Whenever I watch an American media outlet’s coverage of anything related to Israeli-Palestinian politics, I can’t help but shout at the television thinking ‘Why can’t people just get along over there?’
At least for me, its easy to criticize policy-makers’ decisions as they attempt to make ‘peace in the Middle East.’
I’ve asked myself numerous times ‘Why can’t Sharon just give up more land to the Palestinians,’ or, ‘Why can’t Abbas just declare an independent Palestinian state?’
And most of all, ‘Why don’t the two governments just leave each other alone?’ Of course, as everyone may or may not know, trying to appease both parties is more complicated than any black-and-white solution.
Still, one would think that there is a viable solution that would please at least a majority of the region’s inhabitants, right?
To my surprise, I realized that my perception of Middle Eastern politics were completely false after spending 11 days this past summer in the heart of what I imagined to be a gruesome day to-day conflict.
Don’t get me wrong, violence still erupts in some parts of the region, but on a much smaller scale than I had originally thought. After being in Israel for a short amount of time, a lot of my misconceptions were cleared up. Imagine visiting a place where all you associate it with are gruesome images of blown up busses and soldiers toting M-16s trying to dissolve riots.
As an avid news-watcher, I knew that I couldn’t believe everything I saw on television, but at the same time, that was the only Israel I knew.
What I was missing out on was observing daily life and seeing how people from three religions get along, and, in some cases, didn’t get along.
I thought I wouldn’t be able to do anything except sit in my hotel room and fear stepping foot outside of the lobby.
I was afraid to even think of walking the streets of Jerusalem, standing next to a public bus, or passing by an Israeli checkpoint.
I got there the day of Israel’s disengagement from Gaza Strip, when thousands of Israelis were forced to resettle in other parts of the country in accordance with a plan which aims to make peace with the Palestinians. But even at such an intense period, I didn’t feel in danger.
Even before I left the states, I received a fair amount of advice from people telling me to steer clear from anything potentially dangerous such as shopping centers, nightclubs and restaurants.
I attempted to challenge my expectations as I boarded the plane to Israel