It is so difficult to discuss the Arab-Israeli conflict, in any way. No matter what nationality, religious affiliation, political alignment, or personal sensitivity, any comments are often met with intense and often hostile reactions.
The Arab-Israeli conflict is saturated to the core with trauma, injustice, existential fears, and entrenched, iron-clad historical perspectives. The many versions of “One Truth” it seems.
I have nothing but boundless compassion for the intensity of pain, suffering, and trauma felt by all people caught in this endless cycle of suffering. It is absolutely real.
But in the endless discourse on who is responsible, and whose trauma is greater– the lives of millions of human beings are nearly discarded. What should have been unthinkable-- refugees, for generations, while the world watches – has come to pass. Innocent children living their entire lives in hopelessness. Groundless. Then raising their own children in same. Fundamental human needs for security, healthcare, education, food, shelter, work are largely dependent on the goodwill of others. Feeling powerless to change, or have control over your own conditions-- as all human beings need, hope and dream.
Palestinian refugees, numbering more than 5 million, represent the longest suffering (multiple generations) and largest refugee population in the world. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) recognizes 58 Palestinian refugee camps, in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and the Occupied Territories, with 1.5 million refugees. Countless souls and families have likely been displaced more than once, including the recent devastation the civil war in Syria has brought to the Palestinian refugees there, where a reported 200,000 refugees have sought shelter now in Europe and elsewhere.
In “host” countries, Palestinians often face discrimination, and frequently get caught up in a complex maze of immigration/ asylum laws, with their status and control over their lives, uncertain.
It is precisely because I am Jewish, and proud to be so, that I have turned towards the suffering of the Palestinian people. The historical persecution and history of the Jewish people, and its traditional emphasis on Social Justice, have long opened my eyes and hearts to the humanitarian plight of the Palestinian people. “Exodus.” Pictures of men, women and children dragging whatever belongings they could carry, tirelessly down the road to nowhere, in fear. These are familiar stories...
In Israel and the Occupied Territories, the Palestinian aspiration of freedom, and a Nation to call their own, persists. Violence on all sides, in the absolute, must end. No people would accept the conditions Palestinians have lived under for so long, for example: the de-humanization of Palestinians, as testified by Israeli soldiers, discrimination, oppression, annexation of land, blockade of Gaza, and expansion of settlements within the Occupied Territories. There are many voices within Israel living daily in this war torn reality, of all faiths, joined by voices of compassion from all over the world, calling for an end to this incredibly long and dark Occupation.
As the current Presidential election in the US highlights: the political ideology and rhetoric of the leaders, often do not represent the majority of the citizens they purport to represent. The extremists, whom no one can control, may shout the loudest in words and deeds, but they are dwarfed in numbers by those with other beliefs and values.
After many generations living with hopelessness and destitution, groundless, and stateless, the Palestinian refugee crisis lives on.
If our eyes are open, we see it. If our hearts are open, we want it to end.
Hand in Hand: handinhandk12.org
Currently has 6 joint Arab-Jewish integrated schools, with 1,500 children, who learn multi-culturalism, equality, and multiple perspectives.
“When Arab and Jewish children learn together, they break the cycle of negative stereotypes and learn to relate to one another with mutual understanding and respect. Hand in Hand’s extraordinary model provides a clear and simple example that Jews and Arabs can study, work and live together in peace.”
Ta'ayush (“Living Together”): taayush.org
“In the fall of 2000 we joined together to form “Ta’ayush” (Arabic for “living together”), a grassroots movement of Arabs and Jews working to break down the walls of racism and segregation by constructing a true Arab-Jewish partnership. Together we strive for a future of equality, justice and peace through concrete, daily, non-violent actions of solidarity to end the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories and to achieve full civil equality for all.”
Co-founded by American born Israeli academic David Shulman, winner of the prestigious Israel Prize:
"We in Ta'ayush feel an ethical duty to defend the innocent civilian population and to stand by them in the face of ongoing violence."
The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) , mecaforpeace.org
A nonprofit humanitarian aid organization based in Berkeley, California. They support children and families in Palestine, Iraq and Lebanon. MECA has had a special relationship with the youth in Dheisheh Refugee Camp. They have delivered $19 MM in food and medicine to Palestine, Iraq, Lebanon, built schools, playgrounds, and work w psychologists to help children deal with trauma.