It has taken me quite some time to process and come to terms with what I saw over the Israel/Palestine trip. Although everything here is the same, I feel quite different walking around. It’s as if I can’t get the trip out of my mind; I’m always thinking about it. Going through photos with friends and family definitely helped me realize the immensity of what I had seen. Although the situation typically makes me sad, since I struggle finding a solution with which I agree, I think it also had its benefits. It made me more aware of the situation and reminded me why I would like to work for human rights organizations, NGOs, and news companies abroad. After years of my family telling me I’m crazy and my trip to Africa, which left me feeling hopeless and used, this trip showed me that I really can try to help (even despite “the long, slow decline of hope”) and that my help would be appreciated. The trip also allowed me to bring home stories to share with those around me. Most of my family was shocked by the state of the country when I showed them my photos, and it really has been a learning lesson for them as well. It has also sparked some great conversations with my friends, who are either very knowledgable or completely unaware. This sharing of knowledge is key, as it can completely change how people think and potentially can lead them to sharing the information with others. Overall, the trip was one of my favorite, if not my favorite, trip that I have taken and I cannot wait to go back.
Helga’s Question- Based on the various sites that have taken you across the “Green Line” and across various parts of “greater Jerusalem” and the West Bank, problematize the notion (or possibility) of a clear separation between “Israeli” and “Palestinian” (whether people, places, infrastructures, identities, territories, etc.). Is it possible to think of the entire landscape as one variegated one with differences rather than two separate ones of “Palestine” and “Israel.” In other words, how can you conceptualize of everything as ONE “system” even if it has stark differences within it.
In Israel/Palestine, the separation is a continuation between clear, blurred, and nonexistent. Sometimes you can draw a line directly between Jewish and Arab areas, while other times you can’t even distinguish a distinct location of separation. The Green Line itself is practically nonexistent; you can drive over it without even noticing. The wall is a hard border that is impossible not to notice. But despite all this separation and difference, sometimes Israel and Palestine form a singular system. Both economies rely on each other, and if either was removed, the other would collapse. Therefore, separating the two groups would be quite a challenge. And although it might be somewhat of a stretch, the food both cultures eat is completely borderless. Whether you’re in Tel Aviv or Ramallah, you will still get a table covered in hummus, salads, dips, and pita at almost every restaurant. Both groups also center their identity around religion, even if they are different religions. Both groups take prayer seriously and live their lives according to religious laws (i.e. dietary restrictions such as halal and kosher, closing businesses on the weekly holy day of Salat al-Juma or Shabbat). Though there are many major differences between the groups, it is these smaller but critical details that show just how similar the two groups are.
The similarities between Jews and Arabs are most clear in the South. No matter what, there are Bedouins on either side of the Green Line and they live in the same conditions. The presence of these Arab groups blur the lines between Palestinian and Israeli territory. Throughout the beginning of the trip, the Jewish cities always seemed to be more modern and generally nicer than the Arab cities, but Be’er Sheva problematizes this notion. The city itself is mainly Jewish, but it is much more run down, less developed, and everything was much cheaper. In this sense, it was very similar to the Arab cities. It showed us that not every Jew lives in government-subsidized luxury and that even some Jews have to deal with less than perfect living conditions.
Another aspect of the territory that is borderless is resentment. Both sides of the Green Line resent the other side’s presence and wishes the other group would leave. This resentment structures the way of life and has been internalized as a natural belief. The prime example of this resentment would be in Hebron when we were walking down Shuhada Street. On one side of the street the signs read “This Land was Stolen by the Arabs” and on the other side, signs read “This Land was Stolen by Israel.” It is clear that both groups feel entitled to the land and believe that they were there first. This similarity, which runs through every aspect of life, is the source of all the conflict.