“Israel”: a Hebrew word meaning “struggle with God”.
It is interesting that a country with so much conflict has the word struggle in its very name. Every year for the past four or five years, it’s been my resolution to learn more about the conflicts in the Middle East. However, I never really followed through with this goal until I actually went to Israel with my college’s Birthright program to learn more about its past, present, and potential future.
I thought that once I went to Israel I would finally be educated enough to form an opinion on the struggle and take an adamant stance on where my beliefs lie. However, now that I have learned more, my opinions are even more conflicted. The Israeli government is unjust in its occupation of Palestinian territories and its overall treatment of many Palestinian people. The fact that the people living in this land roughly 70 years ago were forced to leave their homes so that new people could move in just doesn’t seem to make much sense at all; where were they expected to go? This sentiment oddly piqued at an extremely pro-government and Israeli location: Independence Hall. When we arrived, we were ushered into a room to watch a film about the creation of Tel Aviv, Israel, and Independance Hall itself. The narrator of the film described the foundation of Israel as courageous and daring. I couldn’t understand how this could be painted in such a positive light. They illegally settled the land, ignoring the laws, to found an incredible country! They gladly accepted the two-state solution, while the selfish Arabs refused and launched a war! Of course the Palestinians did not want a two state solution; that would mean giving up half of their land. Do you think America would ever gladly just give up half of its’ land for a new country to be founded? Or any other country for that matter? Definitely not, or at least not without a fight. And how can illegally settling land be perceived as brave? It’s illegal.
However, the Palestinian government officials are no saints either. Promoting attacks on random innocent civilians with homemade bombs and stabbings is no way to accomplish a long-term political goal. Wars should be fought between soldiers, not the innocents merely standing by. If anything, I believe it makes the other side more defensive and less willing to communicate. Despite the fact that these attacks are carried out by Palestinian civilians, they should not really be completely to blame for their actions. Palestinian leaders teach their children to carry out attacks starting from a young age. Videos have even surfaced of kindergarteners putting on a school play about murdering Israelis. No matter the political situation, it is never appropriate to make five-year-olds put on a play about mass murder. This inculcation of hatred only makes the hatred and war more longstanding and harder to solve. Further, Palestinian leaders frequently limit resources to their people and make it more difficult to access their already minimal food, water, and medication. Hospitals and schools are used as military locations and put innocent people at risk.
Unrelated to the issues with the Palestinian government, the need for a Jewish state is understandable. Jews have been expelled from every single land they’ve ever dwelled, and have not held positions of power (that is, as a prominent group) since Biblical times. They will never be truly safe without a land to call their own. However, this fact made me muse: if Jews need a land of their own to be safe, and they are not safe in their own land, then what’s the point? This land is important to Jewish history and identity, but I believe it is more important to save the members of a dwindling religion than to continue to live in a land that opens them to danger. Israel is a country just like any other, despite its religious origins, and I don’t believe any country would be willing to just give up on a war and lose everything they’ve fought for, no matter how lengthy and dangerous it is.
There seems to be no end to the conflict: both sides have suffered great losses and yet are still firm in their beliefs. Children throughout the area face serious mental health issues due to the constant stress and impending danger, whether they are Israeli or Palestinian. It seems that the only way to solve the problem is just to intermix and live in peace with one another. Unfortunately, the two governments just seem too different to ever work together peacefully.
Israel is a beautiful land with many different religions, landscapes, foods, and cultures. You cannot separate the land from its struggles and relative youth, as it formulates its identity. The cuisine is a mixture of Mediterranean Arabs as well as European Jews, just like the cultures of its people. That so much violence can exist in a land beloved by so many people is appalling, yet it is reality, and will remain that way for the foreseeable future.
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