How does one continue to live in a land where the government legalizes land theft calling it regulation, where the majority voices no objection to repeated confiscation of land to which others hold valid deeds; where killing unarmed, incapacitated persons in cold blood is justified to the extent that the perpetrator is sometimes named “hero?” These questions haunt my days and nights.
I am a part of the Jewish people and I love the country; but my heart is sickened by the decisions and actions of my government, by laws that are preferential to Jews when the country has an Arab population of over 20% who are full citizens, fill the work force, and pay their taxes. Only because they are not Jews, their status remains well under that of their Jewish neighbors. Their municipal budgets are far less than those of the Jewish municipalities who live alongside them. Employment advancement is often dependent on your surname rather than your qualifications. Military service opens innumerable doors for those who serve or closes them for those who do not. Only Jews are obligated to serve in the military and it is a very small minority of Arabs who will volunteer for military service. Who can blame them for not wanting to support a state that systematically deprives them of any semblance of equal rights.
Some days I weep for the many injustices perpetrated by Israel against our Palestinian neighbors. Equally I weep for the slow demise of the moral soul of my people. Other days, my mind ferments with repressed anger – outrage at declarations of Jewish superiority, of the inalienable right to be preferred because of blood lines when in this day of DNA testing it’s clear that no one has a “pure” blood line anyway. And then the arguments that because of Abraham, Israel’s claim to the land is God ordained and forever valid, unconditionally and regardless of any dissenting view. I decry the descent into terrorist actions that kill and maim innocents because they are the “enemy,” creating an atmosphere of suspicion and fear that permeates our cities and our hearts.
I lament the lack of compassion and fair mindedness when Palestinians are discussed in the public sphere. Recently a pub in Haifa that has a tradition of offering a variety of beers from different countries chose to offer a Palestinian made beer. The public outcry was shocking – that a Jewish establishment should serve the beer of the enemy! A boycott of the pub was even suggested. The pub owners suffered many attacks, including a lowered rating because of the negative publicity.
And yet there are many who are prospering in the country. Despite the usual malady of corruption in high places, the local populace, both Jew and Arab have a relatively “good life.” In the West Bank it’s a different story. There are many obstacles that are lived with daily; the worst of which (according to my Palestinian friends) is the restriction of movement.
As I freely travel through the breadth of the country, I see great swaths of land on which there is no habitation and I wonder why there is a need to “grab” land when there seems to be much land that is open and not even cultivated. Perhaps it’s the specter of massive investment for development, or the distance from the central part of the country. What I usually hear though is that it’s all about “security.”
Yes, we’ve built so many settlements across the “West Bank” that the map looks very much like Swiss cheese – with no territorial contiguity for either the Arab villages or the Israeli settlements. This means that the “enemy” is everywhere and security is non-existent. Few are willing to accept the fact that settlements next door that have access to better roads, more water, better infrastructure might be a provocation to the neighboring villagers. Everyone’s security is at risk if this deadlocked situation continues. Violence is often cyclical and this has been the case for the past half century – spirals of violence that sometimes plateau but never retreat, only escalate.
Having lived in this land for more than four decades, I struggle to remain in hope that things will ever be different. I struggle to guard my soul and my heart from encroaching anger and despair. I weep and sometimes rail against the darkness even as I pray and try to articulate the depth of grief and sorrow for the peoples of this beloved land of Israel-Palestine. Bearing the pain, breathing the prayers is the way I’ve chosen to live; despite the darkness.