Phoebe Melchiskey, a Fall 2016 student is a senior from Somerville, Massachusetts. She is a member of Beth El Temple Center, a member of BEFTY (Beth El Federation of Temple Youth) and a madricha for kids with special needs.
Last week we took a tiyul to learn about the separation barrier between Israel and the West Bank. We learned that the First Intifada was a “war of stones,” and while it accounted for many tragedies, it was not viewed as a serious threat because it was a war of the people. It did, however, put the Palestinian issue on the map. The Second Intifada was carried out by terrorist organizations, and resulted in 1064 Israeli murders, and only 319 of the casualties belonged to the military over the course of 5 years.
As much as I LOVE Shira’s teaching, it was so amazing to learn from Ariella on this day, and hear her personal stories having lived through this time period. I would have been so scared if I were in her position, especially since we learned that her father could have possibly been a victim of the attacks, if it were not for one brave waiter.
Since vocal borders were not being effective, Ariel Sharon decided it was time to erect a physical barrier between Israelis and Palestinians. The physical barrier was extremely effective in terms of achieving its goal: to prevent suicide bombings. There have been a limited number of attacks since the wall was built. However, the wall presents many challenges. It cuts through villages, separates friends and families, and occasionally even surrounds villages completely. The fence infringes upon mobility rights, making a 10 minute journey take over two hours. The searches at the checkpoints can be humiliating as people are patted down, and all of their belongings searched. We also learned that 70,000 people every day find ways to sneak through the wall without going through a checkpoint.
During this tiyul, I learned that the Palestinian government actually demilitarized the terrorists organizations, and this was the reason for the decrease in bombings, not the wall. We then continued on to the Israeli Supreme court. We heard about the contrast between the law and justice in Israeli government represented by circles and lines. I think it was really interesting that the government used mostly symbolism as a message to the opposing side: lines for those who are involved in justice, and circles for those usually involved in law. It was really cool to see criminal justice carried out after a morning learning about those who decided to take justice into their own hands during the Intifadas. Lastly, we heard from two representatives from Kids4Peace, an organization that works to encourage relationships and communication between different. religions. I personally really enjoyed this part of the day, learning from both a Jew and an Arab Muslim. They had two totally different upbringings, both taught to hate the other, yet were sitting side by side joking about celebrating the holidays at each others residences.
As someone who has almost exclusively Christian friends, and an Arab significant other, I could not help my thoughts from drifting to how this separation wall would effect my life. I do not want to imagine a world where I could not freely visit Younes’s house or neighborhood, or where my friends had to make a 2 plus hour journey to see me, being humiliated and hassled along the way. I also personally related to the Michal from Kids for Peace a lot. I think it takes a certain amount of courage to openly be with someone who its known to the world that your races and religions do not peacefully interact. I have a lot of respect for her because of this as well. Younes and I face many challenges in America, even in a very accepting and diverse community. I can not even begin to imagine what it would be like to be in that relationship here in Israel. Yesterday’s tiyul really challenged my viewpoints on many parts of Israeli politics and society, and I learned so much from many different points of view. This tiyul really made me think deeply about my morals and values.