I can imagine that a lot of people who wander onto this page probably leave in a hurry, disgusted with this Israeli's preoccupation with Israeli issues (How provincial!), and with the fact that she ignores the Palestinian side of things, and that she seems indifferent to the suffering just a few kilometers to her East. Oh, yes, they probably say, it's all very well for her, worrying about sending her kids to nice schools in wealthy Tel Aviv, but what about the Palestinian children? What about their schooling? What about their miserable lives?
The first thing I have to say about that is that I am living my life, not theirs. If I write about their suffering it will mainly be the fruit of my imagination or things I have read. Before the first Intifada and before the wave of terrorist attacks that hit Tel Aviv in the mid-90's I was in regular contact with Palestinians. Not any more and not as a result of anything I did.
The second thing I have to say is that I am well aware that what happens to the Palestinians, how they live, what they learn in school, if they learn in school, and what their lives are like, has a real affect on my life. I know this, I live my life in awareness of this fact. And I worry about it. I worry about it no less than I worry about the lives and schooling of Israeli children from lower socio-economic strata than myself. There is no getting away from the fact that the lives of our two peoples are intertwined.
A lot of people who don't live in this region are very critical about Israel and its policies, although these things have no affect whatsoever on their personal lives. Some of these people are rather ignorant about some of the basic facts of the conflict. This doesn't bother them particularly or stop them from judging harshly.
Contrary to popular belief, Israel is not to blame for the situation ordinary Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza strip find themselves in. I know we are all in this together and Israel has certainly made many mistakes and done cruel things. Many things were done (and are still being done), that could be avoided, or maybe done in a more humane fashion. This is regrettable and should be seriously looked into and fixed. But these things are not representative of the whole picture. When seen out of context they look horrific, but this is not all there is to this.
A lot of people are forgetting something that is central to the conflict, or maybe they never knew, and that is that the Palestinians had a wonderful opportunity, a real, sincere opportunity offered to them by Israel, with the backing of the western world, to build a nation and a state alongside Israel. This was a time when the Left in Israel was strong, creative, persuasive. Something wonderful was happening, we were building the future of this land together. Many Right Wing friends of mine decided to vote with me for the Left, so persuaded were so many of us that we were going in a good direction.
And then buses started blowing up. One of the buses that blew up in the mid-90's was a busy Tel Aviv no. 5 bus, on one of the most central lines in the city. Parking and traffic being what they are in the city, I often prefer to get the no. 5 bus to more or less anywhere I want to go in Tel Aviv. There is a stop right across from my apartment, another by my workplace.
That murderous attack completely shattered my feeling of security in the place I live my life.
But do you know what? It didn't change my belief in the Oslo Accords. Not one little bit. It maybe even strengthened it. So did the many murderous attacks that followed. The change didn't come until September 2000.
So what changed?
What changed was that the Palestinians refused an offer of a lifetime and then ATTACKED us! What changed was the shock of the realization that our yearning for peace and coexistence, and our willingness to compromise and share this land, with joint research and development in education, agriculture, technology, with Israelis shopping in Bidya and Palestinians working in Petach Tikva and holidaying in Herzliya, with this land developing towards becoming an economic heaven for both peoples, was not being reciprocated.
The leadership on the other side was just biding its time, we discovered, waiting for more and more concessions. They had never given up their determination to rule the whole of the Land of Israel, although they had said they had. They had promised that they would never again take up arms against us as a way of solving their differences with us. And we had believed them. And then we offered them to end it all, once and for all. A historic finish to the conflic for all time. They weren't interested. They didn't even ask to think about it. It was just NO.
Because instead of using those years to build a nation, a society, a state, the Palestinian leadership, fresh from their privileged exile in Tunisia, had used them to build a culture of hate. They had sowed, not seeds of understanding and coexistence among the young generation of Palestinians in schools, but seeds of hope that it would not be necessary to make compromises with the hated Zionists after all. They had taught them that the day when they would all be back in Haifa and in Jaffa, and that the Jews would be gone, was getting nearer and nearer with every concession made by the weak, spoilt Israelis.
It's easy to judge from the other side of the world, where the chance of your kid getting blown to smithereens in the local mall are still extremely slim, even in these days of planes being flown into tall buildings as part of a sick game of terror (but for how long?). It's easy to decide who are the good guys and who are the bad guys, when it doesn't touch you, when it makes no difference to your life, when you don't really know all the facts and don't really care to know them.
I don't know how we can resolve this conflict anymore. I thought I knew. This knowledge was such a deep belief for me that it shaped and defined most of my adult life. It was who I was.
It turned out I was a naive, trusting fool. Now, it seems, this conflict can only be solved if my people and I cease to exist. Well, I have no intention of doing anything that would further that end. My only alternative is to be strong, refrain from spending too much time worrying about the situation and just live my life.
So forgive me for not agonizing about the Palestinians all day, every day. I am sorry for them. They have terrible leaders who have been holding them down and leading them astray, and they have no way of getting rid of them. I can't change that. I have my say every four years, sometimes more often than that. I'm sorry the Palestinians don't have the same privilege. On second thoughts, maybe I'm not. They probably wouldn't elect anyone who would want to make peace with us.