Photo Credit: Asher Schwartz

My job as tour guide in Israel offers me such a wonderful variety of experiences. Well, not always wonderful, but usually interesting.

Two weeks ago, I was asked to guide a group of  US International  law students from Valpariso university. They were on a study tour to learn about the “conflict” in classrooms and “on the ground”.


I assumed, correctly that their staff, both their hosts  here and their accompanying teachers, were pretty much what one finds on Liberal campuses these days.
They probably did not know what they were getting into when It was who I was asked to provide some balance to their very PC experience in Israel.

I knew what I was getting into and I relished the opportunity.

I was allotted one and a half hours of their ten day program to present the “Jewish nationalist side” of the “conflict”.
They were  on  a field trip in the controversial” Shimon Hatzadik” neighborhood, or as most of the world calls it ,  the “Sheik Jarrah” neighborhood.

It is one of a number of areas that was a robust Jewish neighborhood for generations before the Jordanian army chased the residents from their homes in the Arab assault on Jerusalem of 1948.
This famous Jewish  neighborhood ( famous due the presence of the 2,300 year old  tomb of the great high priest and leader Shimon Hatzadik) was one of four contiguous neighborhoods that were made “Judenrein” by the Arab onslaught in the Independence war.

This particular neighborhood has grabbed headlines in the past and does still from time to time because Jews are slowly  but determinedly returning to the confiscated pre 1948  Jewish properties.

This has been the catalyst for well publicized legal attempts to dislodge the Jewish residents. Upon losing their day in court  demonstrations were coordinated  and  launched by Arabs and Israel Leftists, protesting the “Jewish settler take over” of “Palestinian areas”
Increasingly, Arab trespassers are challenged in the courts by Jewish individuals  or properties are bought by non profit organizations whose mandate is to redeem Jewish land and return the areas to Jewish hands once again.

When I met my group, it was this back ground information that I presented.
I am used to guiding groups that are not always fully informed and though these were international law students, I expected that their teachers did not offer these back ground  facts as  back ground to the political struggle between  the “religious settlers” and the “Palestinians”.
I also suspected that though they had to provide some  balance to their ten day program, they were not going to be  thrilled to have their students exposed this new material.

I was not wrong.

Indeed, as I spoke I could see, on one hand, the surprise and curiosity on the part of the students as the new info reached their ears, and , on the other hand, the uncomfortable body language of their teachers.

When I finished my introductory remarks there was a stunned silence. It was broken by one student who asked  incredulously,” If these settlers move to the “Palestinian” areas then  how can there be a two state solution”?
I answered , “Many do not believe that that is a  “solution”.
When she  absorbed this  iconoclastic idea she asked me,” then what is the solution? What is your solution”?

I said” I  actually do believe in a two state solution”. Now she and the rest were really confused.
“Yes, I said, One Jewish state here and one (“Palestinian” if you will) across the river in Jordan which  has a 75% “Palestinian” population.   after all across the Jordan river , they share the same language, religion, culture and lots of blood relations.
It is the king’s family  who are foreigners, brought to the throne from Arabia by the British after the First world war..

Lots of new facts to absorb for these law students to absorb in a few minutes.

The flow of new info caused a real buzz among the students and lots  of  seat squirming  by their staff.

The  student did not relent. She asked, “Why do Jews want to live in this “Palestinian” area?”
After a silence, I answered, “Why not”?

I don’t think they expected that response.
I explained that Jews live any where they choose  the  world  over . Why should they be restricted specifically  in Jerusalem? Arabs live in Jewish areas all over Israel and no one challenges their right to do so.”

I finally explained that legally, the issue is one of  straight forward real estate law. Properties are bought legally; trespassers are evicted.
It’s  about the rule of law.
When one student suggested that the Israeli  courts might not be fair..A teacher had no choice but agree that the courts are indeed OK.

The issue, I explained in reality is a political/religious one, not a legal/real estate  one at  all. Either you identify with, and  love the idea of Jews living in a Jewish state of their own and expanding their presence there or you do not.
If you are a Jewish nationalist, you think its historical justice, even a divine plan.
If you are an Arab or identify with the Arab narrative and their antagonism to the  Jewish narrative and dream of two thousand years, then you probably  hate it.
There are few neutral views on the subject.

I was satisfied that I was able to educate this next generation for the sake of education  and  perhaps  that may have some influence on my own people in the future..

I knew that by not being PC, but rather actually teaching the facts, I might pay a price.
It will not be the first time.

And so it was. The Israeli  company that brought the students over and hired me for the short tour, want to please their paying clients and expects repeat business. The staff was not enamored of me. I dared to rip off the blinders from their students eyes.

And so I was told that I will not be hired again. The client is king.

  It wasn’t the first time and probably will not be the last.
Despite the  price I  pay to tell the truth –  in presenting the facts , I have never missed even one meal…thank God.


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Shalom Pollack, a veteran Israeli tour guide, served in the Israeli Navy and lectures on the Mideast.