feel better now, nobody wants to read posts about how long it took me to read Lolita(quite a while) or how fun being sick is(not very).
When I wrote my resolution to the Israel/Palestine conflict last year in Hiroshima-9/11, I thought I had everything mapped out. Two state solution, path of the Wall/Border/Fence, resource allocation, etc. What I forgot were the people, the ones who have the power to put my resolution into action. While I have immensely enjoyed speaking to a vast array of people with a vast array of views, it hasn’t brought about the impact that I thought it would before I took off in Philadelphia. Namely, it hasn’t made me hopeful that a solution is possible any time soon.
Before you scream at me through your monitor, I will explain. What I mean to say is that by hearing almost every imaginable viewpoint from either side, it has further complicated the conflict in my mind. Two quick examples:
1.)The definition and implication of the word Zionist. Even some of the most “progressive” Israelis that we talked to, i.e. Arik Ascherman and Lydia Aisenberg call themselves Zionists. Zionism is a big, confusing word that in my opinion does not merit a specific definition. Google it and come to your own conclusions, as I’d be foolish to even attempt to define it. What I do know is that Zionism has huge implications and a wide range of impact. What’s concerning about the word itself and its many definitions is the fact that most Palestinian “progressive” groups who we talked to are completely unwilling to work with Zionists. Their reasons range but their conclusion remains the same: they won’t work with Zionists. Clearly, you can see the problem. If even the most progressive groups are unwilling to collaborate, then, put simply, who will?
2.)The disunity of the Palestinian people. This issue is a bit more hard-hitting because it’s one that I hadn’t heard about until David Mendelson educated us about it in one of our many meetings. Until that time, it had been my belief that the Palestinian people were only in a conflict with outside forces. I now realize that the Palestinians have each other to deal with us well. Besides the obvious split of Fatah and Hamas in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, respectively, the Palestinians are divided into different ethnic groups, religions and viewpoints on the conflict. While they all want peace in some way or another, the catch is in the details.
These two issues alone could spark a novel(and I’m sure they have). Unfortunately, they are just two of an ever-growing mental jigsaw puzzle I have, and they all must fit together if there is to be any hope of seeing something beautiful when the puzzle is put together. While it is appalling to hear kids my age say that they hate all Jews(!), I have been able to draw some hope from these jagged puzzle pieces.
The Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum came as a all-too-solemn reminder of where I come from, and it was an experience that I’d prefer not to blog about in great detail. And while it was a bleak reminder of a bleak past, it had a hopeful message: Even the Holocaust ended. So I’d prefer to approach the rest of this trip with a hopeful cynicism, to draw every last bit of hope out of everything we hear, but at the same time, to remain realistic.
I hope to post something lighter(sorry to depress you) before I leave, as there is quite a lot of good to share. Until then, I shall react and reflect.

Mike D.

Paying Homage in the Homeland

When I think of Israel/Palestine, I think of what I’ve been taught in class. I think of maps, wars, declarations, walls, checkpoints and stones. I think about Christianity, Islam and Judaism. I think about a God that I have become disconnected from after years of struggling with religion. I think about oppression, how two of the most historically oppressed peoples have come together, having more in common than they could know or imagine, have come together to breed even more oppression. I think about a tiny piece of land with huge importance. I think about liberation, and equality, for the Palestinian and the Israeli people.

However, there is only so much I can learn in World  Religions, Liberation Theology, Hiroshima to 9/11 or Model UN. There is only so much I can learn by writing Israeli/Palestine peace proposals or watching and reading countless works about the current and historical situation. There is only so much that can be learned from reel, or ink and paper. I want to learn all that I can learn about “the Promised Land”, as my Jewish faith calls it, and I can only do so by going there.

Our group of diverse students and faculty are just three days away from a long flight to a land with a long history, and I have no doubts about what I have chosen to do for my Senior Project. As I have stated, my choice of the Israel/Palestine trip is deeply rooted in finding my disconnected spiritual roots in Jerusalem, at the West Wall, in the land that was promised to Abraham’s descendants. I’d like to find something that affects me deeply in the holy land, and I have a feeling that I won’t have to look very hard at all.

However, my religion(or lack of it) is not the only reason that I’m going to take this once-in-a-lifetime journey. Journalism is the career field that I’d like to find myself in years down the road, and there is no better “on the job” experience than a trip to meet strong-willed people and see some of the world’s holiest sites in arguably the most controversial place in the world. My hope is that this trip will be a kick-start to my journalism career, and will be something that I’ll be able to use for reference for the rest of it.

I could sit here and write pages upon pages of why I’m going to Israel/Palestine, but I don’t intend to bore you, noble reader. In fact, I applaud you for making it through that wall of text. What I will tell you though, is that I am incredibly excited. In fact, more excited than I’ve ever been in my life. The textbooks that I have been reading from Sunday school at seven to the movies at seventeen will come to life. I only hope that I’ll be able to calm myself down and not over-analyze enough to actually enjoy myself and find my center while I’m there. I don’t expect to solve any world problems while I’m other, no one person can do that, but I do expect to solve some of Mike’s problems.

Thanks for reading,

Mike