We have a young language instructor at Shalem College in Jerusalem, where I work. She's a religious Muslim who wears a hijab, lives in one of the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem and is a graduate student at Hebrew University. She's fun and warm, and a great teacher — the students like her a lot.Read the whole thing.
Late last spring, when things here were quiet, some of the students mentioned to the department chair that as much as they'd spoken with her over the past couple of years, they'd never discussed politics. They were curious what someone like her thought about the conflict in this region, especially now that she was teaching at an unabashedly Zionist college, had come to know so many Jewish students and had developed such warm relationships with them. How does someone like her see things here? How did she think we would one day be able to settle this conflict?
"So ask her," the department chair said. "As long as you speak to her in Arabic (she's on staff to help our students master the language), you can talk about anything you want."
They did. They told her that since they'd never discussed the "situation" (as we metaphorically call it here in Israel), they were curious how she thought we might someday resolve it.
"It's our land," she responded rather matter-of-factly. Stunned, they weren't sure that they'd heard her correctly. So they waited. But that was all she had to say. "It's our land. You're just here for now."
What upset those students more than anything was not that a Palestinian might believe that the Jews are simply the latest wave of Crusaders in this region, and that we, like the Crusaders of old, will one day be forced out. We all know that there are many Palestinians who believe that.
What upset them was that she — an educated woman, getting a graduate degree (which would never happen in a Muslim country) at a world class university (only Israel has those — none of Israel's neighbors has a single highly rated university) and working at a college filled with Jews who admire her, like her and treat her as they would any other colleague — still believes that when it's all over, the situation will get resolved by our being tossed out of here once again.
Even she , who lives a life filled with opportunities that she would never have in an Arab country, still thinks at the end of the day the Jews are nothing but colonialists. And colonialists, she believes, don't last here. The British got rid of the Ottomans, the Jews got rid of the British — and one day, she believes, the Arabs will get rid of the Jews.
That is one of the many reasons that this recent wave of violence, consisting mostly of deadly stabbings carried out by Israeli Arabs (not Palestinians living over the Green Line) and Arab residents of east Jerusalem, has Israelis so unsettled.
Yes, the reality on the ground is frightening. People are being stabbed on the street, on buses, in malls. Those being attacked are elderly men and women and young boys on their bicycles. No one is immune, and unlike the last Intifada, when suicide bombers sought high casualty counts so you felt safe away from crowds, now nowhere feels definitely safe.
But even that is not the most debilitating dimension of this new round of attacks on Jews. What's most sobering is the fact that this new round of violence has made it clear, once again, that this conflict is simply never going to end.
I have had a series of articles over the years describing why peace is impossible. But that idea is so hard to accept by optimistic, can-do westerners, that they simply refuse to see the truth.