July 25, 2005, Jerusalem -- It is three thirty in the morning and I am standing outside of Jaffa Gate talking to a man in a long black coat that nicely offsets his dangling Peyot (side locks). "The disengagement of Gaza doesn’t bother me; I think the Israeli government should give up the whole land to the Arabs."
“But wouldn’t that endanger Jews?” I ask. “Ok, Maybe not to the Arabs, but definitely to the UN.” He is obviously from the Chassidic group known as Satmar, who believe that Jews are forbidden to build a State prior to the coming of the Messiah.
“So, if you do not believe in the State, what brings you to Israel?” I ask. “I do not believe in the State of Israel, but I believe in the Land of Israel,” he responds. Then he continues, “When the land of Israel is controlled by the Jews, bad things happen; when gentiles control the land, we can all live in peace. Only the Messiah will allow the Jews to rule the land.”
Ironically, three Arab teenagers sitting in front of a restaurant long closed by now, have extremely similar views to that of the Satmar Hassid: “Israel should give back all the land they have taken from the Arabs, including parts of Jerusalem, only then can we live in peace.”
“But,” I ask them, “History can attest that whenever land was given for peace, the pressure and the bombings only increased?”
“That’s because we were kicked out of our homes,” the teenagers say, “give us back our homes, and we will have peace.”
Most Arabs I have spoken to, however, seem to be ambivalent about the disengagement plan. Should they extol Israel for leaving Gaza? Should they sing words of praise to the Zionist enemy? No matter what they do or do not say, undercurrents of mistrust flow like the Mediterranean. I feel them looking at me as if I don’t belong there, as if I were an intruder, as if I, with my questions, were disrupting their routine.
The many tourists enjoying the Israeli summer are almost as diverse in their opinions as the Israelis themselves: an Asian man with a camera perilously dangling from his neck cannot understand the Arab point of view. An African in colors brighter than the sun cannot understand the Israeli point of view. An American girl in pigtails cannot understand one Jew fighting another. A Canadian with a maple leaf on his backpack cannot understand how G-d comes in to the picture. A South American with a bongo in hand cannot understand why we cannot just all live together in tranquility. And I myself cannot understand anything…
On the other end of the spectrum, there is unity. The 17th Maccabiah games just ended, and the cobblestone streets of Jerusalem saw thousands of boys and girls from all over the globe coming together under the pretense of celebrating the prowess of the body, when, in fact, they were celebrating the prowess of the soul.
With the nation divided by opinion, these “Maccbians”, many for the first time, went down to the Western Wall, a place transcending our differences, and hundreds put on Tefilin. When binding mind and heart, we are all color – be it orange or blue – blind.
Maybe this is what is where the opinions end.
What’s your opinion?