Conflict & Hope: Day 2, Speaker 1

I realize as I am now looking back in my journal and writing these blog entries how resonant they are to today’s events in North Africa and the Middle East. I want to try to write these with reverting back to the now, and how what I heard just a mere 20 days ago would be spoken of so differently if I heard it today.

Good news to note as well: Egypt has come out in saying that they will still be honoring international treaties and commitments, including in this of course, is the Camp David Peace Accords.

I woke up the next day knowing that it would be very pro-Israel. All of our speakers were once from the United States and now live in Israel, working as advocates of sorts for the country.

I did not, however, wake up the next day knowing that it would be a day of signs. The first happened while we were waiting in the lobby for everyone. Ariel spotted this pretty coach bus that had flowers on it waiting outside of our hostel for another group to ride around in for the day. When she asked our madreech if our bus would be that pretty he simply replied, “yes” with a smirk on his face. Little did we know we were in fact not going to be riding around in our usual coach bus. But instead, in an armored bus. This was due to security measures because of where we were traveling to. Was us noticing a pretty flowered bus for the first time a sign that we’d in fact instead receive an ugly one where when we sat inside there were flies flying around and we couldn’t even see out of the windows?

Our armored bus made its first stop in Efrat, a city in the West Bank. We got off and were led into a Synagogue to listen to Eve Harrow who is very pro-Israel. The background we received on her said that she has “extensive political activism on a wide range of issues and her ten-year stint on the Efrat City Council provide her audiences with a unique insight into Israeli political life.” For many of us we thought Eve was a little bit too extreme. But one thing was for certain, she was passionate. And she also was the woman who told us of many signs of the future we’d receive for that day. But more on that later.

Eve said how she started to work in this field “because instead of reading the history books, I get to write them. Maybe I can even throw a little bit of peace in there.” This was very powerful and inspirational for me; maybe even one day I too will be able to put my own bit of peace into this conflict. She was raised in California but chose to live in Efrat [which is considered a settlement] because she feels she has the right to be there. When asked about living there she told us that “We wake up in the morning and we don’t think of revenge, and we don’t think of terror, we’re just trying to build a life.”

Eve then started discussing with us about the power of the press. In Israel there is a free press, so everything shown in the media here is fair game to release. In the countries surrounding Israel however, there is no free press. This is a major problem because people from surrounding countries can come in and tape Israel in whatever light they want. Then they can release the footage to whoever they want. However, those from Israel, nor from any other country, can go into these countries and document whatever they want. The people in power in these countries choose to release what is made public to us.

On the topic of free press, when we were discussing of todays events earlier Eli brought up a very valid point. “You can’t hide these things anymore [due to the Internet]. The Tunisian thing would have been so isolated ten years ago.” The Tunisians inspired the Egyptians and the Egyptians are inspiring others. In a CNN article I read earlier the reporter said, “In the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, protesters chanted: “Yesterday Tunisia, today Egypt, tomorrow Yemen will open the prison.””

But now back to Eve. The PLO was founded in 1964 to liberate Palestine. After a lot of fighting, the result of the 1967 war [which she deemed was “the war that made everyone hate us”] gave Jews the right to land that Palestinians felt was rightly theirs and was stolen from them. On the topic of land, Eve then talked about the location of Israel and how it is the only democratic country in its area. Though maybe not for long, soon we may see history change before our eyes when Egypt possibly turns into a true Democratic state. Another sign. Ms. Harrow said how “Israel is the vanguard for the rest of the world, and that no one talks about that point, and they need to know.” For example, the United States keeps weapons here, it’s their safeguard in the Middle East.

Eve continued on with discussion of the result of the 1967 war and where the Palestinians who were living there are today. If they haven’t yet moved out of Israel they are in one of two places. The first is refugee camps which were started by Arabs for Arabs. The next day we visited one of these, so I’ll discuss more on these camps in a later entry. The other place is dispersed throughout Israel — they’ve become Palestinian-Israeli citizens in society. Even though they are living here however, they are still quite segregated. Currently they do not have as many rights in the army, as Israelis do not trust them to serve in the Defense Forces.

No matter where they are though Eve made it important to note how Palestinians aim to have a lot of children, thus to have a bigger population, thus to cause bigger problems for the peace process.

I also found it interesting when she told us how no one had ever called themselves Palestinians except Jews. In fact the Jerusalem Post used to actually be the Palestinian Post. But according to Eve, the Palestinians took the name of Palestine to make it look like the Jewish people stole their land.

Eve finished up her discussion with possible solutions to this conflict. She talked about the importance of buying time because things can change so rapidly [which I think was showcased perfectly to us during these past 18 days].

But here is where Eve said something which resonated very strongly with me, and was a major sign. She said how initially Palestinians wanted an Arab-Israel where they could live how they wanted. But they now realize that those who are in power are not going to make this happen, because let’s face it, the Arab world doesn’t really care too much about Palestinians. Her solution to this conflict is through the power of talking. Israel is fighting this fight for themselves and a lot of others, including Arabs who want to eat Pork, who want to go to University in Jeans, who do not want to live in a theocracy.

Her goal is to try to get Palestinians to change their own society. She brought up what happened in Tiananmen square in China in the late 1980s, and she said this needs to happen for the Palestinians. It is scary, the fear of uprising and risking your life, but Eve thinks it is the only way. Little did we know that just a few days later Tunisians would undergo the acts that Eve said needed to be done. Then the Egyptians. And now maybe someone else.

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