On my last evening in Israel, I walked on the beach and gazed at the sunset over the beautiful Mediteranean Sea and I was full of so many complex thoughts. That day my visit to Neve Shalom Wahat Al-Salam involved me joining a group of German Citizens who came to view the atrocities imposed upon the Palestinians by the Israeli Government. They spent all their time in Palestine and their only visit to Israel was to Neve Shalom Wahat Al-Salam. They were anxious to tell me about the horrors of the living conditions of the Palestinians and they listened eagerly as our Palestinian Tour guide (resident of NSWAS) described the discrimination against Palestinians on every possible level. The German group urged me to go visit the West Bank and assured me that my fears of dangers to Jews there were unfounded. They seemed to scold me for my lack of balance in not visiting the West Bank. The Irony was glaring, given that they had not visited Israel at all. The immense compexity of the situation hit me hard at that point. Here were Germans, older in age, whose Country was responsible for the death of 6 million Jews, visiting only the West Bank and East Jerusalem, in order to shine the light on the atrocities the Jewish State is imposing on the Palestinians. Yes, of course we must do something about the plight of the Palestinians. I wanted those German tourists to seek the same balance they were asking me to have. The situation is far too complex to only look at it from one angle. With the rise of Anti-Semitism in Europe, the mission of this German group made me feel uneasy. It didnt help to hear our tour guide say things like “Jews control the media in the U.S.” and “the Jews came in and took my grandfather’s land”. I wish the emphasis had been placed more on the hope that is being built by having Jews and Arabs living side by side in Neve Shalom Wahat Al-Salam.
So I strolled along the beach and thought about all this. I watched surfers and paddle ball players, bike riders and joggers; people of every color and hundreds of different nationalities. I thought about the vibrant and alive Israeli culture and about how I saw no signs of the terror the region faced all summer. Then I thought about those 400 mediators, the 60 NSWAS residents, the hundreds of Arab and Jewish kids who take art classes together, the Arab-Jewish Women’s dialogues, the intercultural work being done in Jerusalem, Lod, Acco and elsewhere and I felt a sense of hope. Peace will prevail.
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