Thank you to Stand With Us’ Once in a Lifetime project for making this trip possible!
Israel is more than just one half of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That’s the point every Israeli wants to impress upon foreigners right now. Nearly every time I ask a question about the conflict, it seems Israelis quickly answer and move on to the other features of their country. “Israel beyond the conflict” is a phrase I am hearing more and more.
One of the things I learned in college is how identities are formed. Often, they are defined by who you are not and who you are in conflict with. In some ways, we define ourselves upon who we seek to differentiate ourselves from. The Palestinian identity is in large part based on this conflict, they seem themselves rightly or wrongly as the ones who were kicked out of their homeland and are oppressed by the Israeli occupiers. You would suppose that Israelis would likewise identify themselves as those standing opposite of the Palestinians, Arabs and/or Muslims. Instead, you see a crying out to let the world know about their society, their education, lifestyles, innovation—basically everything but the conflict.
And when the conflict is discussed, they reflexively and passionately argue that the conflict isn’t so much “Israeli-Palestinian” or “Israeli-Arab” or “Israeli-Muslim,” but “Israeli-Hamas” and “Israeli-radical Islam.” In fact, the mere statement “pro-Palestinian” seems to irritate many of them as an overly simplistic statement that puts the two in opposite corners of the boxing ring.
Right now I’m in Tel Aviv, getting ready to tour the Beit Rubi Museum, Better Place, Neve Tzedek neighborhood, and hit the beach and gear up for a mega-party tonight. Let’s see how Tel Aviv matches up to the Jersey Shore.