Saturday, January 12, 2008

Opportunity of a Lifetime

"A conceited fool has no desire for understanding; but only wants to express his own view"
Proverbs 18:2

As a 20 year old college student, Zionism was a small part of my identity. I had left Israel as a 9 year old and my attachment to the country was strong, but I saw no future with my mind solely focused on the 'American Dream'. This all changed in September 2000 with Ariel Sharon's now famous visit to the Temple Mount. With a planned intifada erupting shortly afterwards in Israel, anti-semitic activities started rearing their ugly head at SUNY Binghamton, my university. Swastikas were chalked near our library and in one disgusting instance, sketched with feces in a bathroom. The plaza in front of the library became a regular place to find anti-Zionist & anti-semitic chalkings, with "Barak=Hitler" & "Israel=Nazi Germany" the two common ones. Other activities included Mezuzot being ripped off the doorposts of various homes. I was furious and with very little action taken by our university, I started channeling my anger towards understanding why this was happening & how I could combat it myself. I became extremely interested in Zionist literature, reading every book I could find by the founders and developers of the now 'named' movement. The more I read and learned, the more I became convinced that the only rational possible 'next step' in life would be a return home and a combat stint in the IDF.

These events would become be a critical turning point in my life. It changed my aspirations and dreams. Gone were the days of dollar signs in every dream, to be replaced by a strong desire to plant my roots in Israel. Looking back on this stage, the 'sour' point was surely my spouting of hateful rhetoric. During one such instance, I told one of my sister's friends that Israel should kill all the Arabs. Although I told her I wasn't being serious, I've recently learned that this girl with Arabic roots took it to heart and started investigating her own history. Within a few months, this once disinterested girl had become a Palestinian activist on her campus. Her new beliefs and methods of expressing them dented her relationship with my sister. I had become a perfect example of the cycle, albeit a non-violent one, that commentators always discuss in their analysis of the Middle East. While today I still hold right wing views with regards to the security situation, I've mellowed down a lot. I no longer hold feelings of hatred to a whole population based on the actions of a radical minority. I still feel very strongly about defending Israel's right to be here, but I've learned to express it in a responsible manner.

... which brings me to a fantastic opportunity which has been presented to me by Danny Brill, a friend of mine since I finished my stint in the IDF in November 2004. I've been offered a chance to try out for the Peres Peace Center Israeli-Palestinian AFL team, which will play in the international tournament in Melbourne in late August & early September. While at first I was not keen on the idea (due to some issues with Peres), after thinking about it long and hard (& with the wife's prodding), I decided to give the try outs a shot. Since the only active contact I've had with Palestinians has been through the army, I thought this was a great chance to finally interact with my neighbors. Befriending them, even if it's only for the try outs (and if I make it further, the practices & the tournament), will allow me to better understand their takes on whatever we discuss, and knowing me, that will be a lot of different subjects! Besides that aspect, I would love the opportunity to represent Israel & also see Australia for the first time.

Stay tuned for updates!

1 comment:

Danny Brill said...

I'm really proud of you!