An Invitation for Conversation: Zionism, Love and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

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An Israeli flag. The article discusses Zionism, Love and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, and encourages further conversation. Photo by Photo by Oren Noam Gilor from Pexels.

Matan Doron is a junior Biological Sciences and Individualized: Science, Medicine, and Ethics major at the University of Connecticut

My grandfather’s eyes begin to soften as the sun begins to set. It’s Friday night. He’s dressed in white shirt that has taken on a faint yellow hue, black cotton pants, and the curved bottom shoes he claims help maintain his balance. We begin walking to the synagogue at the end of the street, as “Shalom Aleichem” — a traditional Jewish hymn sung on Friday nights — echoes from the synagogue loudspeakers. I wonder how many times my Saba has walked this same route — first on a dirt road, then gravel and now, on a paved sidewalk — and with whom he has walked it with — first his grandfather and father, then his children and now, my brother and me. My Saba was raised on a small chicken farm in the farming community of Kadima, Israel, nestled halfway between the Mediterranean Sea and what is now the Green Line. He tells me of a time before the war when there was peace with the neighboring Arab villages before he had to stand watch at the water tower. He was only ten years old when war broke out in 1948. At one point the Iraqi army came within five kilometers of his village. He finishes his story as we take our seats inside the synagogue sanctuary.  

When much of my family moved to what is now the area of Israel-Palestine, they didn’t do so out of colonialist zeal or for the purpose of subjugating a native people. They emigrated, often in poverty, from countries that had repeatedly demonstrated that Jewish lives were expendable. They sought Israel because emigration to countries like the United States, which, with its own brand of virulent anti-Semitism, was either blocked or impractical. They sought the land of Israel for its historic connection to the Jewish people, and also because that was the only place where they could envision a life, as Jews, free from harm. To them — and to me — Zionism means hope. For them it meant building a state and home that would represent and protect the Jewish people. For me, it also means including everyone in that vision for the Jewish state—for peoples of all faiths and national origins.  

As with any country, Israel is fraught with political shortcomings (to put it lightly), and it must reform and redefine its political purpose. The entrenchment of Benajmin Netanyahu and his far-right government has perverted Israeli politics and society, and damaged any prospect of peace. His expansion of settlements in the West Bank, flirtations with annexation, overt racism and political corruption proves he is unworthy and incapable of any leadership position he occupies. Even though his coalition resides in power, it cannot and does not represent the future of Israel or of the Jewish people. Confronting the future of Israeli society, and of the Jewish and Palestinian people, requires examining fundamental questions regarding the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, the relationship between Israelis and Palestinians, the experiences of these two communities, and what political responsibility should look like in a country the size of New Jersey. In order to address these questions, however, we must reject the binary arguments that have been promulgated through the American and European medias. Addressing this conflict and the immense human toll on both sides requires validating and examining the vast intergenerational traumas that exist within and between the Israeli and Palestinian communities. These are stories — hopes, dreams, and tragedies — that we must seek to understand, but that cannot be captured in a single op-ed, a single book, or even in a single lifetime.  

I remember the 2014 Gaza War — Operation Strong Cliff — although I knew it in Hebrew as Mivtzah Tzuk Eitan. My uncle, a pilot in the Israeli Air Force, would tell me about a night sky emblazoned with streaks of rockets like stars falling to Earth’s surface. Each one represented an ever-receding wish for peace. I tried to reconcile Gazan homes that were pulverized and the staggering civilian death toll with the stated aims of defense and security. I tried to reconcile the loss of life of Israeli civilians by Hamas’s rockets. I couldn’t for either. Searching for emotional guidance, I asked my dad, who was born and raised in Israel, what he thought. He answered somberly, “Unfortunately, another generation of Israeli and Palestinian children will grow up unable to see the other as human.”  

Never is there an obligation to love; it is always a choice. But if we never take that risk, we doom ourselves to a world with the same violence and hatred that has existed for generations.  

If you would like to continue this conversation please reach out to me via email: matan.doron@uconn.edu. Coffee will be on me.  

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