Every day I drive route 446 to my job in the Kiryat Sefer section of Modi'in Ilit. The road starts right at the end of my city, Modi'in, and passes the Israeli yishuvim (villages? towns? gated communities?) of Kfar Rut, Lapid, Oranim, Chashmonaim before I make a left into the city. Following Kiryat Sefer, the road stretches and winds through the West Bank, passing both Arab villages and more Israeli Yishuvim.
The road crosses over the Green Line and officially becomes the West Bank after it passes Chashmonaim. Actually, I believe about a quarter of Chashmonaim is considered to be the West Bank. And there is an Arab village right down the road from them. If you live on Chashmonaim you can hear the call to prayer from the nearby Mosque several times a day; sometimes my friends who live on that Yishuv tell me they hear gun shots.
I see things on this road. I see Arab men crawling through the torn fence. I see Israeli soldiers walking through the foliage on the side of the road. Last week I saw a group of about 20 Arab men being watched over by Israeli soldiers as their identity cards were checked. I was waiting to make a turn out of Kiryat Sefer as I watched the soldiers check ID's and then send the men, one-by-one on their way. I've seen men hiking the road in miserable heat that noone should be out in. And yesterday, on my way home I saw four Arab men running to catch a bus that was picking up passengers outside of Chashmonaim. I watched as the bus pulled away right as one of the men arrived at the door. If the bus driver didn't see the man, surely the passengers who just got on the bus did.
I hate to think about this stuff, but I can't help myself. Most of you who know me or read the blog probably know that I believe in a strong Israel and a strong army. Our enemies want Israel to stop existing--and I know they are a serious threat. I know the reason that terrorist incidents have dramatically decreased since the height of the intifada, is because of the wall that was built and because Israeli soldiers check identity cards and in general make it difficult for Arabs living on the West Bank to move around freely.
And a part of me says, a hard part, says, "well, it's their own fault. we wanted peace with them, have given up so much, would have given up more if only they wanted the same peace." But the other part of me, the American in me that grew up watching people fight for equality says, maybe just maybe, these Arabs are crawling through fences and trying to catch buses because they to need to find a way to feed their families.
I wish....it was different.
I know that we do what we have to do to protect our citizens (and sometimes we don't do enough). But, yet. If Oslo had worked, if we would have peace now...what could life be like in this country if there were peace? If Israelis didn't have to put up checkpoints or build fences or bury our people before their time? If Arabs could build their roads and their schools and their hospitals and their commerce, and use their infrastructure for their intended purpose, rather than as a jumping off point to attack Israel.
As an Israeli, I want peace. I want the Arabs living here to be able to support their families. I don't want them to have hike up a difficult road in the mid-summer heat. I want the busload full of people to shout "Hold the bus" so they can catch it. Does the average Arab want the same?
It does something to us as a nation having to live this way. It hardens us. Maybe it takes a bit of our humanity away from us. For me, it makes me into a person I sometimes don't like.
And yet. Kassam rockets keep falling on our cities. Today their was another terrorist incident involving a tractor in Jerusalem.
Is there another choice?
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