By Darcie Grunblatt, University of Delaware
“Do you believe the Jews have a right to the land of Israel?”
That question has been posed to me throughout high school and college. It is the question I asked myself when I first came on this trip, attempting to assuage the Jewish guilt I felt throughout high school when I heard about atrocities committed by the Israel Defense Forces toward Palestinians.
It is an interesting question for me as a Jew because whenever I go to Israel –– as soon as I leave the airport and breathe in the air –– I feel love in my gut. How can I not have the right to be in this land when it brings me such peace? How can it not be our homeland?
The question was even asked of our speaker, a Muslim woman, in the city of Lod at the Ramat Eshkol Community Center. As soon as this question was posed, the room erupted in whispers. Regardless of what everyone else was saying, I almost fell out of my chair when I heard her answer. She said the land belongs to nobody
It is God’s land.
The question is not who has the right to the land; the question is how to work together now that we’re all here. This answer changed my entire outlook on the conflict.
Of course, the origins of the conflict come down to who believes they have the right to this land, which both Arabs and Jews consider home. I see Palestinians feeling the same love in their gut when they breathe the air I breathe.
We learned that Lod is a microcosm of Israel. It has an Arab and Jewish population, both containing many religious and ethnic sub-groups. Lod is called “a mosaic of cultures” because almost every Israeli ethnic, religious and socioeconomic group can be found there. Every kind of Israeli who lives in this city attempts to coexist, and while it is very challenging and much work remains to be done, there is hope because leaders attempt to work together.
The work toward peaceful co-existence in Lod gave me hope, but achieving peaceful coexistence throughout Israel seemed increasingly hopeless to me as we heard from more and more speakers on both sides.
Everyone wants peace, but any solution either harmed the Israelis or the Palestinians, and neither is willing to make sacrifices. Palestinians and Israelis can go their whole lives without ever meeting one another, which makes working together nearly impossible.
As a result, children in Sderot play on a playground indoors that is also a bomb shelter instead of playing outside. The children of Gaza are prisoners in their own homeland and don’t even have the privilege of access to a bomb shelter.
It is frustrating to see someone from our very own bus group being detained by airport security for over four hours just because he was born in the West Bank. It is heart wrenching for parents when they have to send their kids to join the IDF, not knowing if they will come home.
This is why people should not be asking who has the right to this land, but how we can work together now that we are all here.
That’s the question.