During my time in Israel and Palestine this summer, I wrote a lot about my observations of humanity. It is safe to say that at times it was incredibly difficult for me to write with an even hand. After all, these were my observations, reflections, and opinions based directly on what I saw and felt in many of the more mundane, day-to-day experiences. Typically, what I saw challenged not only my faith in humanity, but my faith in G-d, and I found myself constantly defending my faith vis-a-vis the State of Israel. Personally, I have never once questioned the right of self-determination for anyone. By default, this means that I am a Zionist because I refuse to deny the right that Jewish folks have to exist. However, I am a Zionist by default because I believe that all people have a right to self-determination. And yes, this absolutely includes the Palestinian folks, too. After all, the right to be human does not merely belong to those with more raw power or better weaponry.
There were many moments, when I felt the need to throw my hands up and cry out of sheer disappointment and frustration. There were other moments when I felt like joining the protest groups and rock-throwing young boys who have no other outlet for expressing the same frustration. There were times when my heart broke in half. For example, when I realized that the 15 year old girl who followed me through the camp was illiterate. She will spend her life in that refugee camp. I cried when I considered that her inability to know anything other than what she was born into is probably better than knowing that every young girl in Israel can not only read and write, but spend her summers swimming in the Mediterranean Sea. Niveen will never play in the sea. As a matter of fact, I hasten to wonder if she'll ever travel 15 km north to see the city of Ramallah.
During my time in the West Bank, I constantly felt as if I had arrived empty-handed, I was taking away more than I could carry, and yet I was not prepared to give anything tangible in return. So, (in the name of ethnographic research), I listened. I looked around. I explored. I noticed. While I was doing all of these things, there were many moments when the people in my life would say to me, "I don't ask that you take pity on me. All I ask is that you go home, live a happy, healthy life, and tell our story."
Little did these people know that they were talking to a story teller of all story-tellers...
Little did these people also know that I am a Jew. The funny thing is that there were times when I, myself, seemed to forget that this was somehow an important point of distinction. Part of me looks back and wonders if they knew and decided to overlook it. Part of me also wonders if they would overlook it now if I told them. The last part of me chooses not to care.
So, here I am a few months later. I am home, or at least in the process of making one. I am celebrating Hannukah with the love of my life, who has not only restored my faith in humanity, but restored my faith in my ability to both a religious Jew and a secular Zionist by way of my foundational belief that all people have a right to self-determination. I am a humanist, and I am finding more and more that even the most ardent of religious Zionists cannot foundationally disagree with my point of view. I am here and I am telling these stories. I am giving lectures, putting words on paper, and talking openly and fervently about what remains of life in the death of Palestine. I give credit where it is due, and I don't make apologies for it.
This will be all for now.
Peace on Earth and Good Will to All,