My Heart is in the East

If you haven’t read my post from November 2019 titled, “Unexpected Impact (of my own Israel Education)” then I suggest digesting that first before delving into this commentary.

News from Israel is hard to digest. Sometimes it is hard to gather “facts on the ground” through the blaring noise of media bias, sometimes it’s hard to hear your own internal voice through the shouting of friends and family who represent dozens of viewpoints. Sometimes, our struggle is self-facilitated – a dialogue between our anscestral allegiances, our ever-evolving values, and our increasing knowledge and awareness of information we weren’t introduced to through traditional education avenues.

First, I have learned to refer to this land – this very holy land, historical land, beautiful land for so many – as Israel/Palestine (particularly in first reference). Framing the conversation from just that place helps me acknowledge it’s history, it’s current reality and it’s potential future. (If you are confused by this, read my aforementioned previous blog.) I have learned to refer to the West Bank as West Bank/Judaea-Samaria and sometimes as “the disputed territory.” I have learned to compartmentalize Gaza. With this in mind, I try and digest for myself what is occurring in Israel/Palestine this week (recognizing others will use me as a touchstone for their own understanding).

48-hour Bomb Map from Red Alert

For me, there is one “easy” issue – Hamas is a terrorist organization running Gaza and it attacks it’s neighboring communities in Israel/Palestine almost daily. They are exploiting other tensions this week (outlined below) to literally blanket bomb civilian communities throughout the land. Thousands of rockets have been launched, many intercepted by Iron Dome, but some falling on homes, schools, neighborhoods, shopping areas, etc. Citizens of every faith and age are in danger, hiding in bunkers and hallways, fearful of the next siren. Hamas abuses Gaza citizens as human shields – hiding weapon arsenals in hospitals and schools and nursing homes. Hamas spends millions of dollars on weapons to terrorize Israeli Jews but doesn’t spend money on infrastructure in Gaza and on the well-being of its citizens. Hamas must be stopped. Israel has a right to protect its citizens. Full stop. No negotiation. And, it’s important for people to understand that the IDF could take out Hamas – fairly easily – but they don’t because doing so would take out most of the Gazan civilian population and Israel cares too much about human life to do that. So the military tries to be strategic, but it’s not easy based on Hamas’ human-shield tactics. The international community MUST stand against Hamas (and its terrorism funders) and help free Gazan citizens and neighboring Israeli citizens from their stronghold.

Everything else, is so very complicated and so very hard to digest.

Situation One, The Temple Mount: A VERY complicated history surrounds this area as the land has transferred ownership hands many times through war, treaty, and negotiation. The result is an on-going dispute about how a site holy to multiple faiths can be governed fairly. The primary Muslim sites on the Mount (al-Aqsa Mosque, the Dome of the Rock and the Dome of the Chain) are under the jurisdiction of a Jordanian Waqf (an Islamic religious trust) as a result of negotiation after the war in 1967 when Israel took back the land. However, security surrounding this area is maintained by Israeli police. There are rules limiting who can visit these places and when and under what circumstances. There are fears among the Muslim community that Israel aims to destroy the holy sites and there is fear among Jewish Israeli’s and Israeli security teams that Muslims will use the geographic location to launch weapons and other projectiles on Jews in other areas of the Old City (which has happened). In recent weeks, far-right Jews have been antagonizing Muslims visiting these sites during their holy month of Ramadan and these fights have escalated into horrific clashes involving Israeli police, Muslims from all over the world visiting for Ramadan, Israeli Muslims, Palestinians, and additional Jewish antagonists. Already dozens have been injured. The Temple Mount is so incredibly holy to so many faiths, and yet it keeps getting defiled by hate, ignorance, distrust, and generations of inherited trauma. There must be a path to peaceful and open access to this very sacred space.

photo from Middle East Eye AFP

Situation Two, Sheikh Jarrah: Located in East Jerusalem is a community called Sheikh Jarrah in Arabic and Shimon Hatzaddik in Hebrew. Prior to the war in 1948, this was a Jewish neighborhood but when Jordan acquired the land through war, the Jews there fled and were not permitted to return. Jordan then allowed a small number of Muslim Palestinian families to move into the area. In 1967, when Israel re-acquired the land through war (a war they did not initiate), the Muslim families were allowed to stay in this city but they paid rent to the Israelis who had claim to the land from 1948. For about the past 10 years, a group of Israeli Jews with ties to the neighborhood from pre-1948 have been petitioning the Israeli courts to let them reclaim residence of the property for which they have been “landlords” of for over 50 years – which would result in evicting the Palestinian tenants. The case is with the Israeli courts but it’s being tried in the hearts and minds of people everywhere. Many see the evictions as a violent oppression – bullying – of the Palestinians while others simply see this as a decades-old “real estate dispute.” For everyone, it really symbolizes the larger battle of Jerusalem, the Temple Mount, the disputed territory, and the entire land of Israel-Palestine. After 50+ years, why do the Israeli Jews care some much about re-claiming this land? There is a belief that the more Jews that live in eastern Jerusalem and throughout the disputed territory, the harder it will be for a Palestinian State to be established there and outright impossible for a capitol to be centered in East Jerusalem. Their motivation for residing there is antagonistic. Instead of recognizing that the rental agreement has worked for 50 years, and looking towards the future peace that could exist throughout the land, they are focused on control and manipulation of the future – which cannot be peaceful if these tactics prevail. Sometimes (often) ethics are more important than “legal” right. This is one of those cases.

So how does this end? When does it end? Who ends it?

I’ve come to learn that the ONLY path to peace is through the people, not the governments and leaderships. It’s through person-to-person dialogue, trust-building, learning to love each other as individuals. Please – Jewish friends and colleagues: engage yourself in deep meaningful dialogue with Muslims in your community, in the disputed West Bank, across our country, and across the world. So many great programs to get involved in including a few I described in my previous post (Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom and Friends of Roots.) Muslim friends, please understand that many Israelis and American Jews love Israel, have family and friends there, feel a strong tie to the land and our people through our collective history there, that does not mean we condone all decisions the government makes and all decisions Jewish residents make. Partner with us to silence the loud minority that keeps perpetuating this. This has to stop.

For the time being I am sad and scared. I am frustrated and agitated. I want everyone to look deep into the nuances, to examine with their own critical thinking, the Hows and Whys of this week’s events. I want people to approach dialogue and disagreement with compassion for the “other.” I want to be able to sleep at night without my Red Alert app going off every 10 seconds. I want to know Muslims everywhere are able to finish Ramadan without anger with peace in their hearts and minds. I want to be able to teach about this time years from now and explain to my learners that ordinary people, like them, dug deep and helped end the on-going conflict.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Simply a “Missed Opportunity” or a Serious Shanda? | JewishGPS

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