Photo Credit:
Eliana Rudee

In the first days of the New Year, I received a notification from the U.S. government to avoid certain places in the capital of the Jewish state.

On the first night of Rosh Hashanah Arab stone-throwers hit a Jewish motorist’s car, causing him to lose control of his vehicle, which resulted in his death. This occurred in my neighborhood. The Jewish man was a coworker of my friend’s friend.

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The stone-throwing and firebombing continued in my neighborhood over Rosh Hashanah. An Arab shot a border policeman and four others were injured. My roommate and I heard many helicopters overhead.

Of course, only when the Israeli police started to use tear gas against the perpetrators did the international community and media take notice.

How do you stop people from hurling rocks at you just because you’re Jewish? They say they are throwing rocks because the land belongs to them. But with continuous Jewish presence in the land (the only place on earth with continuous presence) and a history of Jewish rule dating back thousands of years, the Jews will never willingly leave. And so the clashes will continue, at least for now.

Despite all this, I do see glimmers of hope. The other day, my friend was riding in a taxi driven by a man with an Arabic accent – presumably an Arab Israeli. When they encountered a clash erupting between some men, the taxi driver became protective over my Jewish friend and made sure he was safe as he got out of the taxi.

On the bus today, I sat across from a religious Muslim man and woman. Nearing my stop, as I arose with my bag of groceries, the bus lurched, and I fell onto the lap of the Muslim woman. Embarrassed and admittedly a little apprehensive about her reaction, I apologized immediately and profusely. She smiled and said it was okay.

Her smile spoke volumes beyond simply acknowledging that she was physically fine from my falling on her; she actually looked surprised that I was asking her if she was okay. Her smile at me radiated peace not only with the surprise contact, but also with me as a person.

I hope this is what we all want from each other – to say we are sorry when we intrude on the other, even if we didn’t mean to, and to be forgiving, knowing no harm was intended.

One finds hope in the most unlikely of places. Since starting the Israel Girl/Aliyah Annotated Facebook page, I have received pages and pages of private messages. The vast majority are from Arab men. Not all of them are creepy messages, although I do get my fair share. Many of them introduce themselves or just say “Hi.” I may be naïve, but I believe that many of these men are reaching out in the simplest way possible because it is a private (anonymous) forum in which to connect with Israel.

These men would never reach out in public, as any association with Israel could be life threatening. They reach out simply by saying “Greetings” or even “Nice to meet you.” But if one reads between the lines, many of them are trying to say, “I am okay with Israel and I am okay with you. I am reaching out because I want to form a connection but it is not allowed in my community. I just want you to know that people like me exist.”

I do not respond to these messages, but they do make me curious about the people behind them. How did they find my page and my articles? What are their reasons for messaging? And the most important question of all: How can we get more people to express themselves with private messages and greetings instead of rocks and clashes?

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Eliana Rudee is a fellow with the Salomon Center for American Jewish Thought and the author of the new “Aliyah Annotated” column for JNS.org. She is a graduate of Scripps College, where she studied International Relations and Jewish Studies. She was published in USA Today and Forbes after writing about her experiences in Israel last summer. Follow her aliyah column on JNS.org, Facebook, and Instagram.

4 COMMENTS

  1. I am an optimist so I would say they are glimmers of hope. I do not think people deep inside want to hate, kill, triumph over others.
    It is impossible to imagine that anyone would enjoy life lived through constant hate, fight, killing, through a never ending self-protection, fight for survival. But those "glimmers" are too weak to ignite a large flame that could succeed.

    Unfortunately we are brought up, educated with this mindset of constantly competing with each other in ruthless, exclusive competition, we are prasing people who succeed at the expense of others. We misinterpret even how evolution works saying it is the strongest, cruelest who survives.

    It is becoming clear if we can't change this mindset we will end up exterminating each other in a final, global shootout. Through direct or "proxy" confrontations all great and smaller powers in the world are facing each other with unprecedented military buildup. The world is full of "unsolvable" and explosive geopolitical conflicts and even internal, national social breakage. Everybody is armed to their teeth with weapons of mass destruction. Even a smallest mistake, misunderstanding, overexited reaction can ignite a world war at many locations.

    We urgently need a practical solution, some sort of method, global, public education program helping people understand how we have evolved into this complex, fully integrated global human system. We all need to understand we all need each other in order to survive. We are all sitting on the same sinking boat where it does not matter who is drilling holes underneath whom.

    We need to find a way of elevating people above their engraved mutual distrust, hatred, all above the diversity, separation. We need to build "above instinctive reaction" mutual connections, rebuilding a fragile mutual trust in order to survive and build a better, sustainable future.

    And only Jews have the method to facilitate all of that. Only the modern, practical implementation of Abraham's "love your neighbor as yourself" can help teaching people how to find what connects us instead of focusing on, exploiting what separates us. And since only Jews have the method and the historical experience in practicing it, they have absolute responsibility to put it into practice again first among themselves and then "publishing", "marketing" it towards everybody else.

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