Israel and Palestine, on the outside looking in

By Andrea Iseman
Life Editor
Published: January 29, 2009

After 22 days, I felt a sigh of relief as Israel declared a ceasefire while Hamas announced their own.

Having been to Israel almost four years ago, I have seen first hand the conflict that is a part of the country’s culture. I enjoyed my time there so much and for some reason I felt at home. Even being surrounded by the barricades and people with guns, I felt safe. I can’t explain it, but the presence of all that war paraphernalia didn’t scare me. I was told numerous times by my tour guide that for every bombing that occurs there have been at least 15 that have been prevented; and still my love for my homeland was not deterred. But when I heard on the news in December that Israel was engaged in an allout war with Hamas, I really became concerned – the violence was a little too real for me.

I don’t have any relatives living in Israel right now, but I have family members who were involved in the Holocaust. I was immediately reminded of their experiences and even the history of violence I learned about when I visited Israel.

As a Jew living in Canada, I am not a very religious person by any means, but do celebrate the high holidays with my close family. At one point in my life, I even considered myself to be non-religious, but that all changed after going to Israel. After seeing the strong history there, I didn’t become more religious per se; I simply realized that my roots are not just in Canada.

And my ties to Israel and my Jewish heritage have only gotten stronger as the news of the conflict overseas has spread.

Speaking with my family and friends about the situation, I didn’t really know how to feel about it. I am conflicted; because I am against violence is the answer, but to a certain degree, understand Israel just trying to protect their country and their people.

The figures themselves are astounding and make the situation even more real. Over 1,300 Palestinians have been killed in the conflict, in comparison to the only 13 Israeli’s killed. More than 50,000 people in the Gaza Strip are homeless – 400,000 have been left without running water. I have been glued to my TV over the past several weeks here in Canada. As a concerned member of society, I try to stay on top of world issues. When I heard about the conflict, I was immediately reminded of my experience at the airport near Tel Aviv four years ago.

Having no problems leaving Canada and entering Israel, I was shocked when myself and my fellow Jews were questioned heavily at the border on our way back home. I was asked questions like, “do you speak Hebrew,” which I thought pretty ridiculous and no one’s business. When I responded with an astounding “no,” the border officer was shocked and simply asked me “Why not.” I couldn’t understand why that mattered. I wondered, would I have just passed through if I responded with a ‘yes’? I still don’t understand why what language I speak matters. Did I look like I was a threat? And if so, to whom? Canada? Israel?

As for the future, I realize violence in Israel is a part of its past, present and most likely future. But I cannot say this most recent conflict has hindered my wanting to go back there again. Even so far away from it all, I am still affected in ways I probably don’t even realize. I once felt safe in Israel, but that is no longer true.

To view the article on the newspaper’s website, click here.

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