A few days ago, I called my 92 year old grandpa for his birthday. Contained within this phone conversation, was the disbelief that my body stands in Eretz Yisroel, on the other side of the world, when my voice sounded like I was in the next room. Grandpa’s pride rang through explaining to me that I am part of history. I will be sharing with my “children and grandchildren what Israel was like during this time; look through history books on Israel and share personal stories…”
Yesterday, along with my David Project class, I ventured into two viewpoints on the very clear cut, factually driven conflict of the Middle East…. Jokes.
Step one: tour Har Hazaitim/Mount of Olivies and learn about Jerusalem history from an Israeli settler strengthening the Jewish land by backing up a presence. Step two: listen to a Palestinian man living in Ir David/Silwan explain the hardships of living amongst the settlers.
I think it would be impossible to find someone in Israel who doesn’t have an opinion on the truth (or a loud mouth seminary girl who doesn’t have a problem yelling her opinion). This is because when looking at a slice of land with two distinctly different prescription strengths, the image becomes blurry. I listen to the two voices of defining the boundaries of Jerusalem, trying to silence my own biases, my desire for equal human rights, my previous knowledge of Israeli history. It’s impossible. I come out exhausted and confused. Not confused on the details of the arguments, but the crazy distance between the two. Modern day Jerusalem following western philosophy and democracy can’t relate to the small village ideology. Individual events of violence and hatred speak louder than the majority. Staged media events and out of proportion claims water down the pool of knowledge. Listening in order to rebut overtakes listening to understand and activism is seen as a threat.
The process of dialogue doesn’t happen overnight or within a view hours. The magic isn’t found in the propaganda and anger, it’s found in compassion and representing your voice. Seeing Yishai’s home and hearing Achmud’s stories, walking around a Jewish cemetery listening to the call to prayer from the minarets, and walking into another world just steps from the Old City; I feel the tension and the lack of context, but also the unifying characteristics of humanity and desiring peace.