Amit Meyer (Israel,AC 07-09)
Back at home, obviously, everyone was Israeli. Everyone grew up with the same Israeli values, and learnt the same things. Everyone was part of the Israeli society.
It was only after coming to AC that I actually had to face my Israeli-ness. Being here made me realize so much about Israel, from a completely different perspective than what I was used to. I finally had a chance to take a step back and look at Israel from the outside, from an objective point of view. But nothing could have prepared me to everything that comes with being an Israeli in a place like this.
I was asked quite a few times to write something about Israel, the situation there, a particular event that had happened, my point of view, etc. I must admit, I had never thought that telling about my home country, translating my thoughts into words and sentences would be that difficult. After several attempts that left me with either EE-long articles still trying to get to their point, or pages and pages of scribbles and parts of ideas that were almost impossible to put together, I’ve realized that there is still one thing that I felt more strongly than anything else. That is the frustration I felt about the whole situation, and that wouldn’t let me go.
It is enough to look at the news at any point in the last, let’s say, 5 years, to understand where my frustration comes from. At one point it may seem as if world peace is just around the corner, with all our leaders being so reaching-out-for-peace and amazingly willing to talk to the other side, but only a couple of hours later it may seem like another war is about to break out right away. No one really knows what’s going on, who’s telling the truth and who’s merely playing political games and when, if at all, this whole craziness will end.
More than that, I am stunned by the amount of headlines I see that make me feel like I’ve seen them before. Things I learnt about that happened to the Jewish people at some point in history, are now repeating themselves, only this time they’re happening to someone else, and we don’t really seem to mind. A famous quote in Hebrew that would translate roughly into “Gentlemen, history is repeating!” couldn’t be more accurate.
Israel is meant to be a democratic state. But I believe it has a lot of room for improvement, and it’s probably not what you’re thinking of. The Israeli media is doing a wonderful job making sure we know all we should know, in many areas of life, but it has one major flaw that became really obvious to me only after coming to the College. We don’t really hear about what’s happening in the Palestinian territories. Well, we may hear about their politics, for example, but no one really knows about all those things that are happening there for which the world holds us accountable.
Another thing I have noticed from the distance of being here is how much the whole education process that a young Israeli goes through by the age of 18, when he is expected to join the IDF, the Israeli army, is aimed at creating nothing but a patriotic Israeli that knows that his only way to give something back is by fighting in the army. With no questions asked, students are slowly but surely being educated to have a very specific set of ideals, with a very specific aim.
As much as they may wish to see themselves as democratic, the media, the educational system, even the society as a whole are still quite far from that, many times without even realizing.
It seems to me that the Israeli society, much like most of the world, are really good at defending what’s theirs, but cannot go that one step further, and see that they are damaging others in exactly the same places. I’m shocked to see how terribly ignorant and unaware people can sometimes be, and more than that, to see the ones in control of the information prevented from the people allow it to happen, because of narrow political interests.
There are so many different paths to get to that peace we so desperately long for, and almost every single person is certain that he has the right one. With history, the facts we base those ideas for solutions upon, being entirely changeable and malleable, depending on the point a certain someone is trying to make, there is almost no use to it. The solutions people come up with for this conflict are not based upon solid history, but that history is usually built around those solution in order to fit them properly.
The solution was always clear to me, but I wonder how realistic it actually is for the Israeli society of today. I believe that we shouldn’t even have countries and borders, but that’s probably taking it way too far. It’s hard for many people to see Israel as a Jewish-democratic state, both at once. The idea was there to begin with, and even the Declaration of Independence of Israel assures equal rights for all people of any race, gender, religion, etc., but something went terribly wrong along the way, leaving us with mostly the Jewish part of that Jewish-democratic vision.
I know that we can live in peace and co-existence, while ensuring the rights of persecuted minorities such as the Jewish people used to be at the time when the State of Israel was founded. The Arab-Israeli conflict is not given, and only because we’re so tragically used to it doesn’t mean there is no option of resolving it.
The world today is a selfish place, but the trouble is, too many people are not even aware of how selfish they are. Could it be that the Israeli society is not that unique in that sense, but these are only the circumstances in which it is placed of the conflict that make it result in such horrible consequences?
Is there anything we can do to change that selfish and destructive approach that so many people seem to posses throughout the world these days?
Now, with the 60th Independence Day of Israel at hand, in about a week’s time, the differences only seem to get bigger, the gap between Israel and the Arab world is becoming harder to build a bridge on, and the Israeli society is going down a path that I personally, hate to think what will happen to us if we’ll stay on for too long. Just like global warming (for the real UWC touch of this article), we are at crucial times to this conflict, and we have been at such for a long time without realizing. We mustn’t wait any longer for a real solution.
I’m sure we have more to do than just wait and hope for peace to come one day.
– United World College Student Magazine –