In Israel, a house divided is no laughing matter
Posted June 19, 2015
JERUSALEM — As I write this, daily prayers of Muslims are sounding across Jerusalem, also known as "The Holy City." Ramadan has begun for 25 percent of the world's population. It's sundown, and the first of 29 days of fasting has been broken. I am Christian, and as a non-Muslim, I have to say the prayers are exceedingly beautiful and haunting.
Earlier Friday in this beautiful, complicated and complex city were prayers by devoted Jews and Christians, all here, and all wanting to live in the essence and reality of something we call peace.
For the past four days I have talked with several Jews, Christians and Muslims. Some are extreme in their beliefs, some moderate, some simply not sure. Within each of the conversations is a common thread, one I heard when I first arrived in this country 31 years ago.
"We just want a life. A life where we can dream, hope, love. Raise a family in peace. To live without the constant threat of war hanging over our heads."
As the conversations continue, the words and phrases become more intense. All sides punctuate their message. Facial muscles tense. Smiles turn upside down. Simply put, this country is a house divided.
Drive around the Triangle and we see the plates on cars: State/Carolina, Carolina/Duke, "A House Divided." We laugh, shake our heads and move on.
We in the United States are also divided on religion and politics. Tea Party vs AFL-CIO, Democrats vs Republicans, and liberals vs conservatives. Intense? Yes. Healthy? Let's hope so. In these divisions, we may be a bit over the top in our desire to win, yet no one gets hurt. In the divisions of Israel, people die. Family members are gone. Forever.
Last year alone, in the Israeli-Gaza conflict known as "Operation Protective Edge," at least 2,200 people, mostly Gazans were killed. We have several towns and hamlets around Raleigh with fewer people.
We just want a life. A life where we can dream, hope, love. Raise a family in peace.
Ari Levi has lived here all of his 67 years. "It is my God given right to live here and live in peace," he told me. "But some of the Arabs want to kill us!" I asked, "Do you know anyone personally who wants to kill you?"
"You don't understand! It's what their government has pledged to do for years! And we have to stop that," Levi said. He waved me off and shook his head as he left.
Next I talked with 17-year-old Samara Ackerman.
"I believe my generation will be the one who brings the peace," she said. "My parents disagree, but why not? Why not? I don't hate anyone, and I know Palestinians who are my age and feel the same way. You know what we need?"
I just looked at her and waited.
"We just need to trust each other and give it a chance. We never know if we don't try," she said.
Elias Alasom echoed Ackerman. I spoke with him at the American Colony Hotel. Alasom had received a work permit and ridden the bus from Ramallah to Jerusalem. He was working with French journalists as an assistant. A "go-fer" I explained.
Shrugging his shoulders he said, "Why not? I don't want to die. I don't want no one to die. I just want to live my life."
I hope you remember this the next time you see a plate reading "A House Divided" and realize it's a game. No matter your passion, IT'S A GAME.
For folks here, it's real: Real serious, real life and, sadly, real death.
These young people are currently infected with idealism. Let's hope it sticks. I think we all could use a dose.