A view from the other side

Meredith J. Cooper is CN&R’s associate editor.

In this issue of the CN&R, Sharon Fritsch writes a Guest Comment based on her experiences in Israel and the West Bank. I, too, visited Israel—with my family in December 2005—and I came back with a much different view of the conflict there.

I first want to point out that Fritsch and I took very different tours. We both visited Jerusalem (what trip to Israel would be complete without seeing the holiest of holies—for Jews, Christians and Muslims?). But while Fritsch stuck to the Palestinian-ruled areas, I traveled throughout the Israeli-dominated landscape, with more of a focus on history than current events.

Perhaps the holiest site in the world—for Jews—is the Western Wall in Jerusalem. It’s the holiest site that they can access, anyway, since the Palestinians have control of the nearby Temple Mount. I visited the Western Wall, all that remains of the second Jewish temple in Jerusalem, which was destroyed by the Romans almost 2,000 years ago.

I also had a chance to visit the ancient city of Masada, perched high upon a hilltop. After the Romans conquered Jerusalem, burning the second temple, they spread out to eradicate the land of Jews. Masada was the last stronghold. The outline of the Roman camps can still be seen surrounding the hill.

Many of the Jews in the area, if they weren’t killed, fled to places like Eastern Europe. After the Holocaust, many of the survivors returned to what they considered their homeland and, in 1948, after much fighting with the Arabs there, they declared independence.

I don’t mean to give too much of a history lesson, but today’s conflict is an extension of the fighting that occurred back then, and I think it’s important to look at the past to understand what’s happening in the present.

The Palestinians may not hate non-Arabs—as Fritsch explains she felt welcomed there—but she is not Israeli. Though peace talks have been tried in the past, the Palestinian Authority still refuses to recognize Israel. Why, then, after so much history of persecution, should the Israelis be expected to put down their guns and relax their borders?

I do not condone violence, and I, like Fritsch, hope that peace will someday be a reality in that region. Just this week, however, the Palestinian prime minister, a Hamas leader, told his people they have a right to continue their resistance against Israel. That is not a call for peace.

Until the Palestinians do their part, I don’t expect Israel to stand down—its people have fought too hard for their independence to open themselves up to the possibility of losing it again.