No matter how much one reads all the history and travel books in the world, without personal experiences one will never get real knowledge or an objective point of view of a place, just an idea. Knowledge of a country based simply on stories is actually an imagination. Not reality.
Of course stories are important, but only if you have questions and they bring you closer to the answers. For example:
- Is it really a good idea to support an organization that kidnaps people, including 3-4 years old children?
- Do the kidnappers become good guys if they give blankets and food to 3-year-olds held hostage?
- Can such an organization be useful for anyone regardless whether they live inside or outside of the Gaza Strip?
For me, it all started with the first big missile attack in 2021, almost three years after having moved to Israel as a Hungarian diplomat. It was a perfect early May evening in Tel Aviv. Cool summer weather with a light breeze. That afternoon, we already knew that something was going to happen. We were glued to the news all evening, so I ordered pizza. It arrived, I put it in the oven for a minute and at that very moment the siren went off. (We even forget to turn off the oven, but that’s another story…)
However, aside from the oven thing, I think we were pretty well-prepared (wine and water were already stocked in the safe room) and the whole experience wasn’t as shocking as I had thought beforehand. More so the reaction of the Western media and some of my European and American friends. First, mainly their lack of reactions, because some of them were completely silent. We came under a rocket attack, and the Western news sites barely condemned the attacking side.
Even though I was quite aware of the so-called “context”, which many people like to emphasize today, it seemed unreal that the media and some people consider it completely justified that someone fires thousands (!) of rockets at civilians. After that, mainstream international media began to educate us about our own local conditions. They argued that they could judge the situation better since they were neutral. We all know by now that the “neutral” photo materials and reports that these mainstream media sites used even then were produced by Hamas and its apparent collaborators.
How can a story be neutral at all? It’s always a narrative. After 7 October this year, children’s rights organizations, which were not afraid to speak out loud in the previous decades, now kept mum and were considering what to say for weeks. Protecting Israeli children from Hamas and saying that what Hamas is doing is unjustifiably wrong just didn’t fit into their long-held narrative. So, they preferred not to say anything for the time being. Proper communication on this subject would be about as complicated as comparing simple numbers like 50 to 150. But neither seem to be working for mainstream media and various NGOs these days.
Indeed, it is not always easy to figure out what to think in a storm of information. I believe that questions always help us get closer to reality which is important because whoever wants peace must live in reality. Decisions must be made based on reality. Because in this way it is possible that your next step will be closer to the reality of the next day. So that a real third step can be taken and so forth.
If people are stuck in illusions, their decisions will always be far from what is happening in reality, which will only result in frustration, anger and blaming others.
Of course, one may ask: is it just illusions? Or is it illusions set in a prejudged narrative to begin with?
This question may merit further discussions. But either way, that kind of thinking will never lead to peace.