Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Palestine in Beirut (Friday, June 25)

So, we’re non-Arab Americans. By default, without consciously knowing it, or thinking it, we tend to tacitly accept the state of Israel. Or support it. Or whatever. Right? I mean, for me especially. I grew up with Holocaust survivors visiting my junior high, waiting to play with my friends until they were done with Hebrew school, being proud that Koreans were considered that “new Jews” (read: family-focused, well-assimilated, academically and financially successful) of the U.S., joking that I should get to go on a Birthright trip alongside everyone else I knew. My first love was a Conservative Jew, and I seriously, albeit briefly, considered following him to Israel to work on a kibbutz for a summer. Because of course Israel was a Jewish birthright.

Because of course Jews needed a country. Christ. I think I was midway through college before I even considered that Israel hadn’t always existed as a safe haven and rightful home for the Jews. But I didn’t think of myself as politically pro-Israel, either. Israel just was.

When Gabe and I traveled to Israel a few years ago, we completely fell in love. We loved the food, the culture, the people, the energy, and the pure magic of the place. Because Israel is magic, no matter what your religion or politics. The sadness and violence there is tempered by a joie de vivre unlike anything we’ve seen anywhere else in the world, and though we were depressed by the walls and the checkpoints, the endless three-ring binders filled with Palestinian names and teenagers toting guns, we still loved it. It is gorgeous country.

Whose country it is, of course, is The Question, the Endless Tragic Painful Miserable Warfaring Impossible Fucking Forever Question. And one that we’ve never REALLY asked ourselves. But our two-month tour of Islamic North Africa and the Middle East has been capped by an afternoon in the Palestinian refugee camps in West Beirut, where displaced refugees without citizenship or protections are trapped with separate-and-not-equal schools and no access to jobs or resources outside of the camps (where, not coincidentally, Hezbollah has a stronghold). We’ve had our first conversations with legitimately non-anti-Semitic, yet fiercely anti-Israel, Arabs about the creation of state of Israel, forcing us to question assumptions we didn’t even know we had.


Thanks, Najla, for giving us the opening. We’ll see you … somewhere?

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