Bottle of Water
Recently, I participated in a meeting where a group of Israelis and Palestinians discussed ways to work together. This meeting had a heavy cloud over it because we all knew that our governments are ineffective in bringing positive change to our peoples. Yet we met, trying to do what our leaders are not. We sought to find some sort of hope in a dysfunctional system.
One of the Israeli guys in our group shared that over the past year, he was exposed to information and realities that he was previously unaware of, namely the difficult humanitarian situation Palestinians face, and the discrimination they encounter, both in Israel and Palestine. He was trying to think of ways he could influence those around him to have an experience similar to his.
His eyes widened and he started talking faster as it was clear that he had thought of a great idea. “I got it! This will definitely get some of my friends involved. I can tell some of my friends that my Palestinian friends in Bethlehem do not have access to water on a daily basis, and so I am going to take a case of water bottles to them, and they are welcome to join me. They would! And then all of us can come somewhere we both can meet and deliver the bottles to you.” He continued, “I think this is a practical and great idea where people do something instead of come to yet another meeting, and they will also be informed about the water situation in Bethlehem.”
In spite of my friend’s good intentions, the Palestinians in the group started moving uncomfortably in their chairs . “But, we don’t need bottles of water!” one exclaimed. “We want the Israeli government to stop limiting our access to water. They allow us to have running water once or twice a week when the water is actually from aquifers on Palestinian land. Israel diverts this water to settlements instead.”
Some of the other Israelis in the group had no idea about the water issue in Palestine. If you also do not know about this, you can read more about it here.
This incident got me thinking. The water shortage is only one example to show how Israelis and Palestinians think differently about resolving the conflict. Palestinians feel as if they have a disease that is killing them slowly. They know there is a cure for it, and it involves asking others, including Israelis, to help them get it. The Israelis, on the other hand, think Palestinians are not dying, and their disease is only superficial, so they offer bandaids because they do not think they can do more. Therefore, time has a different meaning to both of them. For Palestinians, time is running out; for Israelis, resolving the conflict can wait.
Even some Israelis, who have all the right intentions, think a generous gesture should be welcomed with open arms by Palestinians. They don't understand why the Palestinians do not appreciate the 'bandaids'. Yet, it is rarely connected to taking political action; Israelis are slow to speak against or hold their government accountable. In the meantime, Palestinians become more disillusioned in their meetings with Israelis.