How do we move on from the recent escalation of violence in the conflict? What is the role of identity and belonging? What are the day-to-day experiences of young residents of East Jerusalem?
Young Israelis and Palestinians offer three different angles on the violent outbreak in May, and the need to address the conflict even after the situation has ostensibly “calmed”:
Orel (Petach Tikvah):
“War is avoidable, peace is inevitable.”
- Menachem Begin
Before we talk about Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem, elections, or any other factors in the latest escalation between Israelis and Palestinians, we should dedicate attention to the role of the missing reconciliation process in the conflict.
I participated in different delegations and programs with Palestinians and Israelis in the last few years, including one organized by the Geneva Initiative. During the program, Israeli-Jews and Palestinians gathered to talk about different narratives, perceptions, misconceptions, etc.
We have a common human tendency to divide the world into two main categories: the known and the unknown, the familiar and the strange, especially under circumstances of conflict or tension between two groups. This is how our brain works: “we” and “them.” Having said that, we need to remember that it is also a fundamentally human tendency to question these perceptions.
When two groups are mentally and physically distant from each other, contact between the sides is unlikely and the groups are less likely to reflect on their perceptions of the other. This is where reconciliation comes into play.
The tendency of groups to have perceptions about other groups without talking or exposing themselves to these people is fundamentally counterproductive. How can one perceive the other, millions of others, in so many specific ways in a reality of ongoing tension and wars, without stopping to ask some questions, or ever hearing first-hand from the other side?
That is what the Geneva Initiative and people who believe in solving conflict are fighting for. Of course, two different groups might have thorny debates, disagreements, and passionate arguments. Yet, these people choose to reconcile and recognize the other side, not to ignore such a significant conflict and invent answers to questions that fail to take the other side into account. Not asking the right questions can cost growth, prosperity, tranquility, and lives.
We cannot advocate for recognizing and caring for the pain of one side while rejecting the pain of the other. Only accepting the pain and suffering of both sides, both narratives, in these difficult times, will help us overcome the war that, even in the absence of rockets and a high fatality count, continues to affect us deeply.
The absence of peace means that we are either in a silent war or a loud war. In the wake of the escalation, we must do what we should have done already decades ago: We need to talk about us, with all of us; Israeli-Jews, Israeli-Palestinian Arabs, and Palestinians. First, we should gather all players from all sectors around the table— trusted players who acknowledge and recognize all sides’ presence in this story. Then, we should start working to heal decades of hate, tension, and cleavages.
This is the real meaning of true partnership and leadership. It is the only way to find peace among us: TOGETHER.
#Together, we will prevail 🕊️
Ahmad (Kfar Qara):
I have never been more Israeli than Palestinian – and I am not the reason for this.
The Arab-Palestinian minority in Israel is a minority that tries to integrate into Israeli society without losing its identity, through studies, work, progress, and living in peace and tranquility.
But my identity, as a Palestinian-Israeli, is, in the eyes of Israelis, a continuous threat to their lives. They don’t notice that the main cause of this is the reality that most Palestinians live today: neglect that has gone on for decades.
This feeling that we can never prove our “Israeliness” is in itself proof of the longstanding discrimination and racism against 1948 Arabs (who are a part of the Palestinian people). This same feeling leads every few years to a rise of disgust and anger at the unequal situation we live through which leads to riot, after riot, after riot. There are two peoples living on this land –Jewish Israelis and Palestinians. For as long as the ruler cannot enter into the shoes of the ruled and understand that there is more than one nation on this holy but tiny land: nothing will change, and things can only get worse.
The ruler must, even if it is only a one-time trial which history has proven will work, offer real and lasting equality and peace.
I am full of hope that our children will grow up in a reality of peace, in which there is no discrimination based on race, gender, or religion.
Amera (East Jerusalem):
When we talk about living in Jerusalem in a neighborhood that contains a settlement next to the houses and settlers who are moving around people, we still have our own fears of being harassed any time they see children or women who wear the veil (hijab), or even young men who are living their normal life.
My friend and neighbor always talks about her fear for her teenage son, who she feels might be in danger because he goes to a school located next to another settlement. Once he’s out of our neighborhood, that doesn’t mean it’s over. There’s another obstacle on his way to school. She’s always afraid of settlers who are close to the school. “They might be waiting for young men when they come out of the school and harm them.” “My son is a teenager and he’s defensive. He might react and do something wrong – that will be an excuse to simply arrest him.”
Another friend in the same neighborhood suffers from the responsibility of being a teacher in a village that has its own agenda of resisting the occupation in all its forms, including through the curriculum and the community center. This teacher has to be careful about every word she says to her students, especially since most of these students have relatives who were arrested or killed by Israelis.
Many women who wear the hijab also suffer when moving around, especially when they have to go to places in West Jerusalem- hospital, clinics or markets – which are crowded with settlers who may attack them at any time, for no reason.