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Another side to story

We all know the saying, “there are two sides to ever story.” And yet, when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I often hear a very one-sided story. Israel is made to look like a murderous, blood-thirsty country with one goal: to obliterate the Palestinian people. As an American Jew with a deep connection to Israel, I feel an intense responsibility to make known another side of the story.

Israel is the fulfillment of a dream, thousands of years old, of Jews to return to the land that we consider most holy; where our ancestors once ruled over their own fates. After the Romans expelled the Jews from the holy land in 135 CE, they spread to all corners of the earth. From Europe to the Middle East to the Americas, Jews lived and were often seen as foreigners and parasites and experienced many subsequent expulsions. Even during periods of peace, the land of Israel was never forgotten.

It is hard to overestimate the sacred place Israel held in the hearts of Jews, and many returned throughout history. In the early 1900s with the rise of political Zionism, Jews started moving to Palestine en mass, buying land, and developing communities. It wasn’t until 1948, in the aftermath of a holocaust that was the culmination of thousands of years of discrimination and exile, that Jews finally got a country of their own, in their historic homeland.

While many people see Israel as the ultimate aggressor, I see another picture. Israel is the size of New Jersey, and surrounded by countries that have made it abundantly clear that they don’t like the Jewish state. I desperately want Israel to make concessions for peace, and stop building settlements, but I also understand why the current government keeps pushing forward in the face of world condemnation. Returning to the 1967 boarders would make Israel less than 11 miles wide at some points, and extremely hard to defend. Why should Israel be so naive as to think she will never be at war again? In fact, in 2005 when Israel pulled out of Gaza and evicted the 9,000 Jews who lived there, it was rewarded with the election of Hamas. I urge those who see Hamas as valiant “resistance fighters” to read the organization’s charter. It contains abundant passages such as, “The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them); until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim! there is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him!”

Hamas and other groups in Gaza have fired more than 8,000 rockets indiscriminately into Israel since 2005, and recently, some reached as far as Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv. Israelis are terrified that if they give over the West Bank tomorrow, the same thing will happen, only this time, the aggression will come from a piece of land in central Israel, from hills that overlook Jerusalem.

Last year, I spent a semester living in Israel. I experienced the diversity of life there and want to paint a picture that is different than one many people may have in their heads. I had Arab-Israeli teachers and classmates who I was close with. Day-to-day life was peaceful and to some extent, harmonious. By many measures, Arabs in Israel live far better than their brothers and sisters in other parts of the Middle East, and most have no interest in leaving. Yes, I strongly believe in the necessity of a Palestinian state and self-determination, as was finally established for Jews in 1948. The Palestinian people are without a doubt, victims. I understand the suffering and historic injustices they have experienced. My deep, deep hope is that Americans who care about the situation can have the same kind of compassion for my people.

Rachel Becker lives in Leyden.

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