Today’s blog post comes from Valparaiso University Law Student Elliott E…
This is the second time I’ve come to Israel, the first time being on a Jewish sponsored trip called Birthright. On Birthright trips, the leaders explain to us that Israel is the land for Jews. Israel was promised to Jews and while other people can live in Israel, but this land is for Jews. On many trips, if at all, there are no chances to talk to Palestinian people.
Being a law student in America makes it very difficult to balance how I feel spiritually about Israel and how I’m supposed to feel socially, un-biased. This is where I struggle all the time around my school mates because I never express how I feel because I see the world different than some others and I’d prefer to keep my thoughts to myself. This is what brings me to write about today. Today I felt the struggle of that balance.
Today we went into East Jerusalem into the area called Shiek Jarah and met with a Palestinian resident, Amal Al-Qasem. To say that Amal’s situation is difficult is using that very very lightly. Amal is a single mother of 4 children. Amal’s husband can not live with them, because he lives in the West Bank, but he has a Gaza ID and the Israeli government prohibits people with Gaza IDs to travel to certain parts of the country, in this case, Jersusalem and Shiek Jarah. Because of this absence, Amal has to send her children to different schools, through Israeli check points, and all the time the Israeli government is trying to either take her house away or force her to leave.
Amal explained to us that in 1956, when Jordan occupied the West Bank, they built homes in the areas and gave them over to the Palestinians to live there. In 1967, when Jordan was losing the 1967 war to Israel, Jordan made deals with the Palestinians. The deal was that Jordan would give the deeds to the homes over to the people, in exchange for the people’s UN refugee cards. The cards were used to receive free medical care and education from the UN. The Palestinians agreed to this deal. Israel won the war and took over the West Bank area. From Amal’s perspective, the Israeli government has since then been pushing Palestinians out of the East Jerusalem area because the Jews coming there brought their own deeds to the land where Jordan took over and the Israeli courts sided with the Israelis, even though the Palestinians had their own deeds. The Palestinians main problem was that Jordan would not give the Palestinians official copies of the deeds, thus the Palestinians lost many court battles.
It would seem that the legal issue is whether the Palestinians have a right to sue Jordan for monetary compensation for not giving over the official deed or who is the true owner of certain parts of land, the Israelis or Palestinians? This is where my struggle begins.
On the one hand, I’m Jewish. With that comes thousands of years of history that I can not simply ignore. I believe my ancestors were promised this land, used to live here, were exiled and now want to come back to the land they used to own. This is the hand that believes the religious Torah laws. On the over hand, not everyone believes the same as I do. On that hand, everyone else does not use the Torah as their guide through life. They have their own texts and ideas about themselves and what they think is the right thing.
Listening the Amal, I felt very pulled in many directions. Do I think that the Jews have a right to their own State, yes. Do I also think that the Palestinians can have a place of their own, yes. Do I think that Israel is solely for the Jews, yes. Do I think Palestinians have been treated as second-class citizens by many other nations that don’t want them, yes. Do I think Jews and Palestinians can co-exist, yes. Do I think Jews and Palestinians can co-exist in the same land, no. Do I think that the Palestinians have a claim against Jordan, yes. Do I think the Palestinians have a claim against Israel, religiously no, non-religiously yes.
But there lies the problem. Which path do I chose? Do I chose my ancestry or my legal profession? I don’t know. I’m not sure I ever will. This is the part of me that doesn’t want to get involved in the struggle, but I feel that I can not abandon Jews defending themselves from constant terror attacks. My only conclusion is that I have to keep learning and struggling. One day there will be a solution to this problem. Whose side is going to be the victor of that solution, I really don’t know.