“I hate my neighbor!:” A little bit about the Israeli-Palestinian relationship

Another roommate conflict?! …No, not this time, this is much much larger, nations hating other nations. Yet it all seems so childish.  Just like some of the stuff I hear about in the residence halls – ‘she took the soap out of the bathroom,’ ‘My pet fish is missing!’ etc… this conflict is clearly a problem but also so foolish…and it seems to have the ability to bring out the worst in everyone.

Like everything in life, this is contextual; it is NOT black and white but painted in shades if grey. Jess reminded me today that there are a lot of different sides, not just a Palestinian or Israeli one, not a Jewish or Muslim one (put two Jews in the same room and you get three opinions), not a UN ruling, not a government – it’s murky.  While in most facets of my own life I have trouble seeing in shades of grey, I think in this, I get it.  And it’s something I’ve worked really hard to be able to see.  Here’s why – a lot of the things I was taught about Israel were only from one perspective. I’d argue that the majority of American Jews (even most American non-Jews) were only taught from one perspective. And that is the one that makes Israel look like the victors all the time.  Because of this and because of the way the media has portrayed Israel folks either don’t care or don’t know to look at this issues through a different lens.

I know I often hold unpopular views on Israel within my religion, I am reminded time and time again when I’m called a traitor or naive by my own people. I don’t do it because I don’t like my religion. On the contrary, I think being Jewish has shaped me into who I am – it has given me and formed my values and those values inform my current viewpoints. Judaism taught me to question everything and not to take things at face value – think about Responsa, the questions we ask and how one may halachically rule on those questions. Judaism has taught me about tikkun olam – that I must work to heal, repair and transform the world and about tzedek, pursuing justice – and all of this can be applied to how I feel about the recent relations between the Israelis and the Palestinians. So, please – do not call me a traitor or naive, I do not need your hate e-mails or messages on facebook or twitter, please do not tell me I am going against my people or disowning my roots…because I have a poster of the shema hanging over my bed and a mezuzah on my door. Try, as I have, to see beyond what you have been taught in Hebrew school. Try, as I try to see beyond the side you are supposed to see. Try, as I try to see the shades of grey. It is not comfortable, it is not fun, it is does not paint a pretty picture and it is certainly not popular but it allows you the opportunity to be more informed about something you are clearly passionate about…

In the words of Kohelet-Ecclesiastes: eit livnot, there is a time to build, but Kohelet also teaches, eit lifrotz, there is a time to tear down (Eccles. 3.3).  At a time of political divisiveness and economic stress, eit livnot, walls tend to go up.  Perhaps at this time of uncertainty and fear in our peoples and nations history when we seek the comfort of family, friends and, community, eit lifrotz it is, in fact, time to pull walls down.  It’s time to tear walls down…please work to make that happen. Try to see that non-violence is the answer and that this issue can be solved through understanding and collaboratively working toward a just community.

I had intended to write about the flotillas but at this point I can’t even begin to do so… I am simply too enraged with the situation and the responses I have received from my peers, teachers and mentors. I do hope this calls attention to Israel and the human rights violations perpetrated at the hands of my people. I hope this is a wake up call for America and the rest of the world. And let’s all watch as Obama plays RA and mediates for the Israelis and Palestinians. Accountability is paramount.