Ordinarily I don't like to write about political issues, but yesterday was no ordinary day: I took part in a tour of the Israeli occupied territories in the West Bank, and here are some of my impressions.
For years Israel was paralyzed by Islamic terrorism, it included, among others, exploding cars, suicide bombs inside buses and at crowded places, such as shopping malls. All of us were scared to congregate and to travel by buses. Till this day the United States Military,for example, does not allow American soldiers to use public transportation in Israel.
The threat of terrorism was our difficult reality until recently, and when finally it almost ceased we heard that Jewish settlers started to attack their Palestinian neighbours. Many of us were shocked: we were unprepared, perhaps even unwilling, to associate the word "terrorist" with an Israeli.
Ariel, The only Israeli city across the green line, is less than half an hour east of Tel Aviv, but most Israelis, including me, have never been there, we do not have a reason to go there.
That's why when I read that Peace Now was organizing bus tours to educate The public about the effects of Israeli terrorism in the occupied territories, I immediately signed up. I needed to see for myself the other side, to check how the map looked in reality, and to hear more about this disturbing phenomenon.
Peace Now is an non-partisan political movement which was founded in 1978. Its main objective is to end Israeli occupation and to promote peace agreement between the israelis and the Palestinians, which consists of two states for the two nations.
The tour's destination were the areas which were the targets of settlers’ terrorism. We visited the Palestinian village of Kousra where only recently ten settlers from a nearby settlement were caught after they had come to vandalize the village
Then we drove up to the next hill to see the area where the settlers came from. On the way up we saw a group of young women and men with their small children engaged in some educational activity. They seemed peaceful and devoted to their children. Watching those settlers it was hard to imagine that among them were the 10 extremists who went attacking their neighbours.
The Peace Now guide was a knowledgeable and dedicated young man; his explanations were professional, and he kept reminding us that most settlers were not terrorists. But he also said that too often, although the identity of the criminals is known, they are not brought to justice. He didn't offer the reasons but, I assume that having a right wing government in Israel doesn't help much.
I had a feeling that in spite of the gravity of the actions, he did not want us to forget that there were human beings on both sides. The even tempered and straight forward way he talked is typical to the discourse of the Peace Now movement.
Out of thev 325,000 people who live beyond the green line only few take part in terrorist activities, and those acts vary in the degrees of severity. According to the dictionary, destroying a neighbour’s olive tree may not qualify as an act of terrorism, but symbolically and practically it is. The olive tree is a symbol of stability for both Palestinians and Israelis and most Palestinians in the rural areas which we visited were farmers who worked the land.
The Israeli terrorists are young men, and as religious people they marry young and many of them are already parents; what kind of example will they set for the next generation?
I feel that as an Israeli it is my responsibility to know about the criminal offences of the settlers and to protest against them; hence I declare: those rotten apples do not belong to me!
I was never a member of a political movement, but in light of the recent events, I seriously consider joining Peace Now.
PS. for information on Peace Now: http://peacenow.org.il/eng/