Wed 3 Aug 2011 - Thu 18 Aug 2011
(The following conversation may or may not have happened.)
L: I don’t want to write a blog entry about Israel.
T: What? Why not?
L: How can I write about sightseeing without commenting on the conflict?
T: Write about all the religious sites we saw.
L: Yeah, but ignore the biggest religious conflict of our time? The Elephant in the Room, as they say?
T: So talk about it. Talk about our trip to the West Bank, the security fence, the settlements and the army presence.
L: But I’m not an expert. People dedicate time to study the conflict and form opinions. I’m just a tourist who heard some things and saw some things.
T: But you did that first-hand. That means something. It’s different than just watching the news.
L: I wouldn’t know where to start. I could describe our days in detail, but no one wants to read that.
T: Write about the people we talked to, like the American who volunteered in Hebron and was tormented by settlers for helping “murderers”. Or the Palestinian taxi driver who has no hope left for peace. Talk about the hostel manager in Jerusalem who keeps his Jewish traditions but says he is no longer religious because of the damage religion is doing in the world. Describe the Arab on the Israeli side of the fence who was brought to tears when we asked him about how the wall has affected his community. Mention our Israeli friends, who fear that the world’s perception of Israelis is based on set-up incidents and bias.
L: There are lots of biases going around –on both sides. But some things just can’t be explained – like, why those ID cards issued from the census separate Arabs in Israel and Arabs in the West Bank. Or why so many soldiers are sent to patrol the West Bank to keep a handful of settlers safe? Or why the security fence doesn’t follow the Green Line.
T: You’re making it sound as if our entire trip to Israel was focused on the conflict.
L: It was and it wasn’t. I mean, I really enjoyed our trip to Nazareth and the day trip to the Sea of Galilee. The old town of Akko had some cool buildings, and the Bahai gardens in Haifa were outstanding. But remember the hassle I got at the Haifa train station?
T: Yeah. It seemed you couldn’t do anything without some kind of scrutiny. That soldier really gave you a hard time for visiting Malaysia. At least it wasn’t like the three hour wait at the border.
L: I’m just not used to having to show my passport at a train station, or going through luggage scanners for every public building.
T: But remember when we were at the Holocaust Museum? We said then that we could understand the need for a Jewish state, and the need to protect that state.
L: I do remember saying that. I guess I just think that there’s a way to have a Jewish state live beside an Islamic state without needing a fence, constant check-points, ongoing land disputes, etc.
T: You’re such an optimist. Things don’t always work out the way they should.
L: I am an optimist. Remember the protest? We watched thousands of Israelis march together, peacefully, asking for affordable housing for all. In that moment, I was optimistic. And when we were guided by those three Israelis who boycotted army service and are now activists working side-by-side with Palestinians, I felt optimistic.
T: So, are you going to write the blog entry?