Life in Jerusalem Provides a New Perspective

Dear University Students and Staff,

As I reach the end of my fourth month here in Jerusalem, I feel that it is only fair for me to tell you what is going on in the Holy Land of Israel. For the many of you who do not know who I am, I feel that it is important to give you a short briefing of where I am coming from and why I am in the epicenter of today’s chaos. Above all else, I must describe myself as a moderate who is simply searching for meaning and some form of truth.

The reason why this holds such importance is that most of the time when you read about the situation in Israel these days, it is coming from a semi-extremist on either side, especially on campuses all over the States. You will never see me publicly debating with Keith or Jon. Why? Because I sincerely feel that these heated debates are producing nothing but increased tension. The more we accuse each other, the further apart we seem to get. In addition, when people see the representatives on both sides of this conflict wanting to strangle each other, they simply feel that both sides are crazy, which unfortunately leads to apathy. I am a Jew so if you notice any form of bias please know that I am tearing the hair out of my head trying to keep a neutral standpoint.

I arrived at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem on July 29 to be welcomed by the terrorist attack the next day that blew up our cafeteria along with nine people, including my counselor. Fifteen minutes prior to the attack, I passed the cafeteria with a friend and thankfully decided not to stop for lunch. As one can imagine, a tragedy such as this has the ability of making deep impressions on someone, especially when it is that close to home. For days, I had the image of Janis, my counselor, teaching me how to ask the bus driver for a tissue in Hebrew. Eventually, Israeli society taught me to stay strong and remember why I am here, which is partly to understand exactly what is happening. One major obstacle of achieving this is that American society has taught me to look for the good guy and the bad guy of the situation and I am sorry to say that is absolutely impossible. How could one be a good guy and still demolish houses and impose curfews? How could the other be the good guy when he is entering kibbutzim (Israeli communes) and slaughtering an innocent mother along with her two young children in cold blood? To some, it may look like evil versus evil, but it is not.

In the States, we often encounter activists showing us fact after fact, picture after picture. To tell you the truth, there is no shortage of facts or horrifying pictures on either side, it is just a matter of which ones the activist chooses to tell. Every fact has a long story behind it, but sometimes we are so incredibly overtaken at the time of being exposed to the fact that we forget to even care about how it came about. What we must remember is that Israel has the right to exist. Jews have been living here since biblical times so it is not a matter of them taking someone else’s land. In addition, the Arabs have the right to remain in the homes that they have been living in for approximately the same amount of time. Now here is the key to understanding what I know. When we speak of Jews and Arabs it is impossible to see them as two distinct entities. On both sides, we have our share of extremists, moderates, and dreamers of peace.

My closest friend here happens to be an Israeli-Arab. We both share similar ideals including the dream of peacefully coexisting. While we do tend to have disagreements here and there, the root of the problem seems clear. There are many Palestinian extremists that do not acknowledge Israel’s right to exist and they are ready to blow themselves up along with their children to get their point across. Every time Palestinian homicide bombers manage to “successfully” end their lives along with many other innocent Israelis, Sharon and his government have another reason to take out their anger and frustration on the Palestinians. As you can see, this turns into a Catch-22 with one constantly retaliating after the other. I have made several friends that have been in and currently serve in the Israeli army and I can promise you that this is a morally grounded army. The question is, how moral can an army be when trying to protect its people? There have been times when I have read in the newspapers about innocent Palestinians being killed and this disturbs me just as much as hearing about the death of a Jew. Sometimes it seems as if the army is not being one hundred percent careful when trying to weed out terrorists in the occupied territories. I never thought I would say this but, unfortunately this is war and we all hate it!

One of the greatest problems is that the power on both sides lies in the hands of the extremists and they are representing their people as a whole. This same problem resembles our campus where we are all so busy accusing each other that we forget that what we should be doing is looking for ways to achieve peace. One thing I have learned is that there are actually people out there that do not want peace and this boggles my mind. I feel that the majority of Arabs and Jews want peace and are sick of living under these conditions. It is a matter of these majorities standing up and taking the initiative of making peace a not so distant possibility. Some say that if the Israeli army would simply leave the occupied territories than peace would be possible. With such a statement we must take reality into account and understand that there are endless numbers of would be homicide bombers in these territories.

In addition, if we study the history of this conflict, we can come to the conclusion that every time the Palestinian Authority makes some sort of a promise of peace, such as in the Oslo Accords, they never seem to be able to keep up their side of the deal. Allowing them to leave the territories instantly and without caution would be a worse nightmare than what we are already experiencing. So as for what you see on campus, please be careful with what you buy into. I can tell you that what the ISO tries to tell you about this situation is absolutely unreliable and inconsistent. It brings me to tears to know that a Jew is supporting a newspaper that claims that the actions of the Israelis resemble that of the Nazis. We are beginning to see a new wave of anti-Semitism all over the world and this does not exclude Burlington so please let us all fight this by not succumbing to the bliss of ignorance. If anyone has any questions, comments, or concerns, please email me at [email protected]