Steven Aiello

Perspectives on Peace: Message # 3

The following is a personal message from a young Jewish Israeli student living in Israel. This is the third in a series highlighting what the next generation’s leaders are thinking and feeling. The previous post is available here. If you are interested in submitting a piece, please contact me ( Submissions will all be anonymous.

“I woke up yesterday to a code red siren. Not much fun, I must say. Yet, with each and every siren being heard, with each and every rocket being aired, comes a question- will this ever be different? The second week of the current round of escalation, resulting in fatalities for both sides, seems to bring no answer. After years of efforts to resolve the conflict, after fighting non-stop and making Tel Aviv’s city center into a war-zone, there seems to be no answer on the horizon, nor future of prosperity for the people involved.

And now, it’s time to evaluate our deeds. If a solution doesn’t work, shouldn’t we scrutinize it? Shouldn’t we pick up our courage and examine our policies? Perhaps the problem lies within the question itself. If we fail to ask “how can we change it?”, we shirk our responsibility for the future, which shouldn’t be done. We have the power, the greatest power, to change- to make our home a better and safer place. And thus, we should seek not justice, but rather peace. We must fight not for freedom, but for security of the people from both sides. We shall not feed the poor, but embrace the other. We must bring peace. Our actions, our deed, beliefs, thoughts- we matter. The Israeli people, the Palestinian people, American, French, Brits- we are the change, as we have a moral liability to bring one. The great Roman emperor Aurelius perhaps simplified it at best- “our life is what our thoughts make it”, and this land is no exception.

Some may say I am a dreamer or not realistic with this best case scenario. However, I believe that preserving the current status quo will only lead to more bloodshed and escalation in the region. Not only that, but bridging the gaps between people is the only answer. It’s no wonder, as 93% of adults in Gaza and West Bank hold anti-Semitic opinions and 51% of them haven’t even heard about the Holocaust. Therefore, no solution, including partial-solutions (as in compromise versus sustainable peace) will be sustainable due to xenophobia, no matter its source, from both sides. Only through education on peace and democracy will we be able to put a distinct end to and abolish the conflict. This is yet one more reason to eliminate the Hamas totalitarian regime in Gaza, as a first step to bringing democracy to the deprived people of the Gaza Strip. With Hamas’s claws holding its citizens tight with no option for free thinking, no long term and sustainable peace is possible. And that must be changed.

The situation is dreadful in Israel. Don’t be fooled into thinking that the Iron Dome interception system is the ultimate answer. It is not, not until every child in Sderot will sleep quietly. It’s not, as the price of one interception missile is $50,000- which means the cost of teaching an entire class. There’s a price to hatred, and we all are paying it. However, the hinterland of Israel is strong and united these days, and it should be an example to follow in days to come. Having said that, a polemic that has burst between right and left wingers, has exacerbated an already explosive debate. Such hatred within Israeli society should not flourish and must be condemned. We must not surrender to feelings of enmity, as our sturdiness is the most beautiful thing there is to see here. Our main landscape is the Israeli people, and we should preserve it- because better days will come, and they must come. And as the song says: “don’t say a day will come- bring this day!”.

Yesterday was not a good day. It started with a rocket aimed at me, and continued all along with war- just for us to realize the necessity of peace. Today, the day after yesterday and before tomorrow, I urge you to take a step towards peace- and even truly wishing for it is a start. The leading character of my favorite movie, ‘Forest Gump’, says “my mama always used to say that life is like a box of chocolate, you never know what you gonna get”. I don’t know what lies upon the future, but I do know peace won’t come by itself.”

About the Author
Steven Aiello is the Director of Debate for Peace (, and a board member of the NGO Committee on Sustainable Development NY. He has a BA in Economics, MA in Diplomacy and Conflict Studies, and MA in Islamic Studies. He teaches Model UN for schools throughout Israel. Among his other hats he serves as Regional Coordinator for Creating Friendships for Peace, and Dialogue Officer at Asfar. Steven has also served as Chief of the Middle East Desk Head for Wikistrat, interned for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and the American Islamic Congress. His writing has been published in the NY Daily News, Jerusalem Post, Iran Human Rights Review; Berkley Center at Georgetown;, and the Center for Islamic Pluralism. He can be reached via email at