Some people use the word genocide to describe the situation in Palestine. This offends many Jews, and turns us off from listening to anything else the speaker says. We picture gas chambers, concentration camp workers, and huge piles of bodies. Some of us have learned that there were massacres of Palestinians by Israelis; others do not know. There is no excuse for killing even one person, but the enormous differences in scale make the comparisons easy to refute.
I have been to the Holocaust Museum in Washington many times. When you enter the museum you go up elevators to the 3rd floor. Off the elevators you hear then General Eisenhower talking about what American troops encountered when they discovered the camps. After that, you wind through dark hallways with the history of the increasing amount of restrictions and
discrimination against Jews in Europe. That is where I see the parallels with Palestine. We had ghettos; they have refugee camps. We had yellow stars; they have green license plates and identity cards that dictate what parts of their former land they can access. We were prohibited from working and traveling many places we went before; so are they. Daughters who
married and moved from Gaza to the West Bank can no longer visit their elderly parents. People who honeymooned at the sea, or worshipped in Jerusalem can no longer go there if they fled to the West Bank because they were afraid of the Israelis. Were they wrong to flee? How could they know at the time they made the decision? Six million Jews died because they did
not flee soon enough.
Israel’s Right to Exist:
The U.S. wants Hamas to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist. I think this is irrelevant. I doubt very many Palestinians will agree that Israel has a right to exist, but they recognize that Israel does exist. That’s recognize with a small r, not a capital R, if there is such a thing. Asking them to swallow their pride and lie about how they feel is counter-productive. We need to work out together how to share this precious land.
Right of Return:
Mohammed, a 14-year-old, told me the history of the mosque in the village the Israelis call Zacharia. I doubt the adults who live next door to the mosque know that history. I, as an American Jew, have a right to move there to live. Mohammed’s parents do not have the right to visit, and neither will he in two years. You can not convince me that they should not have the
right of return. I’m not saying that the Israelis who live there now should be evicted, but I do think that there will need to be reparations. Where houses exist, there must be an amount of money that a Palestinian family would be willing to accept to turn over their key, or an Israeli family would be willing to accept to move out.
As for the demographics, I know that allowing Palestinians to return may result in a country that is no longer majority Jewish. To me, Judaism should be synonymous with justice. This is not a just, and therefore not a Jewish state now. It is a state composed of more people who celebrate Yom Kippur than who celebrate Ramadan. To quote Isaiah, “Is such the fast that
I have chosen? ”
The old city will never cease to amaze me. It is my history, and my heritage, and it is not wrong for Jews to worship there. It is also not wrong for Muslims and Christians to worship there. It should be accessible to all.
I was amazed by the strength of the Palestinians I met, making as good a life as possible for their children under daunting circumstance.
I was impressed by the lack of hatred of Israelis, given that there is so much negative contact between Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank. I heard a sincere desire to work things out.
I am less worried about Hannah’s safety now that I have seen where she works and met the people she works with. She seems to really know her way around and have some degree of caution, although I still don’t understand why an asthmatic would intentionally go into areas where she could get tear-gassed. I guess if it made her too uncomfortable she would stop. I also saw how many people truly care about her. She would have many protectors in case of