2011
05.29

SYNOPSIS:

Before leaving I spent one day seeing some of the people who had crossed my path during the last six weeks, chatting a bit more and saying goodbye.

It is wonderful to leave a country knowing you have not just seen rocks and sites, but made new friends, too.

Today, I met with Dawod and his friend Mohammed.  He is a Palestinian from East Jerusalem and a student of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem whom I met many weeks ago at a restaurant in the Muslim Quarter where he works as a waiter.  As a young activist, he participates in seminars, lectures, and conferences on issues pertaining to the Middle East, inside and out of the country.  He graciously agreed to talk to me and he even endured all of my tough questions.  Over and over it strikes me how people in this region, even educated ones like him, view their issues without allowing comparisons to the wider world and at times outright rejecting comparisons with similar situations in history.  I think it is part of the core problem which has driven this entire conflict into a dead end.

I returned to Eli Wasserman from the Kaplan Hotel off Jaffa Street.  As a former general in the Israeli army and now owner and manager of his parents’ hotel, he was one of the first people I talked to about the political situation in this country when I arrived 6 weeks ago.  His liberal views and his voice of reason were always reassuring to me.  Having lived here all of his life, he provided me with great insights.  With a Holocaust family history which put shivers up my spine, he still is neither dwelling on that, nor putting blame out, nor asking for pity.  What sets him apart from many people is that he is seeing the good in others instead of demonizing them.  Good people are the majority on both sides.  But you would never believe this listening to the stories people tell you especially on the Palestinian side.  Face to face encounters and day to day interactions with “the other” have become the exception in this region rather than the norm.  I think that this is another core problem which has hardened this conflict.

After much trouble due to the fact that I have no phone, I finally also connected with Tzippi Moss again, the wife of Allan Rabinowitz, the guide who invited David and me for Shabbat.  She is a therapist and I told her that I was in great need of “cultural therapy” after my six weeks in Israel and the West Bank.  “Welcome to the Middle East!” was her and her husband’s reply.  Tzippi and her family are deeply committed to their country.  They are people who are trying to see things both ways.  But they have seen things in their lives and in their immediate circle of friends which has put them on trial in many ways.  Tzippi and Allan just returned from a five day hike across the Israel trail to raise funds for the foundation of a dear friend, whose 13 year old son was stoned to death ten years ago this month.  A boulder which could only have been lifted by at least 4-5 adults was smashed on him and his friend as they were hiking in Palestinian territory secretly skipping a day from school…  Nobody has ever been put on trial for this crime.  The foundation supports Jewish children for a two week summer camp who are dealing with grief due to acts of terrorism such as the loss of a parent or sibling.  They are currently sponsoring 500 kids but the need is much great than that.

The story of Tzippi’s friend brought home what I have come to understand as one of the most significant problems of this conflict:  Every side has their stories; hundreds of them, one worse than the other.  If they cannot lift themselves above the level of their stories, this conflict will never end but remain grounded.  This conflict can only be solved on the institutional, the policy, the governmental and the global level.  But who can blame the people who have lived these stories for holding on to them as a measure for this conflict and an impetus on how to act?

I am an outsider and I ultimately understand nothing.  What would I do, if I were caught in a personal narrative like this?  I have no idea.

Good night.