On October 10, a group of young adults met in order to discuss the events of the past summer, and how they impacted each community. We began with a short presentation from Messianic Jewish, Israeli-Palestinian and Palestinian young adults outlining how the summer impacted them on a personal level, in their respective communities, and in their leaders’ response to the conflict.
All three people who spoke articulated the enormous amount of fear that each community felt throughout the war/operation. The speaker for the Palestinian side said it felt like the reconciliation process moved “100 steps backwards.” Each community felt the intensity of the situation with the Messianic Jewish speaker stating, “Reactions from people were really extreme, especially after the three kids were kidnapped and murdered and afterwards the kid from Shuafat was murdered. It was really scary and this heated the situation…” He also expressed the difficult emotions of being drafted as a reserve soldier after many years of not serving. He said that: “I lost my freedom all of sudden and my efforts of detachment [from the conflict] were halted.”
While the summer brought fear, the heated situation brought some form of unity on both sides. The Palestinian speaker shared that, “We felt empathy towards our brothers in Gaza. Despite the distance, the war gave us unity, unity among Christians and Muslims. This was evident in the Old City of Jerusalem where Christians and Muslims would watch over each other’s backs; also unity between the Galilee, West Bank and Gaza. The war also strengthened the BDS [movement]; it is now more prevalent among [those in] the West Bank.”
The Israeli-Palestinian speaker shared that she felt stuck in the middle. Reflecting on her community and their mixed emotions, she said, “We felt in between, we don’t know how to define ourselves at war. We felt close to the Palestinians but we were in [a] dilemma on who should we stand with. We felt frustration, living in Israel as an Arab, in the face of extremism. The other side was afraid to visit Arab places.” She also observed that Facebook was a warzone in of itself and an MJ participant echoed this, stating “The real war was on Facebook and as believers we have to participate in reconciliation and walk Jesus’ path. This war was a wake-up call for reconciliation.”
After the presentation, the participants split into three discussion groups depending on their community, Israeli, Israeli-Palestinian or Palestinian. They were each given two articles written by leaders in their own community. The articles represented two responses, one calling for reconciliation, and one more controversial piece utilizing inflammatory rhetoric in response to the conflict. After examining the two articles, each discussion group would present the articles to the rest of the group. They addressed questions such as, “Does this article represent me or my position?,” “What sort of language do these authors use?,” “How does this article represent the ‘other side’?,” “How would the ‘other side’ feel if they were to read this?”
Throughout the discussions and presentations of the articles, there was a consensus that there were not enough voices that called for reconciliation in the respective communities. On the other hand, it was easy to find “negative” articles from community leaders in response to the summer’s hostilities. In the case of the Israeli-Palestinians, they felt there was “a strong resounding sound of silence.”
The purpose of this exercise was to look analytically at how we (as communities) respond during times of crisis. All participants agreed that there is a need to take more steps in understanding each other and toward reconciliation. They also agreed that much of the leadership in all three communities failed to publicly address the conflict adequately, and that we need to have stronger voices advocating for reconciliation and justice. We left this meeting with a strong feeling that this was a positive step to rejuvenate reconciliation work and we hope to explore further dialogue and understanding of how we react during times of conflict.
by Jack Munayer