A Journey of Self Discovery

By Josh Hilfman, University of Pittsburgh

By Josh Hilfman, University of Pittsburgh

Growing up in a very divisive town, I have always strived to listen to and understand both sides of any disagreement I encountered. At times this was hard, but nevertheless I did my best to give thought to each opinion.

However, I never criticallyI learned about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict until I visited Israel, for the second time, with The David Project.

 I grew up experiencing many aspects of Jewish and Israeli culture, and was taught from a young age about the conflict. But from only one perspective. I was never shown a different opinion or narrative and I never took the time to look for it myself. It wasn’t until I left my bubble in New York that I was confronted with the fact that there were other narratives to look at. The ability to work as a David Project intern and go on Israel Uncovered gave me an even bigger window into a conflict that I thought I had all figured out.

 We were able to meet with a full spectrum of people, with different experiences, upbringings and motives. Hardliners, moderates, pro-Israel, pro-Palestine, and those in favor of the two-state solution were the basic classifications of the people we heard from.

However, these labels don’t tell the whole story.

A woman we met with who identified as an Arab-Israeli, explained the problems she had with the current government, but also that she felt at home within the state of Israel. This was not something I expected but was a great positive that those who have reason to hate can instead look for peace.

We met with a group called “Roots”, an organization criticized by members of the Israeli and Palestinian governments who’s mission is to bring Israelis and Palestinians together to fuel peace and strive for a two-state solution. The two men we met could be grouped with other supporters of the two-state solution by some, but then their individual stories would be lost in the shuffle. For instance, the Palestinian has very little contact with his family because they disapprove of the work he is doing and his ideals.

Lastly, we met with representatives from the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government; both of whom shared the full scope of the Israeli and Palestinian narratives. While each of the men hold public office and appeared diplomatic, many of the viewpoints they expressed seemed fairly one-sided. Blaming the other side for the problems and lack of solution while vehemently holding their positions; unwilling to give up any ground.

The speakers were not the only perspectives I heard from on the trip. Each one of my peers had their own unique narrative that helped shape their knowledge of the conflict or lack thereof. The bus was a microcosm of not only the world we live in but also of the campus I call home. One conversation I remember vividly was about the timeline of events leading up to the creation of Israel which included facts, opinions, and a discussion of what we want out of the future of this conflict.

 The extraordinarily different people we had the chance to hear from and the amazing conversations I had with members of my group not only strengthened my relationship with Israel, but also changed the way I saw the land and the people within it. This is not a one-sided issue as I had once thought it was, and this was not a problem that can be solved by listening to only one of these perspectives. This is a problem rooted in the hearts of millions of people and I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to meet a few of them and expand my knowledge and perspective on it.


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