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Day #4 – Together? – Israel/Palestine

1 1 March 2024

We find ourselves in Akko/Acre today with the intention of exploring a city that has both Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs living there. Even as I write those words to try and describe the people who inhabit this city, I am reminded that everything is complicated here and there are layers upon layers to explain the complication. I mean – to more specifically say – we visited a city in which live a significant population of Jewish and Palestinian citizens of the state of Israel. Complicated because there are differing categories of citizens here (Jewish and Palestinian) and different categories of Palestinian (citizen, resident, refugee.). Alaa – a multi-generational resident of Akko – guides us through the city, trying to explain its politics, socio-economics and culture from his Palestinian experience. Perhaps, his story is most clear- or maybe most impactful – when he describes his decision to send his children to the ‘Jewish’ school. Even though the state provide education for all of its citizens, there is a marked difference between the nature of the resources that each schools receive. And, as we can imagine, there is a payoff for a better resourced community for his children. It has been a place where his children are an Arab minority, with the expected schoolyard discrimination that comes with those who are different … that has only been dramatically enhanced since October 7th.

From Akko we move to Daliat Carmel which is home to the one of the larger Druze communities in Israel. The Druze are a fascinating people. They seem to sprout from the Muslim tree, but depending on who you ask they may or may not be Muslim. They are very protective (even secretive) about the nature of their religious tradition. The one tenet they share is their fundamental and whole hearted belief in reincarnation. They are certainly Arab and are the only Arabs within Israel who are permitted and choose to serve in the armed forces. They do so with great pride. It seems that wherever Druze live they do not hold nationalistic ambitions and choose to live in a way that – hopefully, within a supportive context – preserves their small community and its traditions. I find them an interesting contrast to both Jewish and Palestinian communities as the heart of the relationship between Jews and Palestinians has been about each community understands and manifests itself as a people or nation.

The more we hear, the more it is clear how October 7th and the war that has followed has deepened the distance and damage between the Jewish and Palestinian communities. Interesting, then, to sit with a community-organizing organization in which Palestinians and Jews work together to change law and policy that negatively impact both communities. Standing Together was formed before the current war and had already established a network and system to try and raise the minimum wage for Israel’s work force. It left them uniquely stationed for this current moment. For them, a Jewish – Arab partnership is a means to an end, not an end in itself. The young Israeli Jew and even younger Palestinian Israeli citizen who work for Standing Together embodied their message, that when the two communities work together to overcome challenges that face both of them, they are stronger. It felt more like a pragmatic collaboration than an aspirational one. They spoke of minimum wage and collecting supplies for those in need in Gaza as practical matters — families need better wages, people need food. In both cases, they did not realize their goals. And yet, they still spoke of the work to do and their intent to get it done.

I find myself meditating on the words we heard yesterday from Ma’oz who lost both parents on October 7th – hope is not a feeling, it is an action.

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