After studying abroad for six months
in the heart of “the holy land,” Jerusalem,
I would like to share some insight into the
real situation on the ground in Israel. Most
students with busy lives have very little time
between sips of beer and Four Loko (R.I.P.)
to read the extensive histories of every
modern conflict. Instead we must rely on
the media to give us the SparkNoted version.
Unfortunately, the media sometimes
fails to act responsibly in delivering the
“big picture” of a conflict to unsuspecting
readers. The point of this article is not to be
condescending, but to share my account as
a foreigner witnessing firsthand the Arab-
Israeli conflict.
I have studied and extensively toured
Israel/Palestine and some of its neighbors,
much to the chagrin of my parents (My mom
every other week: “You went where?!”). I
have seen riots unfold in the Old City and
near my dorms, as well as witnessed bomb
squads blow up suspicious packages from my
window. I have walked and driven through
hundreds of Israeli checkpoints and spoken
with many Palestinians and Israelis. I have
tried my hardest to get the most out of my
experience here in the Middle East, both
intellectually and emotionally. I can confidently
say that the situation here should be
viewed with great optimism, but also with
sensitive empathy.
When I sit down to eat lunch in the
(awesomely delicious) student cafeteria on
campus, I cannot help but feel strong emotions
as I see a growing line of students
waiting for their bags to be searched by an
Uzi-wielding guard before they can eat.
The cafeteria had been the site of a horrific
bombing no more than eight years
ago during the second intifada, killing nine
students and wounding almost a hundred.
It is hard to imagine someone wanting
to kill the very generation that is trying to
study and bring about peace. Palestinians
and Israelis try to avoid speaking about
those times, as the horror experienced by
both sides is almost beyond comprehension.
Listening to stories from Israelis about
their near death experiences from suicide
attacks is equally appalling as listening to
Palestinians speak about Israeli tanks firing
on the guerillas shooting from the home
next door. Try to imagine a bomb exploding
at the dining commons if the student
population of the university were reduced to
just the two towers of FT (also R.I.P.) and
not 25,000. Paranoia and fear are still very
much a reality on the streets in Israel as each
resident is reminded of these emotions every
time they pass through a checkpoint or a
metal detector (which is often).
Over 80 percent of Israeli citizens have
or are serving in the Israeli armed forces
and 100 percent are related to or know
someone in the armed forces. For the
aforementioned reasons, it is practically
impossible to withdraw yourself from the
greater conflict in Israel, yet the perseverance
of the Israeli and Palestinian people
has allowed them to attempt to lead relatively
normal lives.
Israeli and Palestinian media is overwhelmed
with headlines about the conflict.
The U.S. and Europe, however, are
guilty of not caring about peace. Obama’s
current political plight is a prime example
of this as people generally care more about
the federal deficit than his accomplishments
in the international environment.
Just checking the front page of an Israeli
newspaper, such as Haaretz, an Arab
newspaper like Al-Jazeera, or speaking
with an Israeli or Palestinian, will show the
dedication of both parties to studying and
solving the conflict.
Asking if Israelis OR Palestinians care
about peace is as ridiculous a question as
asking if a homeless person cares about
his next meal. Let’s try to be more vigilant
discussing other cultures, conflicts and
histories. Let us step out of our bubble and
intentionally put ourselves in vulnerable
positions for the sake of understanding
cultures different from our own, so that we
may gain some much needed perspective
that is not spoon-fed to us by Time, CNN
or Fox News.
Daniel Aaronson is a fourth-year political
science and economics double major.