I lived four years in Israel, so that makes me an expert on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, Right! I am afraid the matter is much more complicated than that. In order to understand the situation you would need to understand the 2000 years of Arab and Islamic history, 4000 years of Jewish history. You would need to understand events of the WWII, the holocaust and how that contributes to modern Israeli thinking today. The colonization of Britain in the region and how that acted as a backdrop for events today. You would need to understand America’s long-standing interest in the region and its attempts to protect those interests. Finally, you would need to comprehend what happened when European Jews fleeing prosecution came to the holy lands, mixing with Yemenite and Moroccan Jews and the indigenous Palestinian population. East meets the west in more than one way and Boom! You have the very unique Middle East conflict. Speaking Arabic and Hebrew wouldn’t heart either. In short, it is very complex. There are about 9 million people living in Israel and the occupied territory and almost each one of them has an expert view on the situation. When I moved to Israel I was surprised how even 6 year old children have an understanding of the political climate surrounding them and pointed opinions about it. No doubt, if you have been following the commentary on the conflict, you have heard various experts mention historical events and statistical data in an attempt to make sense of it all.

One day I was sitting in a coffee shop in western Jerusalem, sipping coffee on a beautiful sunny day. A Palestinian boy about 10 years of age approached me selling some trinkets. The expression on this boy’s face was that of a 60-year-old man who has lived through catastrophes. I never saw so much desperation on a child’s face. I gave him some money hoping to illicit a smile. The boy placed the money into his pocket and stared back at me, not even a hint of a smile. I placed my hand on his shoulder and shook him gently saying “smile for god’s sake, you are only a kid”. He stared back at me with that same desperation and simply walked away. The expression on that boys face has haunted me till today. I frequently wonder what this boy’s life must be like for him not to be able to smile. What sort of a world are we living in, when even children can’t take joy in living?

My own kids frequently play pretend games. My eldest daughter likes to pretend she is a teacher and the two younger ones are her students. Sometimes, they play fashion show; they wrap themselves in blankets or towels and march back and forth pretending to be fashion models. In Ramallah, Palestinian children play pretend funeral. One of the kids pretends to be dead and the rest walk around in a procession carrying him on their shoulders. You can also catch kids playing pretend demonstration, where half of the kids will pretend to be Israeli soldiers and the other half pretends to be demonstrating. Then the pretend Israeli soldiers beats up the pretend demonstrators and then they switch roles.

I don’t have a PhD in political science nor history but I know that this situation must end. If I had the chance to meet Israel’s prime minister Ariel Sharon face to face, I would place my hand on his shoulder and gently shake him while saying “ For g-d’s sake, withdraw the army from the occupied territories.” Maybe one day even Mr. Sharon will crack a smile. The sort of warm and sincere smile that usually comes from a child.

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